Patient: Atlanta Braves
Coroner of Record: Anthony Schreiber
COMMENTARY | On April 28, 2013, an unknown John Doe was wheeled into my lab. The body was so savagely beaten it required dental records to accurately be identified as the Atlanta Braves baseball team. Manager Fredi Gonzalez was later called on to confirm this through visual examination of the remains. What follows is my autopsy of what happened between the days of April 26 and April 28 that resulted in the untimely sweeping of a potential World Series contender.
It took very little time to conclude that the cause of death was due to blunt force trauma to Atlanta fastballs. Before the three-game series with the Detroit Tigers, the Atlanta Braves' pitching staff was boasting the best ERA in baseball (2.54). Fast forward just three games and that mark has ballooned to 3.38. The Braves were outscored 25-7, and starting pitchers Paul Maholm, Kris Medlen and Mike Minor gave up 19 of those runs in only 15 2/3 innings of combined work. And even though Atlanta had come in having hit more homers than anyone in the league, they were even out long-balled 6-1.
With these types of injuries we usually see defensive wounds on a victim who was trying to fight back, but in this case, very little evidence of that was shown on the Braves' carcass. In Game 1 of the series, the strike-out-happy Braves outdid themselves by feebly waving goodbye to Anibal Sanchez 17 times. In Game 2 and 3, Atlanta came back and added 10 and 11 more strikeouts respectively to their 2013 resume -- bringing their team average to a little over nine punch-outs per game. This means that 1/3 of their total outs in any given game are coming via a no-contact inducing sayonara signal from the men in blue.
In my professional experience, when a person knows they will be treading into unfriendly territory they will bring something for protection, such as a can of mace or a stun-gun, but all the EMTs found was a Louisville Slugger with a giant hole cut out of the center. Atlanta didn't do themselves any favors as anyone who goes 4-for-21 with runners in scoring position is not likely to make it back home unscathed.
It was a little perplexing to identify antemortem bruising on this victim due to serious injuries sustained before their unfortunate demise in Detroit, but then I was filled in on the victim's last ten days of activity and the picture became clearer. Atlanta dropped three of four games to the Pittsburgh Pirates and then handed one back to the Colorado Rockies in extras before being dealt their final blows in the Motor City. The Braves went 3-7 on this treacherous 10-game road trip and allowed the Washington Nationals to creep back within 2 ½ games of first place in the division.
I did find some evidence of early-onset frostbite in the lower extremities, which could be expected given the fact that this 10-game road swing saw the Braves playing baseball in the sub-Antarctic conditions of Pittsburgh, Colorado and Detroit. The Braves will be glad to get back to Turner Field where they will have the next seven games at home before heading out on another extended tour of America for ten more road games in a row.
The schedule markers certainly have not done the Braves any favors early this season. Atlanta has played 16 of their first 24 games on the road to start 2013, but, if they can manage to weather this section of the calendar, things will begin to balance back in their favor later in the year.
The attention must now turn to righting the ship against the Nationals. The Braves swept them earlier this month in their first meeting of the season, but that feels like a much different Braves' team than the one currently taking the diamond every day. In the upcoming four-game series with the Nats, Atlanta will have to earn victories against Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman and Dan Haren.
Can the Braves find resurrection and get back on the World-Series trajectory they were on earlier this season, or will I have another stiff in need of a toe tag very soon?
Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter based in "Braves Country." He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.
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- Atlanta Braves