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2010 team hardly the worst for the Braves
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Forsyth County News
“We can’t get anything going. We’re just in an offensive funk right now, and hopefully it won’t last too much longer. We don’t want to put any added pressure on our guys and make them feel like they have to pitch a shutout.”

Does that summarize the Braves dreadful nine-game losing streak, or what? Things got so pitiful that a lined single to left elicited a “wow!” A two-out run scoring hit might have sent the faithful into outburts of joy. But we’ll never know.

How bad was it? The hitting slump seeped into other phases of the game. These guys couldn’t even execute the infield fly rule without allowing a run to score.

So, which Brave uttered our initial quote? None other than David Justice, according to In 1990.

Twenty years ago. That’s how far back you have to travel to find a Braves team that matches this squad’s ineptitude. 1990. Before the Braves became the model franchise, perennial playoff players.

Does this mean that the Braves have now come full circle? Are the current Braves as bad as the 1990 crew that lost 97 games? Or did they just get their terrible slump out of the way early?

This summer marks the Peerless Leader’s final term in the Braves dugout. On June 22, 1990, general manager Bobby Cox fired manager Russ Nixon, and replaced him with interim manager Bobby Cox. At the time, the Braves were 25-40, firmly ensconced in last place in the NL West.

Opening Day set the tone for the season: a rain out. That necessitated the extremely rare Opening Day Doubleheader. The Braves dropped the first game to the Giants, 8-0, before winning the nightcap, 4-3.

After that, they immediately lost seven straight. A win over the Reds then ignited a five game losing streak. At 2-13, the Braves season was pretty much over. After finishing last the previous two seasons, no such thing as hope existed. Though the Braves lumbered through the next six weeks at 21-20, a six game losing streak in mid-June caused Nixon’s abrupt retirement.

The Braves played better under Cox (40-57, .412) but still finished ten games behind the Astros and Padres.

You think Troy Glaus has had trouble getting going? The ‘90 Braves opened with Nick Esasky at first base. He lasted 35 at bats before surrendering to vertigo.

Ernie Whitt began the year at catcher, and hit .172, but he knocked in 10 runs. Oddibe McDowell started in centerfield, igniting the offense with a .295 on base percentage, but he stole 13 bases!

Help was en route. Before the summer ended, David Justice would become the NL Rookie of the Year, hitting .282 with 28 home runs and 78 runs batted in. His arrival led to the August departure of Dale Murphy.

Ron Gant took over in center, hitting .303 with 32 homers and 84 rbi. On July 5, he knocked in six runs against the Mets. Typically, the Braves lost, 9-8.

Greg Olson took over behind the plate, Jeff Blauser eased the enigmatic Andres “E-6” Thomas out at short, and Mark Lemke arrived, relieving the amazingly unremarkable Jim Presley at third.

There were also encouraging signs that the pitching was finally coming around. John Smoltz, in his second full season, continued to improve, going 14-11 with a 3.85 earned run average. Tom Glavine went 10-12 and 4.28. Steve Avery broke in at 3-11, 5.64, but seemed to have good enough stuff to become a fixture in the rotation. All were helped by the presence of veteran Charlie Leibrandt (9-11, 3.16), who always exuded professionalism.

Kent Mercker (4-7, 3.17, 7 saves) pitched well in the bullpen. Joe Boever led the club with eight saves, despite being traded on July 23 for Marvin Freeman.  The endless search for a closer was already underway.

But potential doesn’t win ball games, and the ‘90 Braves were a bad ball club. Their 4.58 team era was the worst in the league, as was their .974 fielding percentage. They were 10th in batting average (.250) and 7th in runs scored.

However, they did show two signs of being a Bobby Cox club. They finished second with 162 home runs, and dead last with only 92 stolen bases.

So, have the Braves come full circle? Try this: on June 4, 1990, the Braves used their first pick in the draft to select one Chipper Jones. By his own admission, if he doesn’t pick up the pace, we’re watching Chipper’s final season.

Still, odious as that nine-game losing streak was, it’s hard to believe these Braves are that bad. Maybe not as good as they looked against the Astros over the weekend, but perhaps that was closer to the norm.

At the least, when compared to the 1990 Braves, the current team hardly resembles a 97-loss team.