Greeson: Hard to believe in this group of Braves

Greeson: Hard to believe in this group of Braves

June 24th, 2014 by Ron Bush in Sports - Columns

Atlanta Braves' Chris Johnson, right, gestures towards first base after he was ejected by home plate umpire Mark Carlson, left, during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals on Sunday, June 22, 2014, in Washington. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, center, looks on. The Nationals won 4-1.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

It's been a while, and since we started drifting away from our daily Atlanta Braves report in our "5-at-10" daily online column, the Braves started drifting away from the top spot in the National League East. So maybe we're to blame.

So it goes.

After Sunday's 4-1 loss that completed a four-game split with first-place Washington, the Braves are 38-37 and 1 1/2 games behind the Nationals. There are two teams in baseball that have winning records and are on the negative side of run differential -- the Braves at minus-14 and the Yankess at minus-30.

There's good and bad to that. There's the statistical fact that teams that do not score more than their opponents do not win consistently, yet the Braves have found ways to win in close games.

With that in mind, let's review -- and know that we all agree the season is long, but it's hard to find reason to believe with this bunch right now. These are less than the high times, considering the Braves started 17-7 and this bunch was built around a pitching rotation that was impressive in its depth but has started to leak oil.

• The good: Evan Gattis has been the best hitting catcher in the National League. He and Freddie Freeman and the non-stinky Upton form a nice, albeit streaky, middle of the lineup. Chris Johnson's average is starting to climb, too. Julio Teheran has ace stuff. Despite his occasional struggles, we believe Craig Kimbrel is as good a closer as there is in the game.

• The bad: Despite improving numbers and decent looking pieces, the offense is one of the worst in baseball -- it entered Monday next to last in runs scored in the majors -- because it is plagued by high-volume strikeouts and a gross inability to deliver with two outs. The arm injuries that have ravaged this team for the last two years are starting to take a toll. Wow, would the last healthy arm turn off the whirlpool?

• The Uggla: We had AJC Braves beat guy Dave O'Brien on "Press Row" a couple of weeks ago, and he said Dan Uggla was a pro's pro in how he has handled the professional train wreck that has become his career.

That's great and makes the predicament the Braves have with Danny Struggla an even greater pain.

Man, this is becoming a Shakespearean tragedy. Uggla's last year in Florida he hit .287 with 33 homers and 105 RBIs. That was 2010. In three-plus years he's gone from the best hitting second baseman in the game to a punch line.

His four years in Atlanta have gotten progressively worse -- .233 in 2011, .220 in 2012, .179 last year and .163 as of this moment in 2014 -- to the point that the Braves realistically are taking a 24-man roster into almost every game.

He has played in eight games in June and is 0-for-9. He is 3-for-48 since April 24. Ouch-standing. Time to cut bait and realize that the money spent is money wasted. Yes, it's a lot of money wasted, but if no other team is willing to part with a box of balls and case of sunflower seeds for Uggla -- and that's with the Braves picking up a sizable part of that $13 million contract -- then the team has to make a move. Now. This bunch is not good enough to have a void on the roster, and Uggla has become nonexistent.

This team is not talented enough at the top of its roster talent-wise to completely waste a roster spot on a pro's pro, no matter how good a guy he is or how many commas are in his salary.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.