Wiedmer: Atlanta Graves could still lose 100 games

Relief pitcher Ryan Kelly shows the feeling of the flailing Atlanta Braves in general after giving up a three-run home run to Miami's Justin Bour in the seventh inning of Tuesday's 7-1 win for the visiting Marlins.

If a single Atlanta Braves baseball fan buys a ticket to watch so much as one game in the franchise's season-long swan song to Turner Field next summer, that sole silly supporter should be forced to watch every Braves home game -- all 81 of them.

That's assuming, of course, that Major League Baseball doesn't institute some kind of mercy rule by banishing the Braves to the road all summer over what appears to be the most shameful money grab by a team's brass in pro sports history.

After Tuesday night's pitiful 7-1 loss to moribund Miami, the Graves are beyond dead and buried. They're mired in a seven-game losing skid that grows twice as bad when you consider they've also lost 14 of their last 15. They've lost their last three so listlessly that they've come by a combined score of 31-7, including that humiliating 20-6 loss on Sunday to the New York Yankees. Heck, even the Falcons gave up only 13 points in their NFL exhibition loss to the Dolphins.

If this continues, Braves Nation should request that the franchise be charged with falsely representing itself as a major league club. Of course, to then label them a Triple-A team might be considered an affront to Triple-A teams everywhere.

Want all this to sound even worse?

Try this fact on for size: When Atlanta's semi-major league baseball team headed for Washington, D.C., on June 22, to begin a series with the Nationals, it stood 35-35 on the season and only two games in back of the Nats in the National League East standings.

Seventy-two days later, those somewhat same Braves have lost 43 of their last 62 games to fall 19 games behind the East-leading Mets and 12 1/2 in back of the Nationals.

And you thought Sports Illustrated was nuts to predict in the preseason that the 2015 Braves could possibly lose 100 games.

At the rate they're regressing - having now lost 22 of their last 30 - Atlanta quite realistically could wind up with triple-digit defeats for the first time since 1988, when it finished 54-106. All the Braves have to do from here on out is match that 8-22 record over their final 30 games and they'll hit the century figure in defeats. And considering the schedule they face over the final 29 of those games - once the Marlins leave town today - losing only 100 games might be a miracle.

If it's been too painful to look, 20 of those final 29 games come against teams who currently have winning records, including 13 games against teams expected to make the playoffs. Beyond that, 13 of those 29 are away from the Big Peach, and Atlanta owns the worst road record in the majors (21-47).

But it's reached a point where it really doesn't matter where or whom the Graves play. They're the fifth worst in runs allowed (622) in all of baseball. They're the worst at scoring runs (476) and the second worst (thanks, Philadelphia) at run differential (140 to 164 entering Tuesday night).

And that's with pitcher Shelby Miller enduring the least supportive teammates since the Little Red Hen. The poor guy has the seventh best earned run average in the NL (2.56) but hasn't had a win since May. His ERA is actually better than his former St. Louis Cardinals teammate Michael Wacha (2.69), but Wacha is 15-4 while Miller is 5-12, with a unfathomable 19 straight starts without a victory.

All of which brings us to the man who oversees this train wreck - Fredi Gonzalez. In its infinite transparency, the Braves brass extended Free-Fall Fredi's contract through next season, along with the contracts of his assistants.

This move came on July 17, when Atlanta was a somewhat overachieving 42-47. The Braves have gone 12-31 since. And this for a manager who's been worse in September than Prairie View football. Or don't you remember the 9-18 and 7-18 final-month collapses in 2011 and 2014.

Yes, Fredi has an excuse this season. But that doesn't make up for the other seasons, or the way the Braves have completely quit since his contract extension. It all feels a little like Jeff Lebo's final year as Auburn's basketball coach when the Tigers were slated to move into a new gym the following year.

Auburn was never going to have a new coach work in the old building, and Lebo was never going to get a chance to coach in the new one. With the Braves' new stadium slated to open at the start of the 2017 season, that seems to be Fredi's deal. He'll usher out Turner Field and someone else will hope to electrify Braves Nation over the opening of a new park.

Which leads us back to next season, the last season at the Ted.

When the Braves promoted John Hart to general manager last winter after ridding themselves of Frank Wren, the old genius John Schuerholz talked of returning to the "Braves Way," apparently referring to those 14 straight division crowns the Braves won from 1991 to 2005.

And maybe that one day soon will prove true. But the way they're playing this season, they look a whole lot more like the Braves' way of the late 1980s, when the team lost at least 96 games four times from 1985 to 1990.

Sometimes history repeats the wrong way.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.