Missing playoffs again starting to sink in

So how do you feel now that the Braves have pretty much guaranteed themselves a quick trip home after the regular season?

Let's all face it: losing sucks. There's no pretty way to put it. There's no reason to be tactful in describing how we all feel knowing that for the second year in a row the Atlanta Braves will not make it to the postseason.

Yes, last night's game was it. We all held out hope, however fleeting it might have been. But in losing the rubber game of the series Wednesday night in New York, the Braves nail in the proverbial coffin was hammered in. Only a miracle will allow the Braves to pass six teams in sixteen games to make it as the wildcard.

But we all know it's not going to happen. Heck, Tim Hudson and John Smoltz, two pitchers that gave the team its best chance to win, pitched the two games the Braves lost in New York. And when they can't even win with those two on the mound, they're just not going to win. Period.

These Septembers without a chance are new to many of you. It's not a good feeling, is it? The pre-1991 Braves' fans know this feeling, but it doesn't make it any easier. We remember the long Septembers waiting for the season to conclude, only glancing at the games to see if there is any hope for the future. And usually, there wasn't.

It's almost comical to realize that an entire generation of Braves' fans have no recollection of what it's like to not see the team in the playoffs. Last year was suppose to be a bump in the road, but now with this being the second year in a row, it's more like a wreck on the Atlanta perimeter.

This 2007 Braves' squad started out with so much hope. They were 24-12 after the first 36 games, almost a quarter of the season. But since then the Braves have gone 50-60. Heck, that's not even mediocre. That's just plain bad. And it's kind of hard to believe.

We all believed this team was better than that, but it shows you how not having starting pitching can kill you. Sure, there were other reasons this team became mediocre overnight. But you have to point to the rotation as the primary factor.

The starting rotation, through 146 games, has an ERA of 4.53. Smoltz and Hudson have a combined ERA of 3.26, while the rest of the rotation has an ERA of 5.67. And then look at the fourth and fifth starters (Buddy Carlyle, Lance Cormier, Kyle Davies, Mark Redman, Anthony Lerew, and Jo Jo Reyes) and the combined ERA is 6.43.

6.43. That's beyond horrible.

So we all know what John Schuerholz's main job will be this winter. Just like last year when he brought in Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez to help the bullpen, Schuerholz will now have to bring in some starting pitchers. Probably not just one, but two. Maybe it's easier to fix it when you know what is broken.

But until then, until the winter meetings and the hot stove league, we'll have to wade through our misery of going through another irrelevant September. It's funny that you almost have to remind yourself the Braves are on television. ‘Oh yeah, the Braves are on.'

So this is how the other half live, I guess. We went so long not having to feel this, and instead waiting for another October to begin. I guess those that said they prefer the Braves not go to the playoffs at all if they are going to lose in the first round have a chance now to know, or maybe even remember, how it feels. It's not very fun, is it?

Maybe this organization, and even this fan base, needed this. Maybe it needs to be rejuvenated by remembering how most teams do not go to the playoffs every year. But it's almost like we were one big family that went on a vacation every October to Disney World, only to now be forced to stay home for the last two years.

And whether you're a kid or an adult, not going on vacation anymore is not fun. Maybe next year, though; maybe next year.

Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can be heard on 680 the Fan in Atlanta and 105.5 the Fan in Macon. Email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.

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