Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann has made seven All-Star Games and is a local product, but the Braves are unlikely to match the five-year offer at about $75 million that he could get from an American League team. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
The Braves won 96 games despite a glut of injuries and led the National League East for all except one day in taking their first division title since 2005.
Still, the way things ended left a bitter taste in the mouths of Atlanta fans once again.
The Braves are 10-23 in the postseason since a National League Division Series sweep of Houston in 2001, dropping seven straights series and a wild-card game.
Much was made of the Braves winning just one World Series in five appearances during the 1990s. At least those teams got there, though.
“We haven’t been able to finish the job,” general manager Frank Wren said. “We play good baseball. We get in a position to win, but …”
Wren made some major moves last winter, including bringing in brothers Justin and B.J. Upton. But Justin was inconsistent, B.J. flopped and the Braves overachieved during the regular season when you factor in the injuries.
The Braves had 44 comeback wins — the most in the National League — and led the majors with a 56-25 home record. They were under .500 outside of winning streaks of 14, 10 and eight games, though.
To repeat as NL East champs, Braves need a healthy Brandon Beachy next season to fortify the rotation and bounce backs by B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla — if he is still around — to stretch out the lineup.
The Braves have an impressive young nucleus led by Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Andretlon Simmons, Craig Kimbrel, Mike Minor, Kris Medlen and Julio Teheran.
The big news in the offseason is likely to be who won’t be back in 2014. Brian McCann, a seven-time All-Star catcher, is considered likely to depart as a free agent and the future is uncertain for former ace Tim Hudson, who will turn 39 next season and is coming off a serious ankle injury.
The Braves led the majors with a 3.18 ERA in the regular season and topped the NL with 181 homers. The hit just one homer to seven by the Dodgers in the four-game NLDS, however, and had a 5.82 team ERA.
Four of the Los Angeles homers came in the deciding Game 4, including Juan Uribe’s two-run blast in the eighth inning off David Carpenter that turned a 3-2 lead into a 4-3 elimination loss.
“When you battle with these guys for eight straight months, to come up short, it’s just tough. I don’t know what else to say,” said Freeman, who batted .313 in the NLDS.
Fredi Gonzalez tried to put 2013 in perspective.
“There’s a lot of good stuff,” said Gonzalez, looking back on his third year as manager. “It’s going to be one of those seasons that you’re not going to appreciate for about a couple of weeks, and then you say, ‘You know what? It was a pretty darn good team, pretty darn good season.’”
The ending, though, was full of frustration once again.
“Chances are we’re not going to have this exact same squad back next year, so it is tough,” said Chris Johnson, who hit .321 during the regular season and .438 in the NLDS as Chipper Jones’ replacement at third base. “Hopefully, we can get a lot of guys back next year, try to make another run at this and get better, go farther.”