Manuel Gives Extra Motivation to the Braves

It is not like the Atlanta Braves really needed any extra motivation headed into this offseason. They collapsed in amazing fashion and saw the team that edged them out of a playoff spot celebrate with a World Series title. Questions of ‘What if?’ and “What could have been?” were undoubtedly left in their minds.

As a team, they had all the motivation that they needed to work hard and prepare for 2012 with a chip on their shoulders. Once the offseason began, the Miami Marlins caught the spotlight by opening a seemingly bottomless pocket book to bring in Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. They went after Albert Pujols and offered between $200 to $250 million (based on reports) for his services. The Marlins were like a teenager with their parents’ credit card. Their additions have made them a stronger team, no doubt.

The Washington Nationals got into the mix by trading for Gio Gonzalez and signing Edwin Jackson. These two players made their already up and coming team stronger. With the surge of youth and their growing willingness to add payroll makes this team loom as a danger for the foreseeable future.

These two teams had to provide extra motivation for the Braves’ team. Two of their rivals got significantly better this offseason.

The Philadelphia Phillies, meanwhile, signed Jonathan Papelbon and resigned Jimmy Rollins. This was their big splashes. When they still have Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, their needs aren’t exactly enormous. They are still the team to beat in the NL East until they are dethroned by another team.

The Braves’ offseason has been quiet. They started with a boom by unloading Derek Lowe and his batting practice arm to the Cleveland Indians. They let Alex Gonzalez walk through free agency, taking his enormous bat with him. Their “big” offseason signing was Jack Wilson.

The realistic picture is that the Braves will have almost the exact same team back from 2011. This team was the same one that had the fourth best record overall in the majors as late as September 2, according to winning percentages.

If the Braves would not have had the Boston Red Sox collapsing in record fashion, this would have been the worst September collapse in baseball history. The Red Sox got most of the publicity and the Braves were able to ride into the offseason quietly and greatly disappointed.

Everything has created a perfect opportunity for the Braves. They still have their biggest rival as the team to beat. Two of their other rivals have made huge strides to make the division more competitive.

Then, there is Charlie Manuel. Here is what he said last week at CBSPhilly:

“If you look at it on paper, you have to say the Florida Marlins are the biggest threat”

He doesn’t discount the Braves in this article. He gives them respect. But, the fact that he said that the Marlins are the biggest threat only seems to add fuel to the fire.

This seems to make a perfect storm for the Braves. They had all the motivation they needed without the Marlins, Nationals and Charlie Manuel. Add this to their collapse and this team will have a lot to prove in 2012. I don’t know about you, but I am excited about the season getting underway.

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  • Scotty Duttuno

    we have like 5 guys as good or better than burley but still hes pretty good overall because hes the same every year for like a decade and never gets hurt but i’m not scared of him but he did win a world series also reyes is a funny guy to look at because he’s famous but not that good because he’s always hurt and sometimes he’s just not good even when he plays but people love him and even other managers and players who play against him talk about how good he is so maybe there’s something we can’t see as fans but still overall he seems overrated and will probably be hurt

    stanton is a beast though and if logan morissey can keep his mouth shut and be a team player he’s pretty good but still i think the braves are better and they have our castoff omar infante playing and hanley moving positions and not as much pitching so i’m not worried about them and josh johnson always misses time with injury

    • Chad

      Stanton is a beast. I like Morrison. I think he takes unfair criticism. He says what he thinks, which is valuable.

  • Frank from Bethlehem

    After all this talk about how quickly the Nats were improving, I was even starting to wonder about it – but then I actually looked at their team. Their second best position player is Mike Morse. Morse was good last year and the year before in a part time role, but the dude is 30 and last year was the first season he played full-time. It’s not exactly time to start writing .300 30 HR 95 RBI in ink by his name before a season starts, and after Morse they get pretty bad. All this hype had me thinking they actually had an offense. They have good young pitchers, too, but their ace is an unproven phenom and again they have little depth. The Nats are at least one more season away, and probably more since it’ll hinge on Harper and he’s still 19.

    The improved Marlins are a .500 team, too. Josh Johnson is legit, as are Stanton and Hanley and allowing for missed time Reyes, but it takes more than 3 hitters, an ace and a closer to win the NL East. They won like 70 games last season and if you factor in the loss of Vazquez they essentially added Reyes and a closer. A couple of good hitters, Reyes and a closer surrounded by question marks and subpar guys. Something feels awfully familiar. Yeah, I guess they’ll pencil right in to the Mets’ old 3rd place slot.

    I do wonder who will overtake my guys, in about 3 years. But I don’t think it’ll be the Fish. Adding guys like Reyes and Buehrle will get them to 82-80 this season but won’t be what makes them great in a few years. It’ll be whether Heyward or Harper become great. Same for Strasburg and J. Zimmermann vs. all the Braves’ potential aces.

    Then again, my Phillies may keep plugging in guys like my Yankees.

    • Chad

      The Nats rotation is much better. Are you discounting Zimmerman as a good hitter? Werth isn’t far removed from being who he was in Philly. I am uncertain if he will be that player again, but he is still a threat. I would actually consider Morse to be their third best hitter. Harper is unproven, but the hype is as loud as it was with Strasburg and Heyward.

      I am with you in that I really find it laughable that the Marlins are the “biggest threat.” Reyes is a good player, but his health is questionable. Hanley has been a shell of himself the past two seasons. Their rotation will still undermine any progress they make.

      The Phillies have the luxury to keep signing players. It has been interesting to watch them continue to win without their offense be what it has been or could be.

      • Frank from Bethlehem

        I meant Morse is their best hitter after Zimmerman.

        Werth may have a rebound season, and I am grateful for how he played for the Phillies, but we got him off the trash heap he was a good platoon player for all but two seasons, and now he’s coming off a season that looks like his pre-Phillies years and he’s 33 years old. So yeah, he’s their 3rd best hitter (second best if Morse is a fluke) and he’s not that great. Also, the fact remains that after the Zimmerman-Morse-Werth level the Nats are pretty weak offensively.

        • Chad

          Gotcha. I wanted to clarify and make sure you remembered they had Zimmerman. I do not disagree with you about Werth. He doesn’t have the luxury of hitting in Philly anymore. He took his money that the Nats gave him and ran.

          I also say this, the Phillies missed Werth last year. Would he have struggled in Philly like he did in Washington? I don’t know. But, the Phillies did not replace his bat.

          • Chad

            How do I hate Hudson?

            Define dickcheezit for the audience.

  • Chief Locked Heart

    It’ll take 96+ wins to overtake the Phillies this season. The Marlins are no threat to that, in my opinion.

    I do wonder when their decline will happen, though. They’ve lost a lot of offense from their outfield and Utley misses time every year, yet they keep rolling. Shane Victorino went from being their 5th best offensive player to their best, and not by breaking out into MVP levels, yet they keep on rolling.

    The end is on the horizon, though. Not in 2012, but maybe 2013.

    • Chad

      Their rotation is good enough to keep them competitive. Injuries to one of their big three and I think they could falter this season.

  • Sven Ottke

    You lost me at “Alex Gonzalez” and “enormous bat.” His career batting average is .247 and he hit .241 last year.

    • Chad

      Seriously, man. Sarcasm does not translate.

      • Chad

        Are you referring to Pence? If so, 22 is not “a ton of homers.”

        • Chad

          You are right, but he still didn’t hit a “ton of homers.”

  • Ted Turner

    I’m just amused that the Marlins’ owner finally found his checkbook buried under all of those unsold tickets. He clearly thinks that a new stadium and some fruity colors will make his investment in some big names worthwhile. Only time will tell, but I bet after a few months Miami residents will head back to their boats, golf courses, and beaches – no matter how well the team is doing.

  • Chief Locked Heart

    Cole Hamels has to be loving the “Big 3″ arrangement and how it boosts his perceived value. I’ve read here and elsewhere that “if one of the Phillies’ pitchers gets hurt…” and it leaves the slight implication that Hamels missing time is on the same level as Doc having to have a sint on the DL.

    Ben Dover, you’re probably right that the Marlins and Nats will be playing for 3rd and 4th just like last year, but on the surface it seems to me (and most everyone else it appears) that they’ll come in 3rd and 4th with anywhere from an 8 to 10 win improvement on their 2011 seasons. That got me thinking, though, about how sporting records are a zero-sum game. If the Nats add W’s they have to come from someone else’s L column. Where are those extra 8 wins going to come from if we still think the Braves and Phillies are superior teams? The Phillies will likely lose a few cushion wins off the top from their spectacular 2011 total, and the Mets will sadly have an even worse record than their recent seasons…but those can’t account for 16 to 20 extra wins showing up in the division.

    • Chad

      I am not necessarily implying that Hamels is on the same level of Doc. However, if he were to miss significant time, his loss would be a huge blow to the Phillies. There are few players that are on the level of Halladay. Hamels would still be a #1 starter on many MLB teams. Losing that type of production would hurt most teams worse than it would the Phillies.