The Braves 2012 Wild Card Game

I know that right now, psychologically, most of Baseball America is watching Yankees and Tigers to make sure the Yankees lose. However, in Atlanta, for most of us Baseball ended with the wild card game a tad over a week ago. I had to, emotionally and mentally, wait a week to write this for a lot of reasons. For those of you unaware, this is one of the oddest baseball games ever played, in the first of 10 Wild Card play-off game years. This is coupled by the Braves’ repeated post-season curse and disappointment when expectations and hopes were high.

Let’s put a few things into context for the non-baseball people there. As long as I remember the Braves, at least really remember watching them, I remember Chipper Jones being a Brave. After planning to retire two years ago with Bobby Cox, he got injured and played with relatively success for the past two years. However, he had announced that this would be his last year, once and for all, and we wanted to celebrate it with a championship, much like we had tried to do for Bobby and failed. Secondly, this was the first year with the Wild Card Playoff. The Wild Card, starting in 1994, allows for the team with the most wins, but is not leading a division to get into the playoffs (this was because they wanted to add another round to the post season anyway). To win these playoffs and move on to the next level, you had to win best 3 out of 5, or 4 out of 7 respectively to the World Series. However, this year they added a one game Wild Card playoff to make things more exciting. Ooooo. For many baseball fans, this is ridiculous. Baseball is not a sport where there is only one game, it should build to that point, a game seven World Series, for example. Baseball’s strategy is in the long run. Besides, the Braves were six games ahead. This was not even close. We should get the playoff series we deserve. This is part one of the frustration.

Secondly, there was some bizarre officiating. Was the strike zone odd at times? Yes, but no worse then any other baseball game I have ever seen. However, there were two very unusual calls. First, there was a correct, but infuriating call about a player being hit with a throw while in the base path. Which if you think is confusing, no one in the stands believed it either, I had to text a friend at a bar to explain. Though the umpire made the correct call, we couldn’t see it and it cost us two runs. However, it is the next call that was truly spectacular.

According to people much more patient than I am:
“The infield fly rule is a rule in baseball intended to prevent infielders from intentionally dropping pop-ups in order to turn double plays (or triple plays). Without this rule, a defense could easily turn a pop fly into a double play when there are runners at first and second base. If the runners stay near their bases to tag up, the defense could let the ball drop, throw to third base and then to second, for a force-out at each base. If any of the runners stray too far from their bases, the defense could catch the pop-up, and double-off any runner that failed to tag up.

When the rule is invoked, the batter is out (and all force plays removed) regardless of whether the ball is caught, thus negating the possibility for multiple outs.”

This is best put into context by Jayson Stark at ESPN

“ll other romantic and not-so-romantic story lines were rendered obsolete in the eighth inning of this game, when Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons lofted what was about to become the pop-up heard ’round the world.

Back-back-back-back went Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma. Twenty feet back of the infield dirt. Thirty feet. Forty feet. Fifty feet. Sixty feet. Finally, he raised his arms in the air — which, in baseball-ese, is the international symbol for “I’ve got it.”

And that was all standard stuff, except for one pesky little detail: As you might have heard by now, he didn’t “got it.”

Kozma peeled off so left fielder Matt Holliday could take it. Holliday backed off so Kozma could take it. The baseball dropped uncaught onto the outfield grass.

Cardinals pitcher Mitchell Boggs looked on in horror. Braves runners were pulling into every base on the diamond. A packed Turner Field throbbed with elation.

It looked like a very important play in a very important baseball game. And it was, all right.

Just not how everyone envisioned it at that particular moment.

That’s because the left-field ump, Sam Holbrook, had just raised his fist in the air to call the dreaded infield fly rule. Which meant the bases weren’t loaded anymore. And Simmons wasn’t safe on first anymore. And there were two outs instead of one. And 52,631 people inside Turner Field were about to get seriously unhappy.

And once it finally dawned on them what had just happened, they did what fans often do at times like that — in Greece. Or Egypt. They took a horrendous situation and made it downright embarrassing. Not to mention hazardous to the well-being of all the innocent humans on the field.ll other romantic and not-so-romantic story lines were rendered obsolete in the eighth inning of this game, when Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons lofted what was about to become the pop-up heard ’round the world.

Back-back-back-back went Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma. Twenty feet back of the infield dirt. Thirty feet. Forty feet. Fifty feet. Sixty feet. Finally, he raised his arms in the air — which, in baseball-ese, is the international symbol for “I’ve got it.”

And that was all standard stuff, except for one pesky little detail: As you might have heard by now, he didn’t “got it.”

Kozma peeled off so left fielder Matt Holliday could take it. Holliday backed off so Kozma could take it. The baseball dropped uncaught onto the outfield grass.

Cardinals pitcher Mitchell Boggs looked on in horror. Braves runners were pulling into every base on the diamond. A packed Turner Field throbbed with elation.

It looked like a very important play in a very important baseball game. And it was, all right.

Just not how everyone envisioned it at that particular moment.

That’s because the left-field ump, Sam Holbrook, had just raised his fist in the air to call the dreaded infield fly rule. Which meant the bases weren’t loaded anymore. And Simmons wasn’t safe on first anymore. And there were two outs instead of one. And 52,631 people inside Turner Field were about to get seriously unhappy.

And once it finally dawned on them what had just happened, they did what fans often do at times like that — in Greece. Or Egypt. They took a horrendous situation and made it downright embarrassing. Not to mention hazardous to the well-being of all the innocent humans on the field.”

All of a sudden, our combined baseball dreams of giving Chipper only his second World Series ring were dashed. From a fundamental perspective, I agree with much of the commentary at the moment, the trash throwing was bad. However, in that moment, I have never been closer to a riot. People were so angry in a justifiable way. They were so horrifically jaded that frankly they didn’t want the game to finish. The generic announcer voice warned that this continuing could have led to the Braves having to forfeit, we didn’t care. The adorable clown guy (you know the one all stadiums has who gets fans to play the games, rallies the crowd, and only is allowed to wear team jerseys) he was called out to camera without his jersey to talk us down, we didn’t care. People were screaming and booing and throwing what ever they could. Immediately I understood this sports thing. Did I throw stuff? No, but only because I was in the top deck and would only have hit people below me. Umpires and players hid in the dugouts, our manager Fredi Gonzalez filed the game under protest. Probably one of the worst calls in the decade (along with Armando Galarraga’s blown call on his perfect game) was causing the disaster of the Wild Card Playoff to nearly become a riot. Frankly, the chaos of this whole situation was hilarious to me by that point. The game was so far passed ridiculous at that point that the camera’s could not look away; 20 minutes of game delay for empty beer bottles and tossed tomahawks.

Thirdly, I think the most important and frustrating thing about the game was the game itself. It was abysmal. Our two real veterans, Dan Uggla and Chipper Jones, made two of the most blatant errors of the game, including one or two plays where Chipper got a bad jump and missed plays he should had made. Andrelton Simmons made an error too, but as a rookie you have a tad more patience. We were so excited off the bat, our star starter Kris Medlen was starting (after 23 starts leading to Brave wins in a row). Jason Heyward had made an amazing catch robbing a home run and David Ross hitting a home run, but soon after the Braves showed up. The only infielders without bad plays were Freddi Freeman at first and Ross at home, even our pitchers couldn’t do anything. Since 2001, we are 9-20 in the post season. We left 16 people on base scoring 3 runs. Chipper only got on base his last at bat. Possibly the most depressing thing of the whole game is that despite the bad calls, we were probably going to lose anyway. Maybe that is why the fans acted the way they did; despite the commentators saying the fans should let the Braves win/lose the game, if we let them do that, they were doing terrible at it. We needed to have our say.

It was both the worst and one of the best baseball experiences I have ever been to. The game was terrible, some of the worst baseball played by the Braves, the Cardinal’s were fantastic asses (chanting Infield Fly in the locker room after the game), however to be in that stadium as it turned to a near riotous chaos was fantastic.

Enjoy,
The Editor

Leave a Reply