2016 Atlanta Braves
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2016 Atlanta Braves / Franchise: Atlanta Braves / BR Team Page
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2016 Atlanta Braves played their last season at Turner Field before moving to a new suburban ballpark in Cobb County. The team had struggled badly in 2015 and there was little optimism coming into the season, as the leitmotiv in the off-season was "rebuilding". Most off-season activity had gone in a single direction: exchange some confirmed talent for promising but untested young players. It was a young and inexperienced team that took the field on opening day, and it was clear that the aim was not to reach the postseason, but to sort out who would be part of the team's longer-term outlook.
The season started off as badly as the most pessimistic observers had expected. Blessed with a five-game homestead to open the season, the Braves lost all five games to join the Minnesota Twins as the only team in the majors to be winless after the first week. Even more preoccupying was the way the games were lost, with the bullpen blowing leads four times, the defence being very porous, and starting CF Ender Inciarte, one of the most important winter acquisitions, being lost to a pulled hamstring, and reliever Dan Winkler suffering a broken elbow while delivering a pitch. Things continued to go downhill when on April 13th, LF Hector Olivera was arrested in Arlington, VA on charges of assault against a woman who claimed he beat her up at the team's hotel. He was immediately placed on paid leave by Major League Baseball and on May 26th was suspended for 82 games for his actions, only being eligible to come back on August 1st. In any case, by the time he was eligible to return, he had been traded away. On April 14th, they lost their 9th straight game, 6-2 to the Washington Nationals on Bryce Harper's first career grand slam, putting them within one game of the team record for worst start to a season held by the 1988 edition of the team that lost its first ten games. Their first win finally came on April 15th, 6-3 over the Miami Marlins. Another area of preoccupation was the team's lack of home runs: on April 26th, they suffered their 15th straight game in which they failed to go deep, the longest power outage since the team's move to Atlanta in 1966. They had only 3 home runs on the year at that point. Freddie Freeman, Adonis Garcia and Drew Stubbs were the only players to connect in the first 20 games, and since 1961, only one other team - the 1975 California Angels - had started off a season with 3 or fewer homers in its first 20 games. Freeman broke the drought with a long ball on April 27th, but little good it did the team as they lost again, 7-4 to the Boston Red Sox.
By early May, there was talk that manager Fredi Gonzalez may be fired, to be replaced by former San Diego Padres manager Bud Black. On May 7th, a loss at home to the Arizona Diamondbacks and former Brave Shelby Miller left them with a record of 1-14 at home. It was the worst home start by any team since the 1913 New York Yankees had started the year 0-17-1. The firing came on May 17th, when with a record of 9-28 on the season, Gonzalez was dismissed and Brian Snitker, manager of the AAA Gwinnett Braves was promoted to take over for him on an interim basis. Snitker brought along his pitching coach at Gwinnett, Marty Reed, to be the Braves' new bullpen coach while Carlos Tosca was let go as bench coach, being replaced by Terry Pendleton. Eddie Perez, who had been the bullpen coach, took over for Pendleton as first base coach.
After playing awful baseball over the first two months and threatening to end the year with a historically bad record, the Braves finally began to show signs of life in June. A three-game sweep of the New York Mets at Citi Field on June 17-19 gave them a five-game winning streak, nothing to scoff at given how poorly they had played until then. The final win in New York was a beauty, as Julio Teheran pitched an absolute gem of a ballgame, allowing only one baserunner all game in a 6-0 shutout; only a 3rd-inning single by Michael Conforto kept him from putting his name in the history books. The wins also coincided with the rebirth of 1B Freeman, who had begun the year slowly but had hit for the cycle on June 15th to kick things off, on his way to collecting 14 hits, including four doubles, a triple and two homers, over the five games. In spite of a lack of wins, Teheran was the Braves' sole representative at the 2016 All-Star Game, as he had pitched extremely well in spite of the lack of run support.
August 17th was likely to be a date long remembered by Braves fans. Not because of their on-field performance that day - they were beaten 10-3 by the Twins with Kyle Gibson pitching the first nine-inning complete game of his career, but because top prospect Dansby Swanson made his big league debut that day, starting at shortstop and going 2 for 4. The Braves had cleared the way for him the previous day by trading starting SS Erick Aybar to the Detroit Tigers. Aybar had been acquired in the off-season as a stopgap to fill the position until Swanson, the number 1 overall pick in the 2015 amateur draft, was ready to take over. Swanson had himself been acquired in an off-season deal, one that looked like an absolute steal by this point, as P Shelby Miller, his earlier win over his former teammates notwithstanding, was having an awful season with the Diamondbacks while Swanson was the best of a haul of young players obtained in return. Swanson had moved through the Braves system with lightning speed, and his arrival gave fans the first indication that the radical and painful rebuilt they had had to live through over the past two seasons was starting to bear fruit. Another positive sign came in the last days of August, when the Braves finally managed to sweep a team at home, defeating the San Diego Padres in three straight games August 30-September 1. They also showed surprising life with their bats, scoring 7 or more runs in five straight home games, something no Braves team had done since 1953! In mid-September, they even took the luxury of winning seven straight games while playing spoiler against teams involved in the wild card race.
The Braves closed out Turner Field on October 2nd with a 1-0 win over the Detroit Tigers. The team finished with a 31-50 (.383) record, their first losing record at home since 2009. It was also the team's worst record during their 20 seasons at Turner Field, as well as their third-worst home record in Atlanta (first since 1988) and the 14th worst home record in franchise history.
Awards and Honors
- Ray Glier: "After winless homestand, Braves' Turner Field farewell may be uglier than imagined", USA Today Sports, April 10, 2016. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Braves discussing whether to fire Fredi Gonzalez, eye Bud Black", USA Today Sports, May 4, 2016. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Braves, on pace for record 134 losses, cling to faith in future", USA Today Sports, May 9, 2016.