History shows the Braves shouldn’t count on their major real-estate business, Cobb Taxpayer Stadium, to keep their customers interested in bad baseball for long.
“Cobb Taxpayer Stadium.” I hadn’t heard that one before. I’d taken to calling SunTrust Park “Finazzle Field,” after a grout-cleaner former wall advertiser at the Ted. (I wish I could remember the name of that Hooters knockoff that had wall space for awhile … they would have made a dandy stadium name sponsor as well.)
Of course, the name of the stadium is about the only amusing thing about the Barves right now. The Hometown Heroes are 4-16, a fine .200 winning percentage. By comparison, the 1988 Chuck-Tanner-We’ll-Have-a-Parade-Down-Peachtree Braves, who started 0-10, were also 4-16 after 20 games. (Ol’ Chuck was fired after starting 12-27.) They ended up losing 106 games, and that was with Dale Murphy (who, admittedly, was 32 and starting his abrupt decline). This Braves team has … Erick Aybar? 32-year-old Nick Markakis? Jeff Francoeur? Yes, there’s Freddie, but he hasn’t looked like Freddie so far.
So how bad will the 2016 Braves be?
It’s foolish projecting after one-eighth of a season, but what the hell. Among really terrible teams, the 2003 Detroit Tigers started 2-18 and lost 119 games. The 1962 Mets started 4-20 and lost 120 games. The 1952 Pittsburgh Pirates started 3-17 and lost 112 games (in a 154-game season). Intriguingly, by Pythagorean Winning Percentage, each of these teams should have been 6-10 games better than they ended up. (The 2016 Braves, incidentally, should currently be 2 games better by the same formula.)
Now, all those teams got better. The Tigers made the World Series three years later. The Mets won it all seven years after their 120-loss fiasco. The Pirates did it in eight. Braves management is counting on a similar rise from the ashes.
In the meantime, though, this could be an historic year. We may need some Finazzle to clean up afterwards.