Hungry Hungry Bravos

My boss, who is a big Braves fan, came up to me yesterday to chat about the games that were on TV over the weekend. She also mentioned that she’d seen one of the many Chipper interviews where he insinuated that the team had lost its “hunger” after so much success in the division for so long, and she was impressed that he had acknowledged this. I don’t think I’ve seen a single broadcast or mention of the Braves in any mainstream sports coverage all spring that hasn’t made the same suggestion: they were “bored” before, and now they want it more.

The marketing department, after years of relying heavily on the long string of division championships to promote the team, really loves this angle, too. There is a commercial on the internet radio broadcasts (not sure if it’s on the AM/FM broadcasts, too) that basically starts out talking about how awesome the Mets are (or were, last year), then assures fans that the Braves are ready to kick some ass now that they finally have a real rival to inspire them to greatness.

As a marketing strategy, it’s a pretty effective way to turn last year’s disappointing season into something to get excited about this year, but I personally don’t buy it at all. I don’t think anyone was bored or really didn’t care last year. They all looked absolutely devastated on a regular basis, and I think they were really humiliated. I’ll never forget the night in Tampa Bay when they finally broke the ten game losing streak and went nuts like they had clinched a playoff spot, they were so relieved.

I think they actually suffered from trying too hard last year in the absence of reliable starting pitching. The hitters were really pressing and constantly swinging for the fences to try and come up with a big moment that would compensate for Hudson’s mediocrity and Ho-Ram’s mood swings (he actually admitted at one point that he screwed up the first game in a really important series against the Mets because he was nervous — I was at that game, and it was just embarrassing, especially because Turner is Carpetbagger Land and there were Mets fans everywhere). The relief pitchers were overworked because of problems with the starting rotation, and they were so freaked out by the responsibility that they drove themselves into the ground. Even Chipper seriously looked close to contemplating suicide when he watched all of this helplessly from the bench.

I really don’t think the problem was that no one cared, and I don’t think renewed “passion” is going to do much for us this year — they would have done anything to keep the streak going last year, they had passion then. I’m hanging my hopes on the starting pitching, though admittedly the Cards won the Series last year with Carpenter and not much else. But was that a REAL World Series? Sometimes I wonder. Last year was a really strange year for baseball, I’ll tell you what. This picture illustrates it perfectly, I think:

And speaking of marketing, has anyone heard the “Jeff Francoeur and the Atlanta Braves” commercial? It might actually be the same one that talks about taking on the Mets in the division race this year. I like Frenchy as much as the next person, but c’mon. Even if he is having a great spring, “Jeff Francoeur and the Atlanta Braves” is false advertising on the “Dale Gribble Bluegrass Experience” level. I do like the commercial with three teenage girls wearing Francoeur jerseys, where the announcer says something about coming to Turner to see “the sights,” and Frenchy materializes before them. I sort of love it when they advertise Frenchy like this sideshow attraction we happen to have: “Come to Atlanta and see the world famous HANDSOME MAN!”

We beat the Indians yesterday, and today is an off day. I’m really upset that the game wasn’t televised yesterday: Heap had a stand-up triple? Just, how? Did the outfielder lose the ball in the grass for awhile? I’m so sorry I missed this — even Bobby described the experience of watching Heap run to third as “fun.”



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