The worst team in baseball


The Atlanta Braves announced plans Thursday to sell public shares of stock, then hours later traded shortstop Andrelton Simmons, one of the few remaining reasons to buy some.

How’s that for incentive? Who wouldn’t want to own a piece of the worst team in baseball, which the Braves are likely to be in 2016 and the following year when they move into their new stadium?

Maybe that’s the Braves’ plan to ease the traffic logjam predicted for SunTrust Park: build a team so bad no one will want to watch it.

The Braves are selling the stock, according to ajc.com,  to repay some of the money they borrowed to build the new park. No word on how they plan to repay the fans who buy tickets to watch the Braves over the next few seasons.

Since the Braves fired Frank Wren last year, they’ve traded  Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, Evan Gattis, Alex Wood, David Carpenter, prospect Jose Peraza and Simmons. In return they received  a multitude of pitching prospects, Shelby Miller, the pitcher most likely to be the next 20-game loser, 29-year-old Cuban defector Hector Olivera, whom they no longer believe can play third base, and financial freedom.

Maybe it was all worth it if they don’t have to remember Melvin Upton’s new first name.

You could build a pretty good team with the players the Braves have traded away, and at one time the Braves did. They won 94 games in 2012 and 96 in 2013 before they did in a baseball sense to the city of Atlanta what General Sherman did in a military one 151 years ago.

The Braves are following the business plan of the Cubs and Astros, buoyed by their postseason appearances this year. Both of those teams suffered for half a decade but emerged with a powerful  young nucleus for the half decade ahead.

Except the Cubs and Braves descended naturally, like a man gently stepping down a flight of stairs. The Braves’ fall was self-inflicted, tumbling head first over every floor.

Thursday the Braves acquired two more pitching prospects, because, like the Yankees and world championships, one never has enough. Sean Newcomb, an overpowering if wild lefty, is the better of the two. Newcomb was a highly thought-of tight end prospect in football before picking baseball. Given the Braves’ immediate future, he might want to reconsider.

It might be that the Braves plan will work, that Olivera will hit in his 30s as he never had the chance to do in his 20s, that from all these pitchers the Braves will have a rotation like they did in the 90s, that 18-year-old Ozhaino Albies will play shortstop as Simmons has and supply the offense he never could.

Yes, and maybe the next winter storm in Atlanta will go off without a single fender bender.

The Braves can hope they have a future like the Cubs or Astros, but they currently seem to be emulating a team from another sport: the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers.

That team has  embraced tanking as none ever has. Since the start of the 2013-14 season, the 76ers are  37-135, including 0-8 in 2015-16, without a first or second pick in the draft (one of their thirds, Joel Embiid, has yet to play because of bad feet, which is the basketball equivalent of taking a sore-armed pitcher.)

The 76ers are renowned for accumulating assets — draft picks used and yet to be used — and made themsleves a receptacle for bad contracts, without any conception of how to use said assets to construct a team. That’s what the Braves look like right now, all prospects and potential but little substance. “Trust the process,” say the Sixers, but the process isn’t the problem as much as the results.

Fortunately for Freddie Freeman, baseball draft picks can’t be traded. If they were, he’d probably be already gone for two second-rounders in a decade to be named later.

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