Vets trying to get message through to youngsters
Clubhouse leadership maintaining focus for final month
WASHINGTON -- After the Braves endured their third double-digit loss within a seven-day span on Thursday, Nick Swisher was among the veterans who addressed some of the younger players with a reminder that there is still time to show some pride and make strides that could create both immediate and future benefits.
"We've got to all come together and do this thing together," Swisher said. "That is our fight right now, coming together as a unit and doing this as a unit. You can't do this as individuals. As much as you'd like to do it, you can't be LeBron James -- get the ball every time down the court and just dunk. That's just not going to happen. This [stinks] that it's happened, but I think this is going to help us in the long run so much because nobody likes getting their [butt] kicked."
Though the Braves were weakened by late July trades that sent Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe, Alex Wood, Luis Avilan and Jim Johnson elsewhere, nobody could have expected them to lose 17 of their past 18 games and 31 of 40 going back to July 24 (the day Johnson and Uribe were traded to the Mets for two Minor League pitchers).
"It [stinks], I don't care who you are, I want to go out there and win," Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski said before Friday night's 5-2, 10-inning setback. "I've never been on a team that has lost this amount of games in this short of time and it [stinks]. There's no other way to put it.
"Everyone, including myself, has to look in the mirror and figure out what you can do that day and that inning and that pitch and that at-bat to help this team win a game. There's no rah-rah. There's no yelling or getting mad and thinking. 'Let's go fight somebody.' That's not the way to handle it. It's about being a professional and going out there and doing your job. If everyone does their job, everything will take care of itself."
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said there have been a few occasions over the past few weeks when some of veterans, including the recently-departed Jonny Gomes, have indeed challenged some of the younger players with verbal messages delivered in an authoritative manner.
"Sometimes, you've got to get their attention," Gonzalez said. "Sometimes, it's better when it comes from a peer, instead of a coach. That's not saying we haven't done it, but sometimes, it's better to come from a friend or one of your teammates. It's OK to get upset, mad and frustrated. If you've got any kind of competitive juices in you, you've got to get frustrated and upset."
Gonzalez offered a story about how one of his unnamed veterans recently attempted to make sure a group of younger players understood that the pain of losing should be the same regardless of the amount of money or service time that has been compiled.
"[The veteran] said, 'It doesn't matter how much money I'm making, it still [stinks] because it's not easy to come out here, get beat and be out of the game by the second or third inning,'" Gonzalez said. "So, I like that. These guys are still grinding to win games."