It's getting close to "Who gets the blame?" time.
The Braves will remind you that sometimes nobody should.
It's getting close to "How do we fix this?" time.
The Braves will remind you that sometimes the fix needn't be drastic.
They will also remind you that the NL East hasn't officially been decided yet. The Braves trail the Nationals by four games with eight games to play, but the Braves' remaining schedule (Marlins, Mets, Pirates) is significantly easier than the Nationals' schedule (Phillies, Cardinals, Phillies).
It's still four games to make up, with just eight games to play.
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"Ask us about [blowing leads]," one Braves person said with a laugh.
For the record, the Braves led the Cardinals in the NL wild-card race by just 2½ games with eight games remaining last year. It was earlier in September that they led by 8½.
The Braves did lose eight of their final 10 games in 2011, including the final five in a row. One more win, and they would have had a wild-card tie-breaker game with the Cardinals ... which is basically what they'll face next Friday, if they can't catch the Nationals.
"One game is tough," the same Braves person said. "Even if it was a one-game playoff with Houston, you might lose."
But even if their 2012 postseason lasts just one more game than their nonexistent 2011 postseason, the Braves have already justified the decisions they made last October. They've already proven that sometimes patience really is the best policy, that even the worst of collapses doesn't necessarily require finding someone to blame.
The Braves believed in their players. They believed in their manager, Fredi Gonzalez, even though they also believed that Gonzalez needed to change some things if he was going to have success.
As our Matt Snyder pointed out in a blog Tuesday, after the Braves clinched their playoff spot with a walk-off win over the Marlins, Gonzalez avoided the temptation to overuse his most important relief pitchers this year. Keeping incredible closer Craig Kimbrel and the rest fresh helped the Braves in September, and should make them formidable in October.
"We feel we have a chance to go all the way," Braves general manager Frank Wren said last month.
They feel like they have enough talent to do it. They felt that way last October, too, even after the collapse.
They felt like their team was good enough to deserve another chance. They felt like overreacting to September would be the wrong decision.
The Braves chose patience, an unusual decision in today's baseball.
An unusual decision, but as the Braves have now proven, it was the correct decision.