Editorial Note: If you already read this piece, and you caught my misspelling of Janish as Yanish, let me apologize. I’ve corrected it, but his name always gives me trouble for some reason. Oh, the humanity!
In a big blow to the Atlanta Braves, Ramiro Pena found out that he had a torn labrum in his right shoulder, and has now elected to have season-ending surgery to repair the damage. In an Injury Update yesterday, we reported that the soreness in Pena’s shoulder wasn’t going away, and that the versatile utility player had decided to get a second opinion on the shoulder. Pena and the team hoped it wouldn’t be anything like a tear, but no one is surprised by the news – usually simple soreness that doesn’t go away almost always ends up in a surgical situation. The news is not good for Atlanta, for a few reasons.
I said yesterday that I have always believe the Braves under utilize Ramiro. Pena has always been a pretty good player, even while in the Yankees’ organization, but seeing playing time on that team when you come up from the minors is often an iffy proposition unless you completely tear it up, or have a big contract signing. Ramiro was probably thrilled to get the chance to come to the NL and play for Atlanta. I would have been thrilled as well if I could have played much, but Fredi Gonzalez (and Company I will add) have simply not used the young player nearly as much as I personally believe they should have. Even with short playing time, Pena has put together a career-high .278 BA in just 97 ABs, as well as career-highs extra-base hits with 9, and homers with 3. With those numbers, it’s hard for me to imagine why Pena has not been utilized more. In addition to the offensive numbers, Pena is also a quality defensive player, able to play almost any position (That bring any one else who used to be a Brave to mind?), and play them well. With Dan Uggla throwing up his usual dismal numbers (please don’t lecture me on his OBP), I simply have a hard time swallowing why Pena hasn’t been used more at second base. Pena can even play the outfield, but has rarely had the opportunity to sub for one outfielder who’s grossly overpaid, and has an oWAR of -0.9 (I will not name him here again today).
Now, with Juan Francisco having been chopped off the block, the Braves’ will be scrambling to try and put together a platoon situation of some kind at third base. Previously, Juan and Chris Johnson were sharing duties at the hot corner, and while Juan was a pretty good defensive third baseman, and not bad at the bat, the Braves’ elected to get rid of him. Even after Juan was gone, Pena was not used much at 3rd. That is understandable to a degree, because Johnson has really been raking this season, but again – Pena’s numbers are good too, and defensively, he is MUCH better than Johnson. That is another one of those decisions that baffle me. Now, it’s all rather academic, because Pena is out for the season, and we may not see him in a Braves’ uniform again since he has no guaranteed contract with Atlanta. I hope that isn’t the case, but when you’ve already had one surgery on the shoulder for a dislocation (2007), and now a second for a torn labrum, Atlanta may be looking at some greener utility pastures.
The question is right up in Fredi Gonzalez‘ and Frank Wren’s collective grill now – who will play backup 3B if Johnson is hurt, or just needs a simple rest? Well, the answer to that question, for now, is obvious. The Braves brought up Paul Janish to help, and he’s already played some 3B for the Braves. In just 2 games with only 1 plate appearances so far, Janish is hitless. In AAA Gwinnett, Paul’s line this year has been just .207/.285/.244, so while he will help defensively (In fact, he is better than Chris Johnson at that), he will be a gaping hole in the offensive lineup when Johnson has to sit. Atlanta has several gaping holes in the offensive lineup though, so I guess Yanish will fit right in.
Let me just apologize for sounding so angry, but I just disagree with many of the decisions Atlanta has made this year. I can only hope, like the rest of the fans, that the loss of Pena now after the loss of Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty, the delayed return of Brandon Beachy, and the continued struggles of Dan Uggla, B.J. Upton, (I lied when I said I wouldn’t name him here again today) and even Jason Heyward – won’t continue to be a huge drag on this team. Jordan Schafer has been raking, but is now only be utilized to the degree he should have been awhile ago. I’ve had my doubts all along about whether the Braves have the juice to make it past, or even into the post-season. My suspicious are growing.