Sports Outside the Beltway

Braves Cut Closer Wickman Over Bad Attitude

Bob Wickman was having a good year as the Atlanta Braves’ closer but he was cut by the team after displaying a poor attitude.

In a surprising move in the heat of a pennant race, the Braves cut ties with closer Bob Wickman on Friday, designating the 38-year-old for assignment.

Braves manager Bobby Cox said he made the decision following Thursday night’s game in Cincinnati when Wickman gave up a two-run, walk-off homer to Adam Dunn in a 9-7 loss in 12 innings. The loss put the Braves three games back in the wild-card race with 34 games to play.

“I just want to try something else, try something new,” Cox said.

But players said what Cox couldn’t or didn’t want to say, that in addition to being less effective from the mound as the year progressed, Wickman also alienated himself from his Braves teammates for reasons such as showing displeasure at pitching in non-save situations.

Thursday was such a situation, and came after he had to warm up a couple of times before he pitched.
“If it’s not a save situation, he was not happy about it,” Andruw Jones said. “It’s not fair to the team. It’s not fair for the manager. The way he was going about his business, separate from everybody. We’re a team. Everybody has their own attitude. Everybody’s got their own feeling about each other. Everybody’s got their own way of going about their business. But when we put a uniform on and we’re all together, we’re all as one. And we need guys who want to go out there and perform.”

Cox called Wickman in his hotel room in St. Louis on Friday morning to tell him. “He didn’t seem real shocked; I don’t know,” Cox said. “He just said, ‘Sorry I let you down.’ ”

Wickman converted 20 of 26 save opportunities this year, going 3-3 with a 3.92 ERA. Since the All-Star break he had blown two saves and taken a loss, but his ERA was 1.98. Last season, he made 28 appearances after the trade and was 0-2 with a 1.04 ERA and 18 saves in 19 chances.

He has 10 days to be traded or claimed by another team off waivers, but his days with the Braves are officially over a little more than a year after he was traded to Atlanta from Cleveland. The Braves have attempted to trade him but have found no takers.

The Braves called up Joey Devine and Jose Ascanio from the minors, optioning Martin Prado back to Richmond in favor of more pitching.

The move came without another obvious option at closer. Cox said he would go with Rafael Soriano on Friday and after that he would see.

Wow. Certainly, one doesn’t want a clubhouse cancer on a young team trying to make the playoffs. But simply cutting an effective closer when there is no replacement in sight? That just seems dumb.

Additionally, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see one of the Braves’ rivals grab him off waivers.

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Effective, yes. But Wickman’s miscues were crushing.

Posted by Steve Barton | August 25, 2007 | 05:02 pm | Permalink

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