It’s been a tortured season for the Atlanta Braves, who are out of playoff contention for the first time since 1991. One consolation in these bleak times is DAVID O’BRIEN’S BRAVES BLOG. O’Brien is the city’s best sports beat writer, and he’s one of the few who hasn’t drank the Kool-Aid. He digs deep and isn’t afraid to be critical. In the days before management sent Jeff Francoeur down to the minors, O’Brien predicted the move and used his blog to concisely chronicle the right fielder’s problems. He gave sympathetic insight into John Smoltz’s struggles to pitch through pain. He wrote a moving and insightful tribute following the unexpected death of beloved Braves announcer Skip Caray. And he closes each blog post with lyrics of a favorite song, from Tom Waits to James McMurtry. Whether the Braves are winning or losing, O’Brien’s blog always hits the note. www.ajc.com/blogs/content/shared-blogs/ajc/braves.