It’s February of 2018 and the Braves have 20-1 odds to win the division and 200-1 odds to win the World Series. Vegas put them behind Washington, New York, and Philadelphia to start the year. If you had put $20 down on Atlanta making the playoffs, you’d be $400 richer today. That’s $20 I would have seen as glorified toilet paper in February. To be honest, there wasn’t any buzz at all surrounding this team. The pundits were talking about Acuna and Swanson, but what about Albies, Camargo, Foltynewicz, and Newcomb? I don’t think the sports world was ready for this underdog story and it’s one that I’ll never forget.
Let’s fast forward to the all-star break. Your Atlanta Braves now have the 6th best chances, in the majors, to win the World Series. Talk about 0 to 100 real quick. For all those keeping score at home, that was fourth in the division to 6th in the MLB, in five months. 52 wins at the break. I didn’t think we’d win 52 games all year. They were up by as much as 9.5 games in the NL East and were only ever down 3.5 games max. They spent 105 days in first place in their division. They had a winning record in every month, with July being the only exception. Those nobody pitchers finished the year 7th in ERA, 10th in quality starts, 13th in WHIP, 10th in K’s, and 2nd in BAA. Those seemingly harmless bats finished 10th in runs, 11th in OBP, 11th in slugging percentage, 11th in RBI’s, and 5th in batting average. One might ask what happened, to which I proudly tell you absolutely nothing.
In my 29 years on this great earth, I’ve never been more proud to be an Atlanta Braves fan. Yes, even if we’re talking about my childhood and those Braves. Yes, even if we’re talking those World Series winning and losing Braves. Even those Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Chipper and Andrew Jones Braves. It’s natural to wonder why and I’ll expound.
November 13th of 2017, in comes Alex Anthopoulos from the Blue Jays to be the new GM. This, to me, was the man that made the Blue Jays relevant again. I could do a whole piece on him alone, but that’s not why we’re here. Let’s go back to May 17th of 2016. The Braves promote a guy named Brian Snitker to fill in for a slumping Fredi Gonzalez. If you haven’t noticed, he’s still here. He was a relic from the Cox era. The one that made me a Braves fan. That’s right, from 2007 to 2013 he was the 3rd base coach. The Braves also brought in another beautiful mind in Ron Washington. He’s better known for his bout with the booger sugar than his premise on the diamond. Which is absolutely insane to me considering he brought the Rangers back to life from 2007-2014. How about the hiring of Chuck Hernandez in 2017 too? The man who turned our minor league pitchers into major league studs in only one year. The Braves have been fire-selling their proven talent for prospects and we’ve finally got the administration to resurrect this sleeping giant
As I spoke about last week, all of this success leaves you wanting true greatness. We now have more answers than questions and more desire than apathy. This is the first time, in a long time, that either of those statements are true. A new park, new faces, and a new identity. The Braves fan-base, myself included, are a very spoiled one. We won the division for over a decade and a half straight. Who does that? So naturally there is a wish list following a season that was immensely better than any expert projected.
Bear with me as I use the word need loosely. We need a more consistent bat at catcher. Kurt Suzuki and Tyler Flowers were better than we thought and not enough at the same time. We need a true opening-day starter. Teheran and Folty were amazing this year, but neither will ever be the best guy on a World Series contending team. What we need most is a bullpen that won’t loose games for us. Lastly, what we need might be nothing at all. Maybe it’s just another year’s worth of growing and improving. Maybe we go out and spend a kings fortune to get the pieces I’ve mentioned above and more. Regardless I’m still giddy from this season and if you’re a fellow Braves fan so should you. Thank you front office and coaching staff for pulling this team back into relevance. Thank you players for leaving it all on the diamond, day in and day out. Thank you God for baseball. Until next season sports fans, CHOP ON!