Today’s game was a noon start on getaway day. They used to call these games a businessman’s special. That never made much sense to me. If a man or a woman is working in the day, what makes us think they can take most of the day off to go to the game?
Come to think of it—maybe I do know. Some of you on here will remember the phenomenal start the 1982 Braves had. They won a record 13 consecutive games to start the season. In fact, that start alone pretty much propelled them to a division title; after that great start, they weren’t much better than a .500 team. Well, in April 1982 I was a relatively new employee at a prominent firm in downtown Atlanta. In the midst of that streak, the Braves played one of those weekday afternoon games. Several of us decided to take a very long lunch at the Varsity, where we could watch the game on TV. I’m sure we came up with some excuse that we were gone so long. The problem came the next morning when the Atlanta Constitution ran a front page story about how Atlanta was so excited about the Braves. Sure enough, the main photo on the front page showed me at the V eating my chili dog and rings and cheering on Murph, Horner, Hubbard, and the rest of the Braves. I didn’t get in trouble, but I worried for days that a senior partner would ask me about that day.
Back to the present. Unlike that afternoon in 1982, I had a crucial meeting all afternoon today, and I didn’t even get a chance to glance at my mlb app and check the score until the seventh inning. So I don’t really have a game recap for y’all. If you care about the Braves—and of course you do or you wouldn’t be reading this blog—then you already know all the details of today’s game. Braves bats mostly silent, Soroka pretty good, bullpen mostly stinks, series sweep.
Instead of recapping the game, I’ll exercise the privilege of this space to express my thoughts (or perhaps more accurately, my feelings) about this team so far. There has been a lot of grumbling on this blog and elsewhere among the Braves’ faithful. I dislike current ownership as much as the next guy. Like most of you, I wish they had added an extra bat or an arm or both this offseason. I know the team just got swept and they are now just 9 and 9. The bullpen has been terribly frustrating. I spend most of the late innings of these games yelling at my TV, “Throw strikes!”.
But it’s way too early to draw any strong conclusions—one way or the other. I realize I’m not an objective observer, but I’m quite optimistic. I believe this will be a special team. My Braves fandom is profoundly influenced by the miserable years. 2015-17 were awful; but so were 1985-1990 and 1975-1981. I watched and hoped and rooted for them even through those times. Let me tell you, this team has more young talent than any I remember (except of course the early to mid-nineties). And just as I can’t help but be hopeful, I also can’t choose not to follow the team and root for them. After 50 plus years of rooting for this laundry, I know that boycotting out of frustration with management is not an option for me.
In any event, I don’t want to boycott! This is a good team that could be excellent. They are great fun to watch, and I’m enjoying them more than I expected. There is a lot to like. Acuña is even better than he was last year, and he was the most exciting rookie we’d seen in many years. I love the way he is taking the close pitches. The sky is the limit for him—and he will be a Brave for most of the next decade. Ozzie might be my favorite player in decades. He is hitting righties, he is also taking pitches, and his enthusiasm and baseball savvy are off the charts. And he will be Ronald’s teammate for all those years. With his wrist apparently healed, Swanson may actually be a pretty good mlb hitter. If so, with his excellent defense and base-running, he is a very valuable player. I was a Camargo skeptic two years ago, but he is now and will be a very valuable player. Freddie is still a delight and the best first baseman in the league. Defensively, this is the best team in the league.
The starting pitching has been quite good. Gausman is looking like a very smart pickup last July. Julio may have another decent year in him. (I like Julio, but I’m not counting on him.) I’m anxious to get Folty back. People seem to forget how good he was last year. I’m ready to see if he can maintain that level.
But it’s the kid pitchers that keep me riveted. I know TNSTAAPP, and these kids will break your heart, but we may finally be seeing the fruits of the absurd stockpile of high upside pitchers the rebuild was all about. Fried has been outstanding, and appears ready to finally fulfill his promise. Touki looked great in his first appearance and gets the start tomorrow. My favorite of the scores of young pitchers over the past three years has been Soroka. Sore shoulders make me nervous (see, e.g., Vizcaino), but his stuff and smarts is as good as anyone. I hear he looked pretty sharp today; he tossed 58 strikes in 85 pitches. That’s what I love about him. I expect Wright to be back in the bigs before long; he has as much promise as any of them.
The one glaring flaw (the bullpen) is one they share with their division rivals, and should be the easiest to fix. (Just do it, AA!) I expect an exciting race to the wire, and I plan to watch them and pull for them all the way.
It’s on to Cleveland and whatever they call Jacobs Field nowadays. Touki faces Kluber; ought to be fun. I expect Ronald to hit one in the lake.