The phrase “Braves Way” seems to carry two meanings in the Atlanta Braves’ fanbase.
When used seriously, it expresses a desire to return to the team’s glory days, when our beloved Braves rattled off 14 straight division titles, five National League pennants and a World Series title. It’s a desire to regularly be considered one of the league’s top teams and a threat to win the World Series with a high-class team.
When used sarcastically, it’s a nod to the fact that those same Braves spent a lot of time underachieving in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It’s a way to plant a tongue firmly in cheek to point out that the franchise blueprint hasn’t resulted in a playoff series victory since 2001.
So is there anything worth salvaging from the “Braves Way?”
Unless you go back more than 20 years, the answer is “no,” honestly. So that’s what I’ll do.
The Actual Braves Way
Let’s go back to the way the Braves built an actual championship team in the first half of the 1990s. For anyone who needs a reminder, the Braves went from worst in the NL West to first in the division in 1991 and made it all the way to the World Series. They went back to the World Series in 1992, came up short in 1993, came back in 1995 to win it all and then held a two-game lead in the 1996 Series before succumbing to the New York Yankees.
So how did the Braves go from surprising success story – similar to the 2018 Braves – to World Series champions? They went and got big-name players in free agency and the trade market.
Those Big Name Players
What is seemingly forgotten about the 1990s Braves is that some of the biggest pieces of their World Series run got their starts elsewhere. Marquis Grissom caught the last out of the 1995 Series in his first season in Atlanta after being part of an offseason trade with the Montreal Expos. In an effort to get over the hump after back-to-back World Series losses, the Braves brought in starting first baseman and cleanup hitter Fred McGriff during the 1993 season.
And while ace Greg Maddux is best-known by many as a member of the Braves’ “Big Three” with Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, he was a free agent acquisition before the 1993 season. Yes, a team that already had a Cy Young Award winner in Glavine, a two-time All-Star in Smoltz and another young stud that received Cy Young votes in Steve Avery went out and ponied up the cash to sign the reigning Cy Young honoree.
The deal to bring in Maddux was no quick team-friendly affair either. At five years and $28 million, it was the largest ever signed by a pitcher at that point in terms of guaranteed money to a free agent. While a far cry from the massive dollars that went to Gerrit Cole before the 2020 season, the Braves spent big for that era to land a big fish.
Those expenditures paid off in the World Series, too. While the homegrown youngsters like David Justice, Chipper Jones, Ryan Klesko and Javy Lopez more than carried their weight in defeating the Cleveland Indians, Grissom and McGriff were integral. The “Crime Dog” carried a .955 OPS with two homers in the series, while Grissom hit .360 at the top of the order with nine hits, three runs and three stolen bases.
We need to stop here to appreciate Klesko, who really doesn’t get enough credit for an absurd statline in his first World Series. This dude hit .313 on baseball’s grandest stage with a 1.296 OPS and three homers at the age of 24. My goodness.
In the rotation, Glavine rightfully won the Series MVP with a pair of absolutely insane performances. But Maddux set the table for it all with a Game 1 complete-game gem.
On top of all that, those mid-90s Braves teams carried a top-5 payroll in all of baseball.
Two Decades Later…
Fast forward more than two decades, and the thought of Atlanta being in the mix to sign the top free agent in the game is laughable. Fans are wise to write the Braves out of the discussion for the likes of Cole and Stephen Strasburg immediately, even if the rotation is an area of need. And trading for a player like Grissom, who was still under 30 years old and had made four straight All-Star games? That’s not what the Braves do.
But if the current front office hopes to replicate what their predecessors did all those years ago and take a young core to the top of the sport, that needs to change.
22 thoughts on “Let’s Get Back to the ACTUAL Braves Way (Game Thread)”
Braves score 14 runs in the past 2 games, but can’t get a win. We might need that many tonight. The mound match-up doesn’t look so good, but… stranger things have happened. A split would be a blessed thing.
FWIW, we got a big break when Maddux turned down a larger offer from the Yankees. It was supposedly 5 years/$35M.
The Yanks’ consolation prize in the Maddux Sweepstakes ended up being Jimmy Key, who had a fine stint in The Bronx, and was the winning pitcher in WS clinchers vs. ATL in ’92 (in relief with Toronto) & ’96 (when he beat Maddux, incidentally).
@1 Yeah it was still the largest contract ever given to a FA starting pitcher, and the Braves gave it out. And yet now we know that the Braves aren’t even looking at that top shelf.
Apropos of the discussion from a few days ago, about Braves infield arms, Bowman with this today:
From the Statcast research team:
Hardest tracked INF assists of 2020
1. Johan Camargo: 93.0 mph — 7/30 vs. TB
2. Fernando Tatis Jr.: 92.8 mph — 8/11 vs. LAD
3. Javier Baez: 92.0 mph — 7/29 vs. CIN
4- Camargo: 91.4 mph — 8/5 vs. TOR
4- Camargo: 91.4 mph — 8/1 vs. NYM
They don’t apparently publish this stat in a sortable form, so I can’t find 2019 data, or any other year for that matter, so unable to compare with a healthy Simba.
But Camargo’s arm is apparently as elite as it looks, anyway.
Wife hasn’t been able to watch much Barves these past couple weeks, so I brought her up to speed. “Folty, Soroka, Newcomb all gone.” So she asked what the rotation is now. It was so depressing to try to explain what they’re doing and who the guys are. Her conclusion: “this is really bad.”
Yep, sweety. Yep.
Keep hitting, fellas… gonna need it. This might be one of those games where Tanaka tosses a buncha gopher balls. It happens to him.
Braves are off tomorrow, so let’s see a big bullpen effort tonight.
That was some real baseball pitching right there.
Amazing we’ve won as many as we have with such poor starting pitching (Fried aside). I mean, these guys can’t make it three innings. Glad our bats are alive. Can we keep it up?
Dansby cooled a bit.
Yes, Dans is officially no longer hot.
And I think Ender is finally washed.
Markakis would be a better leadoff option than Dans.
I can’t imagine the old Braves Way is realistically attainable, considering it amounted to basically outspending the rest of the league. The Braves have money and are (barely) in the top half of the league in spending, but I don’t know that they can break back into the top 5 anytime soon. You have to consider that big name spending wasn’t some new aspect of Braves baseball in the early 1990s. It was a continuation of a decade and a half of rampant spending. The difference was we finally had a smart GM to make better decisions as to how that money was spent.
Joe isn’t in the booth and yet they are still talking about how they hate the way the game is now.
The Yankees bit part players are better than many of the Braves regulars… ‘Tis true.
That should be the END of ENDer Inciarte. He DNGAS.
@Rob is this team still, FUN?
An uncomfortable observation.
Get well soon, Ronnie and Ozzie.
Amen! I am in complete agreement. Of course, it helped that the 1990s Braves had Ted Turner as an owner…
At what point should fans consider what Lucas Sims claims as “lack of development” in the Braves organization as more than sour grapes?? I have certainly questioned what Rick Kranitz is teaching these guys considering all of the filthy stuff these pitchers possess. Is he a bad teacher or are the players bad students? I’m also wondering about the pitching staff at Gwinnett and if they are on the same page as Kranitz because guys go down & don’t look much different when they get called back up. Just a 50 year Braves fan wondering aloud & looking for answers.