Braves Need to Get Hot Next Week
Back in the spring, I said this might be one of the most difficult seasons to watch for the Atlanta Braves. They were coming off a 72-win season and most expected the Braves to around the .500 mark this year.
A season around the .500 mark is sometimes hard to watch. That type of team will fool you. They’ll have good weeks and make you feel like they’ve gotten over the hump, and then they’ll turn around and have a week that will make you feel they are just as bad as they were the year before.
A great team will be great, and you’ll know it. They’ll have long winning streaks and avoid long losing skids. A bad team will be bad, and you’ll know it. They’ll just never be able to show any hope that they can be a winning team – like the Braves were in the first three years of the rebuild.
But a team in the middle will simply drive you nuts.
The Braves are not going to be in the middle this season, at least record-wise, but they certainly are showing you now they are more like that type of team than one that could be called great. Last week, they won six out of seven on the road and extended their lead to where the Phillies likely won’t be able to catch them.
And in the last four games, the Braves have looked like last year’s team.
Yes, the Braves are lucky to be in the National League East. They have the worst winning percentage (.550) of any division leader in baseball. There are six teams not in first place in their divisions that would be in first place if they were in the NL East.
But look, there is nothing this team needs to apologize for. Who cares if they may win the weakest division in baseball? I’m sure at some point in the history of the sport the team that has won the weakest division in baseball has won the World Series, since when you get in October, anything is possible.
And as the Braves struggle through this current four-game losing streak, we must remember how they played last week. As tough as the last four games have been, they showed something when they had that horrible game against the Red Sox two weeks ago and then went on the road and won six of seven games.
This is not a great team, but they’ve really had a great season. When you exceed expectations, it’s really a great season. Will anyone pick them to win the World Series when the playoffs start? Probably not.
But really, who cares.
My expectations for the Braves will not be high in October, but I also know that it’s all about getting hot at the right time. If the Braves are playing like they were last week at the end of the season and that rolls into October, who knows what they could do.
And the funny thing is, the way they are going, they may lose home-field advantage in the first round, where they’ll likely play the NL West division winner. Considering how awful the Braves have played at home, that may be a blessing in disguise.
The Braves are on the cusp of winning the division, and when your team is this close to the playoffs you want them to do something special. But please remember that not many thought the Braves would have this type of season. We’ve been treated to some fun baseball games this summer – more than we thought we’d see. And anything we see going forward will be gravy.
Yes, you might get tired of hearing how the experience of the pennant race and whatever happens in October will be good for these young players. But it’s true. These kids are learning how to win. They are learning what it means to battle through a six-month, 162-game grueling schedule. And it will only help them moving forward, when they will no longer mention the word ‘rebuild’ and will instead be a contending team every year.
Atlanta’s troubles at home make zero sense. It’s one of those things in baseball that you simply can’t explain. But they’ve been so much better against the teams in their own division, so maybe the Phillies hitting town Thursday will be what’s needed to get them back on track.
And if they have a great final 10 games, and if they get hot at the right time, then maybe we’ll feel better about this team than we feel today. Seeing the bullpen explode a few days in a row will make you swear off baseball, but let’s not forget what this team has done and yet realize what they really are.
It’s been a great season, and the Braves have gotten better sooner than expected. Now we must hope they can have another hot streak at the right time.