|Posted by theprincipality on May 9, 2021 at 3:30 PM|
I would normally have written a blog by now, being six weeks into the season. Though I have been feeling rather uninspired of late and the motivation to sit down and write something just hasn’t been there. Partly I have been waiting for the Braves to kick into gear, which is something else that just hasn’t happened either. It has been a very lacklustre start to the campaign. We have never been better than .500 and have looked both collectively and individually woeful. But as bad as we have been, we find ourselves just a game and half back and in third place, such have been the universally poor starts across the NL East. It feels like the first team to really put a run together will take the division by the scruff of the neck and leave the competition in its wake. That team can be the Braves, but a lot has to change pretty quickly.
Following last year’s deep postseason run, we were tipped by many to win it all this year. Acuna and Albies had another year of development under their belts, Soroka was due to return and partner Fried, Anderson and Charlie Morton in a pretty formidable rotation. Freeman is the reigning MVP and Ozuna returns after a career-best year. So why hasn’t it happened yet? I think there are a few possible reasons.
Perhaps, the high expectations brought with them a sense of complacency. The Braves are three-time consecutive division champions and perhaps there was a bit of a sense of focusing on October, before doing the hard yards of a 162-game season. It’s possible too that the team was a little overrated. The starting pitching in 2020 (Fried aside) was awful at times and the bullpen carried us through the short season. The playoffs included a couple of fortunate wins against the Reds, whilst the Dodgers were clearly the superior team in the NLCS.
It could also just be that there are too many players in slumps at the same time. Freeman, Albies, Ozuna and Swanson are all suffering a desperate run of form, with Freeman barely threatening the Mendoza line. If all these guys rediscover the form that they had in 2020, wins should start to come more regularly. Acuna can’t do it all on his own and we can’t keep relying on Sandoval and Adrianza to bail us out in late innings.
The other side of it has been a terrible run of injuries. Mike Soroka has suffered a setback so it’s as if he is just starting spring training now. Travis d’Arnaud is out for pretty much the rest of the year with a torn thumb ligament. Chris Martin has spent most of the first six weeks sidelined, whilst Max Fried and Ender Inciarte picked up injuries running the bases. Ronald Acuna has been very fortunate on a couple of occasions not to pick up serious injury, which just highlights the need for his teammates to turn a corner.
Changing the subject, a few weeks back Atlanta was stripped of the All-Star game for this year. This was nothing to do with the Braves, but instead MLB taking a stand against voting restrictions introduced by the Governor of Georgia, allegedly with the purpose of limiting the black vote in the state. The game was moved to Colorado, a state with a Democratic governor, as other states with Republican Governors such as Texas, Florida and Alabama attempt to introduce similar legislation. I have mixed feelings about this. First, I don’t like baseball being used as a political bargaining tool. If MLB does not like the legislation, it should condemn it without punishing one of its own member teams. Atlanta has spent significant amounts of time and money organising and planning the event and were in no way involved in passing the legislation. Indeed the Braves being stripped of the game will ironically mean that some members of the black community will lose their jobs as a result. From what I have seen, the Atlanta Braves have always been very active in the community and supported local people from all walks of life. It feels we are being punished simply for the fact we play in Georgia.
On the other hand, MLB has stopped the game from becoming a focal point for potential unrest. It was rumoured that those against the legislation would protest outside the event. This could lead to counter-protests, as has often been the case across America in the last 12 months and that kind of negative attention would distract what is supposed to be a celebration of the best of baseball and, perhaps more importantly the lives of Phil Niekro and Hank Aaron, who both tragically died within a short time of each other earlier in the year. With Covid still hanging around though, and the restriction on attendances and freedoms in sport that seem likely to continue for some time yet, having the game taken away this year may not be the worst thing if we can get it back in the near future with a full house and no restrictions.