The Atlanta Braves have been a very successful franchise the past 20+ years, compiling 15 division championships and a World Series championship. Despite that success, did you realize the Braves have not won a playoff series since 2001? To put things in perspective, in 2001 gas was $1.46 a gallon, a postage stamp was 34 cents, and George W. Bush was inaugurated.
Chipper Jones was the Braves leader for many years, and was assisted by starter Tim Hudson and catcher Brian McCann the past few years. Last season, Hudson and McCann took over the team leadership after Jones retired. They both of course left via free agency this past off-season.
Jones will be a first ballot Hall of Fame player, McCann is a seven-time All-Star and Hudson has been one of the most consistent starting pitchers in the game. You can’t take away anything the three accomplished while wearing Braves uniforms. But the reality is that while those three were the team leaders, the Braves were playoff busts.
Since 1991, when the Braves started making regular playoff appearances, the Braves players have been known to have a “corporate mentality” during games. Their demeanor has been calm and detached, oftentimes emotionless. Similar to how the Russian Olympic athletes were back in the cold war days. Glazed look in the eyes, smiles as present as snow in a Florida summer. I predict that will change this season.
Braves fans miss Chipper and will miss McCann and Hudson, but you know what? I’m looking forward to moving on and seeing what the new leadership the Braves have assembled can do.
Jason Heyward, Chris Johnson, Andrelton Simmons and Evan Gattis are the new Braves leaders. Unlike their comatose predecessors, they all display competitive emotion while playing the game. Not only do they play like their hair is on fire, in the four game playoff series against the Dodgers, Johnson hit .438 with 5 RBI, Gattis hit .357, and Simmons hit .250 and played his usual Gold Glove defense. Heyward does need to step up his game in the playoffs, he has hit only .154 in the three playoff series he has played.
You may have tried to block it from your consciousness, but allow me to remind you that Brian McCann went 0 for 13 in last season’s playoff series against the Dodgers, including four strikeouts in four at bats in the decisive game. He was a career .209 playoff hitter with the Braves. Jones hit only .287 in the post season with mediocre power, and Hudson has been decent if not great in the playoffs, posting a 3.46 ERA. Surprisingly, Hudson never notched a playoff win while a Brave. Bottom line, the Braves lack of playoff success with the three speaks for itself.
Nothing against Chipper, McCann and Hudson, but I’m looking forward to seeing what the new leadership can do. They may do better, they may do worse, we don’t know. But what we do know is that the bar is not very high.