Our Atlanta Braves columnist Clint Thompson in his Tuesday piece described all the misfortune that has befallen the team this season, but it bears repeating. Let’s face it, we’re fans of an Atlanta sports team. Nothing good happens to us anyway.
Injuries and one possible felony have decimated the ATL roster, leaving manager Brian Snitker and general manager Alex Anthopoulos in a very precarious situation. The MLB trade deadline is just over two weeks away, so it’s time to figure out if the Braves are going to be buyers or sellers this year. Usually that’s based on a team’s success through the first half of the season. Winning clubs are looking to add pieces that can propel them further into the postseason while losers attempt to move some money off the books as they prepare to reload in the offseason.
The problem with the Braves is they are right there in the middle. They sit at 44-45 at the All-Star break and have only shown to be consistently inconsistent through the first half of the season. Despite that, Atlanta is just four games behind the division-leading New York Mets with more than 70 games still to play. Former Baldwin High School head football coach Lee Hannah had a slogan he printed on T-shirts during his time here — “Allergic to Average.” It’s catchy, alliterative, and encouraged players as well as coaches to give their all anytime they stepped out onto the football field. What ever the opposite of Allergic to Average is, that’s what the Atlanta Braves are. In fact, they have so far been allergic to getting over .500 throughout their first 89 games. On several occasions the ballclub has reached that mediocre mark only to lose every single time.
And that was with Ronald Acuña Jr. healthy. The best player on the team and one of the best in the entire league is now done for the year after tearing his ACL last week. That’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. Let’s not forget that Mike Soroka, who everyone hoped to see return as the team’s ace this year, re-tore his achilles while walking just a few weeks ago. Yes, players like catcher Travis d’Arnaud and pitcher Huascar Ynoa are expected back, but they aren’t going to be enough to turn the bus around. It’s time to sell some assets and hope Marcell Ozuna’s contract can come off the books so the team can begin building for Acuña’s return next season. It really pains me to say that. I’ve never been that guy who hopes his team tanks so it can be positioned for a high draft pick. But in a season so fraught with injury like this one, I really don’t see any other option.
The only way my mind can be changed is if the Braves come out of the All-Star break and play like they haven’t all year. There are 15 games between the break and the July 30 MLB trade deadline, four of which are against the division-leading Mets. If I’m Anthopoulous, I need to see at least a 10-5 record in those 15 games to become a buyer. Don’t fall for it if Atlanta goes 8-7 and sits 52-52 at the deadline. All evidence this season tells us exactly what’s going to happen next.