Often in life, we don’t realize how goods things are until years later when a moment comes back to remind us that we were living in a Golden age. Now is one of those times for us to embrace, my friends, because we are in another glorious era of Braves baseball.
In my last article, I looked back on the 1991 season. While 1995 yielded the only World Series championship, the team had five World Series trips in the decade. That ‘91 was a great start to the high-water mark of Atlanta baseball; but by the end of the decade Braves fans weren’t turning out for playoff games because a deep post-season run was standard operating procedure.
This Braves era hasn’t yet yielded a World Series trip, but with this post-season run now including a second-consecutive National League Championship Series birth, don’t let yourself get too comfortable with these October moments or you may – in a decade or so – be lamenting what was.
When I was watching Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Brewers, I found myself thinking about Ozzie Albies. Albies may be my favorite player of this generation of Braves. He’s still young. He’s signed through 2027 – if the team picks up his options.
But, as game four started, I found myself already missing him.
Barring something unforeseen, we’re talking about a guy who could be a Brave for another decade. A player whose career as a second baseman could be historically special - if not for baseball, at least for the Braves.
So why was I already missing Albies even through he may not yet be entering his prime years? Maybe it wasn’t about Albies. Maybe it was something larger in scope. The more I thought about it, the more it struck me:
Do. Not. Take. This. Team. For. Granted.
One of the most exciting things about this team is its youth. That make this team a horse that’s easy to hitch your wagon to for a good stretch of road. That youthfulness reminds us of the team from three decades ago because they were winning “now” and built to win in the future.
Throughout the successful runs the Braves have had in this modern era, there seems to be players whose careers weren’t long but whose importance to winning carve out a niche.
I was reminded of this again, in Game 4, when the Braves could have used a double-play to get out of jam in the fourth inning. When the Braves needed a double-play late in the ballgame in the early 2000’s, Bobby Cox would call for Kevin Gryboski, a ground-ball specialist who for three years was an effective reliever.
The Braves didn’t get the double-play they needed, but Jesse Chavez did limit the damage. This is Chavez’s second stint in the Braves bullpen with his last coming the season before the legendary O’Ventbrel bullpen trio of Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel became the most feared 7-8-9 inning combo in baseball.
Yes, it has been a decade since O’Ventbrel. Yet somehow, it seems longer.
There’s no Ronald Acuna, Jr. this post-season, which is a shame. The great news is there’s Mr. Brave, Freddie Freeman, Austin Riley, Albies, Max Fried, Ian Anderson – all guys who have and should be part of the next half-decade of Braves contenders. There are the guys who probably won’t have a long run in Atlanta, but for now, they are critical parts to this season’s story like Eddie Rosario who likely won’t be back to start next season. Mike Devereaux wasn’t around long either. Adam Duvall was here, left and came back – just like Greg Colburnn and Luis Polonia.
While most of us worry about Brian Snitker’s bullpen usage and hold our breath each time Will Smith starts to warm in the Braves’ bullpen, those moment are worth cherishing just as much as Joc Pederson and his pearls.
We worry. We celebrate. We cheer. We boo.
In person, on television, via the radio, or social, we are there taking in all the angst and holding out for the hope of the ultimate celebration.
Don’t take this run for granted. Because while there should be a next year, and a year after that, and a year after that – there is no guarantee.
There are hokey-as-hell marketing slogans for each post-season. I can’t tell you what any of them were or what this year’s is. But to say that this is what we, as fans, live for is the truth.
Let’s raise our glass and give a friendly nod to our fellow Braves fans who are enjoying these moments with us.
Here’s to this year, every year.