A World Series between the American League champion Houston Astros and the National League champion Atlanta Braves isn’t going to be the television rating juggernaut that a Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox pairing would have provided, but you know what? I don’t care. And neither do you.
By the time Eddie Rosario was hoisting up his NLCS MVP trophy – and I’m not sure who looked prouder Rosario’s son or Franco Garcia – our collective thoughts began to drift to a series between the red and blue and the orange and blue.
This should be a fun series. The two old roommates from the pre-Wild Card era National League West are on opposite ends of their playoff windows. For Houston this might be the last ride and for Atlanta this is their first chance to establish a new legacy and see if they can stake their claim as the “Team of the Twenties”.
Here’s the deal. I don’t hate the Astros. As a matter of fact, for six-or-seven years, Houston was my number two team in rooting interest – taking the place the Oakland A’s had since Rickey Henderson’s first tenure. When the Astros dove into the depths of their rebuilt 10 years ago, I decided their brazen tactics were admirable and that I wanted to come along for a ride with them. Their last couple of years in the National League were as dreadful as their first in the American League, but then then the dividend began.
I relished Houston’s team building experiment and when the Braves entered their own rebuild around the time the Astros were exiting theirs, I was excited. I wanted the Braves to be like the Astros. Little did I know how similar elements of their organizational make-overs would be – from both a positive and negative standpoint.
After the Astros cheating scandal, my American League allegiance landed back with the Athletics, although not as strongly as it was before. The Braves own improprieties made it hard to throw rocks at a house whose siding was sourced from the same glass manufacturer as yours.
For some reason, I still liked the Astros. Maybe it was because for all their transgressions, they are still the franchise would one of the coolest uniform histories in MLB. They also rostered some of my favorite non-Braves over the years with guys like J.R. Richard, Kevin Bass, Mike Scott, Terry Puhl and the Killer B’s.
I guess it’s tough to hate a team whose franchise history is so closely related to your own that they could be cousins. Both franchises spent a greater part of the first 25 years in their current city being cellar-dwellers before finding their first extended success in the 1990’s. By the time they both were good, the two teams found themselves playing in different divisions.
I don’t know about long-time Astros’ fans, but my perspective on that franchise and their success has always been, “Hey, good for you guys.” rather than an expletive-filled diatribe like I’d have toward a few other franchises like the one the Braves just defeated.
Back home in Braves Country, the lead-up to Game 6 of the NLCS, seemed to have the Braves online fanbase in arms with each other over the selection of a washed-up country singer to sing the National Anthem before the game. Look, I had my opinions, too, but the whole thing reeked of the nervous boredom from fans who were left with an SEC football schedule that offered little in the way of pre-game distraction.
After Rosario’s home run in the bottom of the 4th, I felt an odd confidence as A.J. Minter mowed down the Dodgers in back-to-back innings. That ol’ #AtlantaSports feeling doesn’t ever go away. And when Luke Jackson went full experience, oh boy, was I #AtlantaSportsing the heck out of #AtlantaSports.
I like Luke Jackson; a lot, actually. Whether you speak advanced stats or old school baseball jargon, Jackson’s personal brand of pitching often leads to the same feeling I’d have when watching former Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith. In both cases, there were a lot of “ooh’s and ah’s” when things were going well but plenty of “no! no! no! (yes?)” mixed in there as well.
The bottom-line last night was I did not have confidence when Jackson came in to pitch. That gut feeling ended up being right. Two batters into his appearance and I was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
But then something amazing happened. Tyler Matzek pitched with the brashness of Gen. George S. Patton riding into Truist Park in a tank like Rusev at Wrestlemania 31 except Matzek was blasting Outkast so loud in Cobb County you could hear it in Silver Lake and Echo Park.
Gen. Matzek sure enough had something to say.
As ESPN’s Jeff Passan humorously tweeted last night, Will Smith didn’t trend. That was the best possible outcome and that meant pink swords were slashing, end-of-bench guys were being immortalized in celebratory photographs, Freddie Freeman was hugging people and random baseball writers were being mad online about cigars for some reason.
This season’s journey has led us all here, folks. For the first time since the last millennium, the Atlanta Braves are four wins away from a championship.
It still doesn’t feel real, does it?
Atlanta Braves. National League Champions.
My goodness that sounds good. But you know what? That’s not enough.
I want more.
You want more.
They want more.
Let’s take a few days to catch our breath, get some sleep, maybe spend too much money on Braves merch and put all our positive energy into this 2021 World Series.
It took 22 years for the Braves to make it back to the World Series. It’s been 26 years since they won the whole damn thing. Life is short. Life in baseball is shorter. For them – and us - there is no guarantee for next season. There is guarantee this window stays open.
The time is now, Braves.
Its time to go out there and do the things you can do: play hard, play smart and win the whole m*****f*****g thing.