We’re not too far removed from the last time the Braves had a bad season. 2017 wasn’t too long ago in the least bit. It’s not like you have to squint really hard in your mind’s eye to bring back visions of a baseball team that was a clear and obvious rebuilding project. That entire teardown-and-rebuild period following the disappointing 2014 season was rough, y’all.
The definition of putting on a brave face to watch a baseball team is having to watch and root for a revolving door of mediocre-to-bad players that were all unlikely to be around when the team returned to contention in the future. The Dian Toscano saga had an anticlimactic ending if only because it was a bit of an upset that the Cuban player actually existed and wasn’t a figment of John Coppolella’s imagination. Hector Olivera was a flash of hope to hold on to for about five minutes before he almost immediately turned it into a complete mess with his sordid actions off of the field. Bartolo Colon’s quick stint as a hopeful innings-eater wasn’t even entertaining or charming and it also brought about one of the most embarrassing innings that I’ve ever watched a Major League Baseball team play since I started watching baseball back when I was a kid.
Those are but a few moments from that dark period that the Braves had, but at least we as fans understood the situation — if we weren’t going to have high expectations, then we were going to have hope for the future. Even with crazy stuff like John Coppolella getting banned for life, there was at least a feeling that the team was in a good place and that things were going to be fine if they hired someone to keep the sip going in the right direction. That happened with Alex Anthopoulos taking the reigns for the Braves, and the three seasons from 2018 through the shortened 2020 season were pretty fun to watch as Atlanta established itself as a contender. It felt like the rebuild was paying off and even with the heartbreaking exit from the 2020 NLCS, it seemed like the Braves were on the cusp of doing something special pretty soon.
That’s what makes this season so bitterly disappointing at the moment. We’re reaching the Memorial Day checkpoint and this season has just been a complete and utter slog. There were not a plethora of reasons to expect things to be as bad as they have been so far, but here we are! There have been some pretty rough days in just the first two months of this season, but May 29 of the 2021 season will be remembered as the day the season took a sordid turn. I’m going to get the on-field performance out of the way to start this because I honestly would rather talk about the Braves getting blown out by 11 runs by the division leaders than the other incident that went down on Saturday.
This is a Mets lineup that has been devastated by injuries and came into this game having scored 12 runs in their last six games. Additionally, the Mets have baseball’s second-worst team Isolated Power mark (.118), only the 23rd-best wRC+ number in baseball (89), and the second-fewest home runs in all of baseball with 34. New York plated 13 runs in last night’s game, alone. They also hit five dingers along the way. That is an incredibly poor performance from the guys who took the mound, and while everybody has bad nights, it’s been happening at an alarming rate when it comes to this crew. They’ve had their high marks this season, but the valleys have been pretty deep and last night was a very deep valley for the Braves and their pitching staff.
The loss sent the Braves back down to two games under .500. The 24-26 mark pales in comparison to where the team was at by the 50th game of each of the past three seasons, when they were solidly over .500 heading into Memorial Day. The good news is that there’s still plenty of baseball left to be played in this season, and there’s still a chance that the Braves could get this thing turned around. As we all know, the season doesn’t really start until May 24 according to the folks up in Washington D.C. so we have some recent evidence that indicates that a sluggish start doesn’t mean doom just yet.
With that being said, it’s definitely fair to question if this Braves team as constructed will have what it takes to dig themselves out of the hole that they’ve found themselves in while also dealing with what’s turning out to be a pretty competitive field across the National League. Ivan said it best a couple of weeks ago when he said that the Braves are currently in “the pit of despair,” and things are going to start getting better sooner rather than later if they want to escape that pit and get to where their expectations were before the season started.
With that being said, this season will have a dark cloud following the Braves due to what else happened in Atlanta on May 29. Marcell Ozuna was charged with aggravated assault strangulation and battery in a domestic violence incident that took place at his home. If what happened in that house is true (and considering the history here, it’s likely true), then it’s feasible that Marcell Ozuna may have played his last inning in Major League Baseball for a very long time — let alone, for the Atlanta Braves. It had been a pleasure watching him play a major role as a member of that Braves clubhouse ever since he initially signed with the team ahead of the 2020 season. With that being said, domestic violence cannot and should not be tolerated. The details of that incident as reported (and allegedly witnessed) by police are absolutely harrowing and my main concern is that the children who are involved are somewhere safe and feeling loved right now.
National Domestic Violence hotline: 1.800.799.7233 https://t.co/64nzD8w5WE— Alyson Footer (@alysonfooter) May 30, 2021
Ozuna’s heinous actions served as a bit of a sobering reminder to what really and truly matters in the grand scheme of things. Baseball seasons come and go but we all only get one shot at life in general and lives were adversely affected with what happened today. It’s an awful situation and to be completely honest and transparent with you all, it’s difficult to really get worked up about the baseball side of things here since it was put in proper perspective.
The All-Star Game is now in Colorado, Freddie Freeman still hasn’t been re-signed, Mike Soroka may or may not be done for this season, the Braves only escaped getting officially no-hit on a technicality, they’ve already had five separate streaks of at least three consecutive losses, the bullpen has had a handful of truly agonizing failures, Drew Smyly has struggled mightily, Charlie Morton stumbled out of the gate, Travis d’Arnaud is on a long IL stint because he injured his thumb on a tag, Huascar Ynoa took a trip to the IL because he broke his hand slamming it on a bench, then Marcell Ozuna broke two of his fingers in a freak accident and proceeded to put all of these aforementioned baseball woes into perspective with his terrible actions off-the-field a few days after his injury.
If this is what the first two months of this season had in store for the 2021 Atlanta Braves, then I can’t say that I’m too excited for what the next few months may bring them. Let’s hope for some sort of a return to normalcy on the field and please pray for peace away from the baseball diamond, because the Braves need both.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233, and you can also go to thehotline.org if you are in need of help or resources when it comes to aiding and supporting survivors of domestic violence.