Assessing the Atlanta Braves as pitchers and catchers report

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Atlanta Braves

Pitchers and catchers have reported to the Atlanta Braves Spring Training site in Florida today, so… [Mandatory Credit: Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via USA Today NETWORK Mandatory Credit: Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal via USA TODAY NETWORK]

How are the Atlanta Braves positioned for the 2021 season?  That’s the over-arching question being asked as Spring camps open their doors this week.

What follows below is something that has become an annual tradition:  Daniel Shoptaw of CardsConclave.com (both @C70 and @DShoptaw on twitter) wants the scoop on all thirty MLB clubs for his site and has asked (once again) for me to participate in that process on behalf of the Atlanta Braves.

There are six questions and boiled down, they come to this:  what do you expect of the Braves in 2021?

Last year, one of the answers came in like this:

I have confidence in this club for winning the division… they already have sufficient talent to make good things happen, but they will be quite able to pivot to fill a need this Summer if necessary.

That was certainly all true… though the Big Deadline Deal never really happened.  It’s hard to argue — given the results — that another pitcher would have made the Braves unstoppable in the playoffs, but we really, really thought a ‘big move’ was necessary.

So now 2021 is upon us… and the Big Deal has still not happened.  Let’s then see what the outlook is like now as we approach a full 162-game slate.

 

Watching Atlanta Braves baseball in a 2020 world

(Q1) Baseball in 2020 was like nothing we’ve ever seen before.  What are your thoughts on that season?  Did you like the rule changes? How was following baseball the same or different during the pandemic?

(A1) There were a lot of mixed emotions that came with the 2020 year… but for sure, the highlight was in seeing baseball games actually played.  One of the most annoying components of the effort, though, was the backdrops of labor/management unrest that seemed to pervade every aspect of the process.

The fact that we have two sides bent on mutual destruction rather than recognizing that their symbiotic relationship must be supported to be successful is aggravating, frustrating, and entirely detrimental to the sport.

I mean, why even bother talking about rule changes to attract more viewers if the headlines are constantly talking about how owners and players can’t get along?

Forget about 7-inning doubleheaders for a sec:  the thing that the game needs is a celebration of the play and players on the field and their athletic prowess.  That is what will bring in new viewers.  Nobody wants to see people arguing over how to divide up millions of dollars (hint to negotiators:  both sides win and get more money if there’s peace).

So with that, 2020 was a “make do” season.  It was the best they could muster under the circumstances (labor strife included).  There were numerous players opting out, numerous others who didn’t perform up to their abilities, and still others who broke out in a big way.  It was… odd.

But in the end, it was baseball, and it looked, felt, and smelled like the sport we want.  That part is a tribute to the will of the players to ultimately make it happen.

About the rule changes:   all of them – almost literally all – went much better than I expected.  In extra innings, you really can’t say “well, we’re done for now” – teams are almost always still in the game.  The universal DH proved to be a hit… even among us purists.

The expanded playoffs were okay, though went a bit too far (i.e., too many teams)… which might have been okay given 2020’s flaws.

I am not really in favor of the 7-inning double-headers, given how that changes strategy significantly, but I understand why they happened.  I suppose going 8 innings wouldn’t be enough of a difference to justify doing that for DH’s instead.

But with all that, we NEEDED baseball… and for 2-1/2 months, that’s what we got.

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