In the shocker of the century, the Atlanta Braves were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. For those keeping count, this is like the 5th or 6th time that the Braves dropped the deciding game of the NLDS at home, and somewhere around the 169th time that they’ve failed to make it out of the first round despite making it into the playoffs.
I’m long past the point of where I get upset about it anymore, because I would’ve bet my house that the Braves were going to lose to the Cardinals when the playoff field was initially set. There’s just something about history, and something about the Braves vs. Cardinals matchup that was a foregone conclusion that another heartbreaking loss to the Cards was all but inevitable, and as much as I would’ve loved to have seen the Braves exorcise the demons of the past and advance, I’m just as satisfied with being right about how the Braves would simply collapse and fall apart – like they always do.
However, this year was a little bit different in the sense that at one point, the Braves actually captured the series lead, when they stole game 3 in St. Louis and for 24 hours, held a 2-1 lead on the Cardinals in the best of 5. Television was nice enough to do the research for me and explained that it was the first time since 2002 that the Braves carried a series lead in a playoff series, and despite the pessimism, it did birth a sliver of hope that this might be the year that the Braves make it out of the first round.
Naturally, when the Braves squandered their lead in game 4 and inevitably lost in extra innings, I knew right then and there that it was over. History was just far too strong, and the Cardinals are just one of those teams that are far too charmed, that there was absolutely 0% chance that the Braves were going to win game 5. Sure, I had hope that maybe they would break the glass ceiling that they erected unto themselves, but the reality was more likely that they were going to choke again, especially when the pitching matchups were set up, with Jack Flaherty going for the Cardinals, and the Braves countering with the once-exiled to Triple-A Mike Foltynewicz.
All I knew was that the Braves were going to win 10-3, or the Cardinals were going to win 10-3, but there was going to be no close game, and it was going to be a blowout. When the game ended 13-1, I was the last person in all of Atlanta that was remotely surprised at the outcome, and there’s even a part of me that’s relieved that the season is over for the Braves, because I have to pass ScumTrust Park on my commute, and I would no longer have to worry about any future playoff game traffic getting in my way.
Despite the fact that it was ultimately same shit, different year, it’s how things came to be that still make it feel shitty. Namely, despite all the self-congratulatory “do things the right way” the St. Louis Cardinals love to boast, they did sink to some new lows with their obviously deliberate criticism of the Braves’ tomahawk chop, right as the playoffs started, and it just so happened that they had a guy on the roster with some actual Native American heritage to give this year’s criticism of sports teams with Indian roots some steam.
Normally, it turns my stomach to admitting to agreeing with a bunch of gross stuffy white Republicans, but I think they’re 100% dead on when a bunch of them took to social media to accuse the Braves of getting their karma for catering to the Cards’ complaint rooted in gamesmanship and completely collapsed. But they totally did. The Braves actually let a complaint get in their heads, stopped doing the tomahawk chop in the most critical game of the season when they’d been doing it for 83 prior games, and then they coincidentally get rocked?
They got owned, but the result is the same as always; the Braves getting bounced in the first round, and ending the season in embarrassment. And to add insult to injury, this pathetic showing just so happened to be the final appearance of long-time Braves favorite son, Brian McCann, who announced his retirement pretty immediately after the loss. I mean, I’ll miss Heap, as I did love the guy throughout his whole career, even when he wasn’t on the Braves, but after a loss like this one, I can’t say that I’m surprised that he’s tired of being on the constantly losing-ass Braves for anymore playoff disappointments.
I swear, the Braves really are like an abusive relationship, in the sense that every year, fans hope that things will be different, and that maybe they’ll finally break through, but after like the 7th or 8th straight time that they’ve gotten bounced like this, we all need to realize that things will never change. The difference with the Braves and the Nationals, who actually succeeded at breaking through their own first round slumps, is that the Nationals actually spend money on pitching; it might not get them past the Cardinals, since they have their own playoff jinx against the blessed charmed Cardinals, but the fact that they get to live another day seems to have been worth the cost of their massive payroll.
Oh well. The Braves being done in the NLDS just frees up more evenings to where I can worry about anything other than baseball again, and I guess it’ll be the same story the next time that the Braves make it to the playoffs, because organizationally, they’ll never change.
Man, I wish I could be a GM and enact my Baseball Gods Must Be Crazy plan, and create a team completely from scratch, building a team of nothing but athletic bushmen who have no idea what pressure is, and keep them motivated with nothing but food, shelter and safety. Once I get the kinks out, I’d win every single World Series, guaranteed.