The only good thing to come out of a season that shouldn’t have been

Inevitable: Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman wins National League Most Valuable Player

Not bad for a guy who went into the season recovering from coronavirus.  But then again, professional athletes with professional athlete money typically can afford to get the best treatment possible, on the dime of their organizations who see them as working assets to begin with.

But I’m going off track here, shocker.  Freddie Freeman has quietly been one of the better players in all of baseball, almost since the day he arrived, and it’s about time that he was recognized as the MVP all Braves fans knew he was going to receive one day.  Sure, there will be many naysayers, myself included if it had gone to anyone not on the Braves, citing shit like partial season and asterisk season and other bullshit, but because it was awarded to one of the guys I’ve been a fan of since the days of seeing him in the minor leagues as a Myrtle Beach Pelican, I cast all the snark aside and can just be happy for Freddie Freeman.

In a massively shortened, 60 game season, Freeman put up gaudy numbers, hitting 13 home runs as well as slashing .341/.462/.640, which is extremely good.  The Braves themselves went 35-25, and actually didn’t choke in the minus round or the first round of the playoffs, making it all the way to the NLCS, where they gave all Braves fans hope going up 3-1 on the Dodgers before Atlanta-ing away three straight losses and getting eliminated.  But as is often the conciliatory remark, they wouldn’t have gotten to that point in the first place, without the contributions of outstanding performances like Freddie Freeman.

What means the most to me though, is that major awards are given with no care or concern to the people themselves, just solely based on numbers and production.  Freddie Freeman is one of those baseball players that has a squeaky-clean image, is seemingly nice to everyone, and his earliest reputation was built on the fact that he was a massive hugger, who hugged all his teammates, all his coaches and all his peers.  He came out to Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe for two years on his own volition, and was one of those guys that clearly played the game of baseball like it was fun, the way it was originally meant to be for children.

There have been loads of grumpy, standoffish tryhards in history that are phenomenal baseball players, but are just kind of dicks as people, who go on to win MVPs and have tremendous individual success.  Sure, those MVPs pave the way for financial success and gain, but it’s always like the bad guys win whenever one of those types takes home an MVP award.

Such is hardly the case for Freddie Freeman winning the MVP award all Braves fans knew he was capable of winning.  It’s like a case of the nice guy actually winning, and the world needs more instances of good people getting great results.  I mean seriously, look at the reaction of this guy when he found out he was the winner; hugs all around first and foremost, and it’s just a guy surrounded by his family, soaking in the elation of baseball’s most prestigious individual award.

There’s really not much else to say about this; this was a season that I personally didn’t think should have taken place from the start, but as the Braves neared the World Series, the obvious hypocrisy of my tone changed, that is until the sore loser emerged from another shortfall from an Atlanta team.  But if there were ever such a thing as an acceptable consolation price to come out of a polarizing season, Freddie Freeman winning the NL MVP was definitely it.  I’m genuinely happy for him, and glad the blowhards in the BBWAA actually got something right for a change.

It’s always gratifying to be right about sports

This is what I said last year when then-Astros manager AJ Hinch was fired for his role in the notorious trash can banging cheating scandal:

They’re firings of nothing but symbolic scapegoating, and when the day is over, both (former GM Jeff Luhnow) of these guys will be hired by some other MLB team approximately 365 days from now.

And just like that, with his suspension lifted, AJ Hinch has immediately been picked up by the Detroit Tigers to become their next manager.  One of the other guys involved in the scandal, Alex Cora, fired by the Boston Red Sox shortly after Hinch’s dismissal, is already back in talks with the Red Sox to come back and help cheat manage.  I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to hear news of someone reaching out to Carlos Beltran in the near future either.

Because like many things in the world these days, Major League Baseball lacks a moral compass.  If there were one, both guys would be blacklisted for life for compromising the integrity of the game.  But since baseball is a dog-eat-dog business where wins equals profits, teams are more than willing to turn the other cheek when it comes to indiscretions as long as someone can help contribute to more wins, and this is where we stand.

Ultimately, when the day is over, I couldn’t possibly give any shits fathomable about these developments.  It’s just amusing to me how predictable Major League Baseball can be sometimes, and in spite of the high and mighty act they pulled in dropping the weakest hammer down on the Astros and all involved parties, barely anything was punished, a bunch of rich baseball people got year-long vacations, and most will have jobs waiting for them.  The Astros were a win away from making it to the World Series, and frankly it would’ve been a gigantic middle finger to MLB had the Astros won it all when they were supposed to be being punished.

Most importantly though, I get to boast about how I’m right about something, because lord knows that shit doesn’t happen too very often.

The precise moment where the Braves fulfilled their destiny

Top 4th, runners on second and third, nobody out.  The Braves had just taken a 3-2 lead on the Dodgers on a single by third baseman Austin Riley, and were in a prime position to bust the game open and put the Dodgers into a precarious hole.  Instead, in only a way that the bumbling Braves are capable of doing, they turn a scenario that has a high probability to score some runs into one where they commit three outs in mere minutes in a game where every single one of the first four innings felt like Star Wars trilogies in themselves, they took that long.

After Austin Riley got tagged out for the second out of a bang-bang botched run down, and then the Braves completed the colossal fuck up by harmlessly grounding out to end the inning, this is where I knew that the game was effectively over.  I’ve watched enough baseball in my life to recognize that when you give away opportunities to score runs that don’t cross the plate, Murphy’s Law dictates that the opposition will definitively, cash them in instead.  What probably should have been a 5-2 or a 4-2 score to end the 4th inning instead remained at a paltry one-run 3-2 score, which the Dodgers would easily grind away and overcome, while the Braves literally went three-and-out in every single inning except one throughout the remainder of the game.

The fuckup on the basepaths undoubtedly sucked all the wind out of the sails of the Braves, ruined all of their swagger and confidence, and most importantly, planted the undefeatable seeds of impending defeat into their minuscule brains.  The remainder of the game after that tragic sequence was all but a formality, and a contest of when, the Dodgers would eventually take the lead.

Frankly, the only reason why I watched the entire game was that I was hoping that the Dodgers would go to Kenley Jansen to close the game since he’s been pretty awful throughout the season and he would be the best chance for the Braves to maybe make some late-inning heroics as they’ve done numerous times throughout the year, but it turned out that the Dodgers didn’t trust Jansen in this critical game, and instead rode the hot hand of Julio Urias instead to close out the game himself.

Naturally, I’m sure anyone of my zero readers can see through the façade I put forth of being the world’s worst baseball fan when it comes to the Braves, and I spare a lot of words and drivel bemoaning them and deriding them, as if I had the mutant power to tempt fate to prove me wrong with writing, but in reality, there’s nothing more I would’ve wanted than to see the Braves actually not fuck up for a change, defeat the Dodgers and actually go to the World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays of all teams.

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This is what wheels coming off a vehicle looks and sounds like

Well, at least the Braves aren’t going to go down having gotten swept.  Instead, they’ll have gone down flubbing a 3-1 series lead, which in baseball isn’t that terribly uncommon, but it’s still poor optics, since the statistics of teams coming back from 3-1 deficits are still minuscule in comparison to how long Major League Baseball has been played.

Honestly, I’m more surprised that the series is going to seven games now, which is the ultimate agony for sports fans to endure, watching the slow bleed of defeat, watching their teams bring them to the brink of hope and jubilation, only for them to crash into agonizing finality.  But when the Braves got blown out and allowed 15 runs in game three, I figured that it was a foregone conclusion that the Dodgers were beginning their mighty comeback and were going to win four straight, like the way the Braves blew the 1996 World Series against the Yankees after winning the first two games.

Instead, the Braves gave false hope to all Braves fans by winning game 4 in commanding fashion and sitting on a pretty 3-1 series lead.  Naturally, since they have no starting pitching, they lost game 5, which was probably to be expected, but fans would find solace in the fact that Max Fried, arguably the best pitcher on the team would get the ball for game 6, but that brings us to now, where Fried pitched well, it’s just that the Braves offense appeared to have cashed in all of its available runs in the previous five games, and could barely scrap together a single run, losing to the Dodgers and sending the NLCS to game 7, where they will undoubtedly lose in embarrassing fashion, by like a score of like 11-1, bringing closure to a season that really shouldn’t have happened in the first place, and back to another cold offseason of pessimism and increasing nihilism in professional sports.

Much like Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, I can’t bring myself to watch games of teams that I actually care about, because it gives me anxiety and stress that I really don’t need, and I superstitiously believe that I am a master of the universe that undoubtedly jinxes whatever team I care about when I watch them, and if I do want the Braves to win, I most absolutely should not be watching them.

Seriously though, check out this Mookie Betts catch.  This is the kind of highlight that preserves no-hitters or turns the tides of playoff series.  If he doesn’t make that catch then Ozuna doubles for sure, and Freddie Freeman probably scores.  A single run doesn’t change the 3-0 deficit that the Braves were in, but at the same time, it could very well have been the start of a rally.  The thing is, a catch like Betts’ is what keeps the mythical momentum on the side of the Dodgers while sucking the life out of the hope of the Braves.  The jubilation of Mookie Betts after making the catch is precisely the opposite of a metaphor of what the Braves’ chances of winning the series sounds like.  Although his lips appear to be mouthing something probably like let’s fucking goooo it could very well be emanating the sound of a flushing toilet, because that’s precisely what happened when he makes that.

Welp, Baby Magic and partial-year champions theories were cute while they lasted.  I would undoubtedly put legitimate money on the Dodgers to win game 7, because it’s a foregone conclusion that the only thing well that the Braves are going to do, is what they’ve historically been known to do: fall short.

The real question is will they get blown out in the first inning like they did in game 3 a few nights ago and in game 5 against the Cardinals last year, or will they be competitive and hard-fought the entire way and then lose in agonizing and soul-wrenching manner late in the game like they did against the Dodgers back in like 2012?  Who knows, but as long as it ends up with the Braves going home yet again, does it really matter?

Bust or World Series

It still doesn’t mean anything to me: the Atlanta Braves sweep the Miami Marlins, advance to the NLCS for the first time since 2001

Big whoop; if it were any team other than the Marlins, then the Braves would have guaranteed lost in the NLDS, continuing their streak of getting bounced in the (real) first round of the playoffs.  The Cubs would have undoubtedly throttled the Braves, if they could only have not choked against a plucky Marlins squad that shouldn’t have been a playoff team in any ordinary season.

It doesn’t really matter though; awaiting the Braves is most likely the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were one of the odds-on favorites to win the World Series when this hackneyed season even began, and are only not already in the NLCS because of an upstart San Diego Padres team whom is being willed to success by Fernando Tatis, Jr.  But the Dodgers are a team that is playing mad, and playing like they’re owed a World Series, seeing as how they lost to both the Astros and the Red Sox in 2017 and 2018 respectively, with both teams known or likely to have been cheating in order to beat them. 

Yeah, now that the Braves have gotten rid of the pretender scrubs and will be put up against a real contender, it’s only a matter of time before reality comes crashing down on things, and the Braves get swept by the Dodgers, an organization who has bounced them out of the playoffs in 2013 and 2018 and seemingly always has their number, but more importantly, Clayton Kershaw, one of the best pitchers in history and owns the Braves historically.

It’s really cute that the Braves are defying reality and have gotten some stellar starting pitching from kids like Max Fried, Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright, but it’s only a matter of time before their inexperience and the overwhelming pressure of the playoffs cave them in, and then it’s another sad pathetic October sob story is written, and Braves fans are left saying aw shucks, maybe next year, naively dismissing shit like free agency and elevator salaries, that will undoubtedly change the face of the roster by next March. 

Either way, I refuse to have any hope in the Braves, in spite of their current standings.  I know what awaits them in the NLCS, which will be a real contender, and the Braves will fold like bad poker player who thinks they belong at the big table, and I won’t be disappointed by it, because it was always the expected outcome.  Baby magic has carried them this far, and at the time I’m writing this, in the American League, the also-charmed Yankees have stretched the Rays to five games to see who will advance to the ALCS, and if Baby Magic is correct, then the Yankees will advance to the ALCS where the Astros await them.

Huh, seems like the respective championship series will truly be putting Baby Magic to the test, as the Astros have historically owned the Yankees over the last few years in the playoffs similarly to how the Dodgers have owned the Braves.  But in the grand spectrum of things, there’s something fucked up and appropriate if the World Series happens to be an Astros vs. Dodgers rematch too.

Welp, better get ready for the intrigue of that matchup, because that’s probably how it’s going to be.  Yay doofy baseball season that really shouldn’t have happened in the first place!

Surely, this doesn’t actually count

It doesn’t mean anything to me: the Atlanta Braves defeat the Cincinnati Reds, win their first postseason series in 19 years*

*it only required a global pandemic to wipe out 102 regular season games, Major League Baseball to reconfigure the entire playoff system, and adding a third round to allow for even lesser competition into the postseason in a best-of-three, played entirely in Atlanta for this to occur

Don’t get me wrong, I’m always happy to hear when the Braves win baseball games (except in those years where I was rooting for them to lose 100 games), and it is still a life’s want, to see the Braves win a World Series.  But as I’ve documented throughout the years, there is just too much history, too much failure and just well, too much Atlanta, for the Atlanta Braves to have to overcome in order to get to the top of the mountain, ever again.

But make no mistake, this barely counts as a breaker of history.  In an ordinary season, the Braves would have been paired up against the #3 seed Cubs, who are notorious chokers in their own right, but have actually sniffed success within the last decade, and the last time these two teams met in the playoffs was in 2003 when the lower-seed Cubs upended the 101-win Braves in five games.

The Braves winning a hackneyed, made-up playoff matchup surely doesn’t, and shouldn’t really count as breaking history, as much as ESPN was careful to word their phrasing as to make is accurate as possible.  Sure, the Braves won a postseason series, but again, missing from the statement is all the context that I was gracious enough to provide.  It doesn’t really count to me.

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Should we get excited about the Braves?  Fuck no

SS;DY – Braves clinch the NL East, for the third consecutive year

Doesn’t have the same ring as winning 14 consecutive division titles, but it’s still pleasant to hear that the Braves are back on top of the NL East as if it were the 90’s again.

But ultimately, it doesn’t really matter, because the Braves are basically dead in the water already.  As I’ve posted about numerous times throughout the years, and as history has proven, the Braves making the playoffs means absolutely nothing except another first round bounce.  The Atlanta Braves are the new Buffalo Bills.  Atlanta is now the new Cleveland, if you’re the type to not acknowledge an MLS championship as an actual championship.  Atlanta is undoubtedly the most insufferable, prone-to-choking sports town there is in the country.

To make matters worse, the way the playoff picture is shaping up, there’s a very good chance that the team the Braves will be lined up against is the St. Louis Cardinals.  The same St. Louis fucking Cardinals who bounced them out of the playoffs last year, the same St. Louis fucking Cardinals that bounced them in the bullshit infield fly Wild Card game in 2012, and the same St. Louis fucking Cardinals that swept them in 2000.  Needless to say, the Braves are shit against the Cardinals in the playoffs, and if such matchup is locked in, the conclusion is already forgone.

If they don’t get the Cardinals, then they’ll probably end up getting the San Diego Padres, who in spite of their own historic ineptitude, have been playing like a season of destiny, and in spite of their wild card positioning, they actually have a better record than the Braves, but unfortunately share a division with another team of destiny, the Los Angeles Dodgers who are playing mad because they’ve lost two of the last three World Series to teams who were basically cheating, and are determined to make things right this year.  But the Padres would absolutely annihilate the Braves because if it’s not the Cardinals or the Dodgers knocking them out of the playoffs, it’s the lightning-in-a-bottle teams like the Padres that will 100% sweep them out of the playoffs.

Admittedly, I thought it would be funny if the Braves would find success in another shortened season, seeing as how they won the World Series in 1995, the last time there was a shortened year.  But that was still over 100 games, and not 60* games.  Plus, this was a great year to put baby luck to the test, since it was finally my turn to see if a team that I favored would win a championship in a year where a baby was born, but since mythical wife is a goddamn Yankees fan, she’s still in contention now and more likely to cash in than Braves will since they actually have some starting pitching.

*if a team was lucky to not get any games cancelled on account of coronavirus AND remain mathematically viable to playoff contention

The point is, just because the Braves clinched the division, there is absolutely no reason at all to be excited about the playoffs.  There is too much history, too many complexes, and most importantly the fact that the Braves have NO STARTING PITCHING, to believe that there’s any chance for success, and that a conclusion that isn’t a catastrophic failure isn’t a guaranteed result. 

Although it will be impossible for me to not pay attention to the Braves in the playoffs, or be annoyed when they inevitably get bounced in the first round, the one thing that I won’t be when all of this comes to fruition is, surprised.  And that, is nothing to get excited about.