Monday, April 15, 2013

The Braves Have Been Here Before!

The Atlanta Braves are off to their best start in two decades.  Their weekend sweep of ESPN's favorite team, The Washington Nationals, has the baseball world turning their eyes towards Atlanta to see just how good this team can really be.  They play solid defense, they have excellent starting pitching, their bull-pen has not allowed an inherited runner to cross the plate in the first twelve games, and they hit the ball pretty well too.  After the first 12 games they lead the majors in home runs and run differential.  The scary thing is, I think they can be better.  Now I'm not sure if the pitching quality can keep up this pace, but the batting order can do some improving.  BJ Upton and Jason Heyward are hitting a combined .260 and Dan Uggla is still hitting less than .200.  Freddie Freeman has been on the DL and Brian McCann has yet to play a game.  These Braves have the potential to be lethal!

So who has been carrying the offensive load?  Justin Upton has returned to MVP form clubbing 7 homers in his first 12 games to lead the majors.  Chris Johnson has been rock solid playing 1st and 3rd base.  Our bench players are proving to be the best in baseball, and our current starting catcher has turned into the early season story for all of baseball.

Evan Gattis is a 26 year old rookie catcher that walked away from the game for four years in search for the meaning of life.  I'm not joking.  You can read the amazing story here.  What has he done so far this season?  He has played in 9 games, clubbed 4 homers, is hitting .333, has played good defense, has called 3 shut outs, and has the best nick-name on the team, El Oso Blanco, The White Bear!  Not too shabby for an ex janitor.

Watching Gattis play this year reminds me of another long shot catcher that found success with the Braves in the early 90's.  Greg Olson, who is shown in one of the most famous Braves photographs above, caught fire in 1990 after an off season of driving a Budweiser beer truck.  All he did was play great baseball  for the Braves and helped them go to the 1991 World Series.  The famous picture is from the pennant clinching victory on a game pitched by future Hall of Famer, John Smoltz.  Olson was injured in 1992 and released in 1993 to make way for the Braves future catcher Javy Lopez, but his contribution the the Braves organization will always be remembered.

Beer man?  Janitor??  What's the difference?  Let's play some ball!!  The problem the Braves are facing is what exactly to do with Gattis once Brian McCann comes back from shoulder surgery.  McCann is a six time All-star and 5 time Silver Slugger.  His is being paid $12 million this year.  Those guys do not sit the bench.  McCann is also in the last year of his contract and there was talk that the final days of his playing career may be better served in the AL as a DH (he is not know for his defensive skills).  Would the Braves listen to trade offers on McCann?  They may be willing to take that chance if Gattis continues to rake over the next couple of weeks.  We probably will not resign McCann anyway after this year due to his age and asking price, so the Braves officials have some pondering to do.

In the mean time I guess it is a good problem to have.  Too many bats are seldom seen as a bad thing and stories like Gattis bring good will to your ball club.  It has been a good ride so far in this young season and I plan on enjoying it for as long as it will last.  I feel fairly confident that the Braves cannot continue this pace.  I mean records of 149-13 just don't happen, but here's hoping for a great year and a chance to get back to the World Series!  I'll be watching my new favorite player...

Go Braves!!!!

No comments: