When Looking Back is the Best Option
Remember that year when the Braves started the season with a 13-game winning streak? It was 1982; the Murph was in center field; Phil Niekro was my daddy’s favorite pitcher; and we won the division.
With all the looking back going on during this last season at Turner Field, it occurs to me this could be a good year for it. Braves fans have a lot to celebrate in our 50-year Atlanta baseball history. On the other hand, some of the nation’s best prospects are in training in the Braves’ farm system this year, so we theoretically have something to look forward to, as well…if we look ahead far enough. So let’s celebrate the past or celebrate the future, but the present? Not so much. For the moment, the Braves are 0-7, three losses away from the worst start in Atlanta history.
Admittedly, there have been a few bright spots in the first week of the 2016 season. Nick Markakis has doubled six times in the first six games, including three in one game against the Cardinals on Sunday. And it was fun to watch our newest Brave, the fresh-faced speedster Mallex Smith, get his first major league hit on Monday night.
But most of the Braves’ first week has been a bit like a freaky wasteland , where things just get stranger by the inning. When Smith, who stole 144 bases during the last two years in the Braves minor leagues, attempted to steal his first big league base, his helmet came off, bounced off second base and back into his face. He left the game with a nasty cut over his left eyebrow that would require five stitches. On Saturday, Markakis, who committed just one error last season after 398 consecutive errorless games* was charged with a three-baser when he thought he was backing up center fielder Drew Stubbs. They both lost the ball in the (lack of) lights at Turner. Shortstop Erick Aybar, likely a little intimidated by the Andrelton Simmons-sized shoes he was brought in to fill, has two errors on the books, and a couple other plays that reminded us all that Simmons is no longer in the house. The team committed seven errors in seven games and gave up 31 runs (31!) to the Cardinals, who swept three games in a series that resembled an ugly version of backyard tee-ball. Our closers haven’t closed and our hitters haven’t hit, at least not in the late innings. In other unluckiness, our brand new, shiny center fielder, Ender Inciarte, went on the 15-day DL with a strained left hamstring, and our bad calls have come at the worst times — like Tuesday night’s game-ending check swing by young Smith. (He didn’t go!)
But tonight, I’m not going to be too nostalgic. I’m not going to be overly optimistic. I’m just gonna enjoy the moments that are enjoyable, and hope we don’t make it to 10. Or 13. Or 162.
*Markakis holds the MLB record for errorless games by a non-pitcher.