I have said the Atlanta Braves are the World Champions more than once this past week to just about anyone who would listen. They are — and they will be until at least the last game of next year’s World Series.
But the question is this: Was this win a fluke, or can the Braves become a perennial contender? And can the Braves do something this decade that they couldn’t do during their remarkable run in the 1990s — win more than one title in a decade?
The answer is yes, they can.
Now here are a few important truths about the Braves franchise we must mention:
— The Braves have won only four World Series title in their history. One came in Boston in 1914, one in Milwaukee in 1957 and two in Atlanta, the first in 1995 and the second this past season.
— They have never won World Series titles back-to-back; never won two in the same decade; and in fact never won more than one in the same quarter-century.
So why would a person be optimistic that this decade will be different than all the decades that have come before?
Well, let’s take a look.
It would be a stunner if the Braves don’t re-sign Freddie Freeman to at least a five-year deal. With Freeman at first, the incredible Ozzie Albies at second, Austin Riley at third and at least next year of Dansby Swanson at short, the Braves have a top-tier infield both offensively and defensively.
Travis d’Arnaud is locked up to play catcher for the next two years with at lest two top-line prospects hot on his heels. One of the most overlooked things about the Braves second-half turnaround was that d’Arnaud came back from injury just in time to spark that run by impeccably handling Atlanta’s diverse pitching staff.
Over the next few years, the outfield probably won’t look much like it did on this playoff run, but it will have Ronald Acuna Jr., and that may be all you need to know. It will have Adam Duvall for at least one more year, and most likely either Christian Pache or Drew Waters will be manning a spot in the outfield for at least half the decade. Both need to improve offensively, but Pache can absolutely patrol center field with the best of them.
While pitching may be the biggest question mark for the Braves in the minds of some, it could also be the strength.
The times of giving pitchers long-term contracts are probably past us. The best decision may be to load up your farm system with great arms and then pick up a veteran free agent or two along the way to round out the staff.
While Charlie Morton is back for another year in 2022, the biggest news is that Max Fried, Ian Anderson and Mike Soroka may be around for several years to come. There are also more top-flight arms on the way to Atlanta from Mississippi and Gwinnett.
The bullpen has crazy depth and can turn a solid five-inning or six-inning performance by a starter into a win many more times than not.
I would be stunned if Atlanta doesn’t claim another crowd before 2030.
While the players are obviously crucial, so is the on field manager and the front office. Brian Snitker has proved to be an expert at letting the players play while also making critical moves when required.
Then there is general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who truly was the team’s Most Valuable Person this year. What an incredible run of trades he made at a crucial part of the season.
There is no reason to think that he, or the Braves, are close to stopping now. But, we shall see.
Austin Bishop, AKA The Old Sports Dude, has been covering high school, college, amateur and professional sports since 1975. He is currently pastor of Great Commission Assembly of God in Philadelphia. He may be contacted by email at email@example.com.