Braves Fans Wonder Whether to Look Forward to the Playoffs
Last week, we called the N. L. East race in favor of the Atlanta Braves. Nothing has happened this week to change our minds as they have now won nine in a row. They have opened up an 11.5 game lead lead on the second place Washington Nationals who aren’t even thinking about the wild card race anymore. In fact, looking around the entire Major League Baseball landscape, the Braves have to be considered a favorite to win the World Series. Atlanta is 66-45 while the Boston Red Sox are 67-45, the Tampa Bay Rays are 65-45, the Detroit Tigers are 63-45, the Oakland A’s are 64-46, the Pittsburgh Pirates are 66-44, the St. Louis Cardinals are 64-45 and the Los Angeles Dodgers are 60-49. This is probably as tight as the race for the home field advantage in both leagues has ever been.
So if you were a Braves fan, and many people are, do you look forward to the postseason? The Braves have been going to the playoffs nearly every year for the last quarter century and they have one World Series Championship to show for it. That is a lot of disappointment. It may be to the point that most Braves fans are apathetic about the playoffs, or worse yet, dreading them. So many times the Braves have looked like the best or at least one of the best teams in baseball heading into the postseason and walked away broken-hearted.
There was 1991 when a base-running mistake by Lonnie Smith cost the Braves dearly in Game Seven of the World Series against the Minnesota Twins. The Braves lost 1-0 in extra innings. In 1992, they lost to the underdog Toronto Blue Jays in a World Series that ended on a bunt. In 1993, they were upset in the NLCS by an upstart Philadelphia Phillies team that lost to the Jays in the World Series. After a player’s strike in 1994 wiped out the postseason, the Braves came back in 1995 and won it all with Tom Glavine beating the Cleveland Indians 1-0 in Game Six of the World Series. The Braves had finally broken through and there would be many more World Championships to come, right?
In 1996. the Braves went to Yankee Stadium and won the first two games thanks to the hot hitting of teenage sensation Andruw Jones. Surely that series was over with the Braves headed back home for three games (the final three games at Fulton County Stadium), right? The New York Yankees had other ideas though thanks to a dramatic home run by journeyman catcher Jim Leyritz and some stellar play from their own rookie sensation, Derek Jeter. The Yanks went on to win the next four games of the series, then won three of the next four after that one.
Perhaps the most insulting post season blow to the Braves came in 1997. That was the one year the Yankees didn’t win it all in the five year stretch. The Braves went into the NLCS against a five year old Florida Marlins team that had never been to the postseason. But thanks to some terrible umpiring from Eric Gregg who felt Livan Hernandez deserved the widest strike zone in baseball history, the Braves were downed by the Marlins in the series. They had to watch Florida go on to win the World Series over the Indians.
But it doesn’t stop there either. After the Yankees won the next three World Series (sweeping the Braves in 1999), they saw the Arizona Diamondbacks beat them in the 2001 NLCS and go on to stop the Yanks run. That team didn’t play their first game until 1998.
Then there was 2010 watching their second baseman, Brooks Conrad, make error after error in a series clinching loss to the eventual World Champion San Francisco Giants. And then last year there was the infield fly rule fiasco in the N. L. Wild Card game against the Cardinals. All this has to leave Braves fans wondering what it will be this year.