MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – The Braves are the champions of the National League East. They are on their way to a 90-plus win season, something that no one predicted would happen.
This has been a dream season, and it is so reminiscent of what happened in 1991. Twenty-seven years ago, the Braves were coming off a 65-win, last place season in 1990. They had added Terry Pendleton, Sid Bream, Rafael Belliard and Otis Nixon as veterans to compliment a young nucleus of talent – players like David Justice, Ron Gant, Jeff Blauser and Mark Lemke.
The 1991 Braves had Tom Glavine win the Cy Young Award. John Smoltz went from 2-9 in the first half of the season to clinching games in September and October, and Steve Avery was tremendous in his first full year at the age of 21. That team had chemistry. It came together and winning became contagious. The fans started doing the tomahawk chop, and for the first time in the 25 years they had been in Atlanta, the Braves became the most important team in Georgia sports.
Even though the Braves won it all in 1995, I am one of many who believe the 1991 season was the most special. It was the turn, from when the Braves were the joke of baseball to coming within one run of winning the World Series, that made it special. Braves baseball was never the same again after 1991.
The Braves were the joke of baseball this time last year, when the general manager – John Coppolella – was kicked out of baseball for international rules’ violations. They had their third straight losing season in a rebuilding process and then… no one expected much for this season. And looked what has happened now.
The young core talent of Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, Johan Camargo and, of course, Ronald Acuna, has blossomed. The veterans – Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis – have had tremendous seasons. And while the pitching has not been as special as it was in 1991, it’s been really, really good at times. Mike Foltynewicz has become a top-of-the-rotation starter, and don’t just assume since there is no Glavine, Smoltz or Avery the rotation will not get it done in October.
This year’s Braves team is a family. Think of how they came together after losing that horrible game against Boston a few weeks ago. They blew a big lead to the best team in baseball and then had to fly out west. They could have folded, collapsed and lost their first-place lead. Instead, they won six of seven games on the road trip, including a remarkable win on a Saturday night in Arizona when Dansby made the best defensive play of the season. After that game, Dansby said, “we love each other, we care about each other.” You don’t hear that kind of honesty from pro athletes very often, but he was telling the truth.
That clubhouse is like a band of brothers, and they now have that same “mojo” that the 1991 team had. Not many people will think they’ll do much in October, and we should all have realistic expectations. But, not many expected much from the 1991 team either. Maybe the Braves won’t do anything special this year, but then again, maybe they will. It is a team you cannot count out until the final out is made.
And regardless of what happens in October, this has been the most fun regular season for Braves fans… probably since 1991. And maybe this October can be just as special.