Most years, I feel bad for Braves fans. They have to root for a philandering third baseman named Chipper, a manager who makes Brett Myers look like a saint, and sit in the stands (if they actually go to games) listening to a racist chant (or partake in it themselves, but if they do that, I don't feel sorry for them, I just hate them).
But this year, I feel particularly bad for Braves fans. In fact, I pity them. And I'm completely serious. It's really sad to be a Braves fan right now.
Why? Because they're actually following a really good team this year, one that is playing exceptionally strong baseball. But, what do they have to show for it? A 9.5 game deficit and zero hope for winning the division. Yes, they'll most likely get into the playoffs, but in the pity spot of the NL Wild Card. Until then, they've spent the entire season (and will spend the rest of it as well) playing excellent baseball . . . while looking up at the Phillies in the standings and being able to do nothing about it.
To put it in perspective, the Braves have a .582 winning percentage right now. That's excellent. From 2007 through 2009, they would have won the NL East with that winning percentage. In fact, in 2007, they would have had the best record in the entire NL, and in 2009 they would have just missed that title by 1 game. In 2010, they would have come in second in the NL East to the Phillies, but they would have been competitive to the very end, finishing only 3 games back.
But in 2011, a .582 winning percentage gets them almost a double-digit deficit in their division. As it turns out, only by playing such sensational ball have they been able to avoid being 15 or 20 games behind the Phillies.
Also, the team's pitching has been superb this year. The team has a 3.41 ERA and has given up only 520 runs for the entire season. The staff's 3.52 xFIP is the envy of 28 other teams. The problem, though, is that the Phillies pitching staff is the talk of baseball. Their ERA is 0.35 better than the Braves' and they've given up almost 70 fewer runs than the Braves' staff has. The Phillies' 3.41 xFIP is the envy of the same 28 teams plus the Braves. It's the Phillies' pitching staff, particularly their starters, who are making history.
Basically, it's a great time to be a Braves fan, as the team is playing great baseball. But, it's also just a horrible time to be a Braves fan, because the team is playing great baseball in the same league and division as the Philadelphia Phillies, who are playing historically great baseball.
And because of that, I pity the Braves and their fans.