In 1864, Union general William Sherman embarked on a campaign of “total war,” and destroyed much of the city of Atlanta. If Sherman could look ahead 159 years and see what a whiny bunch of losers the city’s baseball team - as well as their fans, and pretty much everyone associated with them - had become, he’d probably burn the city to the ground a second time for good measure.
I’m not surprised by the whining from Braves fans. After six seasons of writing series previews about the team, they are the fan base that consistently gets the most upset. Older readers of the site may remember the absolute fit they threw in 2019 when I called their success unsustainable.
Speaking of series previews, I’d like to give myself a hand for this one. I may not be right all that often, but I was spot on. (I am disappointed that nobody commented on the Ozymandias reference.) The Braves hitters almost unanimously overachieved throughout the regular season, so some playoff regression was probably to be expected. And just because you have a great offensive team, it doesn’t mean you can’t be shut down over the course of a five-game series when you face a team with a pitching staff designed to do exactly that.
I was also correct in observing that the Braves’ pitching staff was unimpressive as currently constructed. Perhaps if they had a full-strength Max Fried and a healthy Charlie Morton, it would have been different. But injuries happen, and there was a reason why the Phillies went so easy on their starters in Spring Training and April.
Before we turn our attention to the Arizona Diamondbacks, I’d like to take one last look at the Braves, their fans, and some of their highlights from the past week:
The format! Won’t somebody think about the format?!?!
Before the NLDS round began, there were plenty of people complaining about the current format of the playoffs, claiming it was a major disadvantage for the best teams to have to sit out for a few days while the Wild Card round took place.
Dear @MLB,— Anna Huffstutler (@A_Huffstutler) October 8, 2023
We need to talk.
I would like to propose that we do away with this #Postseason bye week. Go back to the one game wild card. It made things much more interesting.
You want good ratings, right? So why basically punish your best teams by making them sit for a week?…
I bet if you asked fans of the Marlins and Brewers right now, they’d probably have preferred to have earned a bye through the Wild Card round.
Sadly, these complaints weren’t only coming from Braves fans. Many pundits around the baseball world lamented the tragedy that the Braves, Dodgers, and Orioles were able to rest their players and set up their pitching rotation. Braves apologists conveniently ignore that had the team played in the Wild Card round, they might not have had Fried available in even limited capacity.
I hope any Braves fan complaining about the “layoff” realizes the only reason Max Fried is pitching tonight is because of that layoff.— Ben Kukainis (@wegoliveinfive) October 9, 2023
It’s also astonishing how many people apparently hate the basic concept of playoffs.
And this, in a nutshell, is why I hate the expansion of the playoffs to 12 teams. There is no reward for excellence. Unlike other sports, the best teams don't win the preponderance of the time. What's the point of building a truly great team when an 84-78 team can knock you off?— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) October 13, 2023
You’re condensing a 162-game season into a three to seven-game series, and when you do that, the “best” team won’t always win. Just like every other sport, your regular season superiority gains you homefield advantage. If you need more than that to win, maybe your team isn’t as good as you thought.
Blooper enters the conversation
A little over a week ago, I didn’t even know the Braves had a mascot, let alone one that looks like a dollar store Phanatic.
You are the mascot equivalent of this: pic.twitter.com/RbkVGDhMr2— Smarty loves the Phillies (@TheSmartyJones) October 6, 2023
For some reason, the person who runs the Blooper social media account wanted to raise awareness of the Braves’ mascot, and thought it was wise to start mixing it up with Phillies fans. This is an endeavor that goes poorly 99% of the time.
I get that the Phanatic is an OG but his last highlight was recorded with a flash bulb, it’s shocking you guys hate Dallas so much because you relive Phanatic’s glory days the same way they relive their super bowls https://t.co/bRHDq6hV8k— Blooper (@BlooperBraves) October 6, 2023
It got to the point where critics said with a straight face that Phillies fans needed to stop being mean to Blooper.
Should we talk about Philly fans sending the Braves mascot, Blooper death threats... a mascot!— Johnathan Tatman (@JTatmanPhoto) October 11, 2023
We probably should start comparing fanbases... a mascot was sent death threats! https://t.co/FJK3a0yGrg
May I remind everyone that Blooper is not a real person/animal/affront to mankind, and you can’t kill him because he isn’t actually alive? (There’s another sentence I never thought I’d write.)
We’re loud! So very loud! Everyone, please notice how loud we are!
Braves fans rightfully felt insecure when they heard about the loud, raucous environment at Citizens Bank Park, and assured everyone that Braves fans could bring the noise too. And then, a bunch of fans no-showed game one, apparently because college football was on.
Phillies fans amazed by Georgia crowds not showing up to any non-football thing on a Saturday in October is hilarious https://t.co/hlL3znqdxc— Crimson Clio in Midnight Green (@CrimsonEag1e) October 8, 2023
After the Braves lucked into a game two win, some of their fans wanted to puff out their chests about the volume at the stadium.
Listen to how loud Truist was when the Braves won tonight pic.twitter.com/qsa1SKxgo6— Ozuna’s Keys (@OzunasKeys) October 10, 2023
Oh wow, fans cheered at an amazing game saving catch? That’s unheard of! They’re obviously an elite fan base. Now compare that to the constant buzz and energy that is a game at Citizens Bank Park.
CBP was louder on that acuña groundout than truist was on that game-ender the other night— heath (@heathdwilliams) October 11, 2023
I should note that there was one other time when the crowd at Truist showed signs of life:
How Braves fans throwing trash on the field sounded on Braves radio— Nick Piccone (@_piccone) October 8, 2023
Part 1/2 pic.twitter.com/tUWxYjJgmp
The Arcia affair
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are aware that after game two, Orlando Arcia was reported to have loudly cackled, “Atta boy, Harper!”
And unless that rock doesn’t have good cell reception, you also know how Harper responded:
“Harper with a rainmaker! And another stare down!”— Tim Ryan (@TheSportsHernia) October 11, 2023
THIS IS TREMENDOUS THEATER. pic.twitter.com/nx80XXrX7v
Braves fans didn’t like that one bit. First, they tried to insist that Arcia never said it.
Where is the audio or video of Arcia saving “Atta boy, Harper.” I wanna see or hear it.— Lance McCurley (@lancemccurley) October 12, 2023
Let’s see it, @Jake_Mintz. Pls produce it.
After Arcia confirmed he said it, they said Harper was wrong for staring down poor, poor Arcia.
the more i look at this, the sadder it looks for harper. staring down probably the nicest, happiest, most beloved teammate on the braves who can’t even speak english to defend himself, all because some playful banter after a thrilling win got leaked. harpers a fake tough guy fr pic.twitter.com/Ua5B3NJ4hx— Max Fried Enthusiast (@atlhoe12345) October 12, 2023
Finally, Braves fans - and several members of the media - acted like reporting on Arcia’s comments was the greatest affront ever made to the game of baseball.
Everyone was probably being far too hard on Arcia. It’s not like Harper needs extra motivation to destroy Braves pitching, it’s just what he does. Unless of course he was so angered by Arcia’s comments, that it caused him to retroactively go 8-16 with two home runs in the 2022 NLDS.
The whole deal apparently broke Arcia’s brain.
Orlando Arcia giving it back to Phillies fans pic.twitter.com/tCqzyTi9Pt— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) October 13, 2023
If a Phillies player ever did that in an elimination game, the fans would call for his head on a stake. But it appears that not having your head in the game may be commonplace in the Braves’ clubhouse.
Ronald Acuña Jr. showing the iPad to the TBS broadcast out of the break and saying "not a strike" is the level of pettiness I strive to reach pic.twitter.com/CEVmXtauBe— Jake (@JakeCrouseMLB) October 13, 2023
Braves bullpen is complaining about heckling Phillies fans. One Phillies fan was just told by security to move out because he “got a radio call” from bullpen. pic.twitter.com/yO9u87zyVH— Chris O'Connell (@CoconnellFox29) October 13, 2023
According to one media member, the nefarious Phillies organization hatched a plot to ruin the equipment of some of the Braves’ media members.
Not cool Philly the sprinklers on the visitors side of the #Phillies ballpark came on and got some of the Atlanta media gear wet. Maybe it’s a coincidence but the sprinklers by the #Phillies side did not go on until a few minutes later … #AsOneAtl pic.twitter.com/YkYjBJJL72— Alison Mastrangelo (@AlisonWSB) October 12, 2023
Guess she’s never heard of an automated sprinkler system?
Waving the white flag
You’d think that fans of a 104-win team would be supremely confident. After all, their team had one of the best offenses in baseball history. Instead, it seems that decades of playoff failures have conditioned them to expect the worst. Because as soon as the Phillies took game one, the crying and excuses started. There was very little “Our offense will figure this out,” and a lot of “How was the lineup supposed to stay in a groove after such a long layoff?”
Exactly my thoughts. The Braves by far favorites to win it all and today they looked like absolute crap. Is that their team? No. It’s that freaking layoff. That layoff is disastrous because it takes a couple games to get over it.— MRBASEBALL (@MRBASEBALL2019) October 8, 2023
Maybe the layoff hurt in game one, but after they hit two clutch home runs in game two, that really shouldn’t have been an excuse anymore. But they didn’t hit in games three or four, even having the benefit of seeing Ranger Suarez for a second time.
You don’t make excuses if you’re confident that you’ll win. Braves fans knew that if they didn’t win game one and the Spence Strider vs. Ranger Suarez matchup, they were in trouble, and it showed. They knew that the Phillies’ pitching staff was loaded with power arms capable of neutralizing the Braves’ lineup, while their pitching staff couldn’t do the same to Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos.
See you next season
The 2023 Braves were probably the best (regular season) offense we’ve had in a while. They received MVP-caliber offense from two players and saw peak performances all throughout the lineup. And all that got them was a single playoff win.
I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of the Braves. Based on the number of good players the team has coerced into signing under-market long-term contracts, the Braves should once again be in the mix for the league’s best record in 2024.
But if you’re a Braves fan, how much can you care about a division title at this point? What’s another NL East championship if it's just going to once again result in elimination at the hands of their division rivals?
Another year, another Phillies upset over the Braves.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 13, 2023
Last season, Philly had 14 fewer wins than Atlanta... this season Philly had 14 fewer wins than Atlanta...
It's the first time ever that one team eliminated another in consecutive postseasons after having 10 fewer wins each… pic.twitter.com/x3L0KqtCyF
The scariest thought for Braves fans is this: If the “best lineup ever” couldn’t come close to beating the Phillies in the playoffs, what chance will they have if next year’s offense falls short of that?