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Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game One
Eddie Rosario reacts to a rare sign of life from the Truist faithful
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

A fond farewell to the Atlanta Braves and their fans

May you be as noble in death as you were in life

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.

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.

It’s also astonishing how many people apparently hate the basic concept of playoffs.

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.

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.

It got to the point where critics said with a straight face that Phillies fans needed to stop being mean to Blooper.

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.

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.

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.

I should note that there was one other time when the crowd at Truist showed signs of life:

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:

Braves fans didn’t like that one bit. First, they tried to insist that Arcia never said it.

After Arcia confirmed he said it, they said Harper was wrong for staring down poor, poor Arcia.

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.

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.

The sprinklers

According to one media member, the nefarious Phillies organization hatched a plot to ruin the equipment of some of the Braves’ media members.

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?”

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?

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?

The pros and cons of the Phillies trading for Juan Soto

2023 Phillies in Review: Edmundo Sosa

Rise and Phight: 11/29/2023