Ten days ago, the Braves left New York having lost four of five to the Mets, whose lead in the National League East had grown to 6.5 games. The Braves had lost three in a row for the first time in 2022. They weren’t quite reeling, but they’d suffered a reversal. Over the past 13 months, they haven’t known many reversals.
In the week-plus since, Max Fried missed a start (concussion). Kyle Wright missed a start (arm fatigue). There’s no set date for Ozzie Albies (foot) to resume baseball activities.
And the Braves as a team? They’re 8-0.
They scored 17 runs over two days in Boston. They swept Miami over four games that saw them start Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Muller, Ian Anderson and Bryce Elder. Only Odorizzi remains on the big-league roster. They’ve taken two from the Mets by the aggregate score of 18-1, paring their deficit to 3.5 games.
Oh, and Mike Soroka worked four scoreless innings in Rome on Tuesday, striking out eight of the first nine Greensboro Grasshoppers he faced. And 21-year-old Vaughn Grissom has an OPS of 1.184 after a week in the majors. And the contract of 21-year-old Michael Harris has been extended into the next decade. And the Mets just saw starting pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker exit with injuries.
We’ve known since June the Braves would make the playoffs. We know Albies can’t become an unrestricted free agent until November 2027. Ronald Acuña can’t until 2028. Matt Olson can’t until 2030. Harris can’t until 2032. Austin Riley can’t until 2033, by which time Max Scherzer will be 97. (Kidding.)
As much as anything in baseball can be known, we know the Braves should keep winning big for a long time. They’ve made the playoffs four years running. They’ve won a World Series. They’re rolling at the rate they were in the mid-1990s, a tantalizing image that serves as beacon and warning flare. Those Braves won their division over 14 consecutive completed seasons. They didn’t win a second World Series.
Nothing in sports is guaranteed. This, though, is how it’s supposed to work. A franchise moves heaven and Earth to get good; then it moves heaven and Earth to stay that way. Freddie Freeman, face of the franchise, is gone. Dansby Swanson, hair of the franchise, will become a free agent this fall. The Braves spent big, both in prospects and dollars, to find Freeman’s replacement. They’ll do their darnedest to keep Swanson, who’ll draw MVP support. But Grissom isn’t a bad Plan B.
We say again: Soroka is the key player in this organization. If he can return to 2019 form, he’s at worst a No. 2 starter. He has been an All-Star. Fried just made the All-Star team. Wright didn’t miss by much. Spencer Strider’s biggest competition for NL Rookie of the Year plays center field behind him.
A word about Dana Brown, who runs the Braves’ scouting department. He took Strider with the 126th pick in 2021, Harris 98th in 2019, Grissom 337th the same year. After trading Shea Langeliers, Cristian Pache and Ryan Cusick for Olson, there’s not much left in the farm system. (ESPN ranks it MLB’s worst.) Still, the big-league club has drawn impact performances from three rookies who weren’t taken in Rounds 1 or 2. That’s value shopping.
Reality check: The Mets were scheduled to start Scherzer on Wednesday, Jacob deGrom on Thursday. Then the Astros arrive. This week could still go wrong. But the trick in baseball is to have answers for every week of every season. That’s why the Dodgers, the paradigm for ongoing excellence, never rest in their pursuit of depth, of somebody who, two weeks or two years from now, might help win a couple of games.
That’s the approach the Braves’ GM brought after two years in L.A. Soroka – we say yet again – is this club’s most important player. The most important person is Alex Anthopoulos, who’s just great.©2022 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.