In my circle of friends, many of them Braves fans, I hear the same sentiment from each of them.
"This team is no fun to watch."
"I'm about through with this bunch."
"The Braves organization hates its fans."
I understand why people are frustrated watching a team that has all but collapsed since right before the All-Star break. But I want to offer a perspective to think about before writing the Braves off as a franchise spiraling into misery for the next 15 years.
It is no secret that the common fan does not recognize prospects, no matter how highly touted. The current 25-man roster at the big league level is the only relevant entity. For the people in this category, trading stars like Craig Kimbrel, Jason Heyward, Evan Gattis, and Justin Upton for assets that will not make an immediate impact is simply unacceptable.
Some of the top-end prospects the Braves received in the offseason, such as pitchers Tyrell Jenkins and Max Fried and center fielder Mallex Smith, have not made it to the big club this year. But others, like starting pitchers Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler, and Manny Banuelos, have.
To an extent, many could blindly believe in general manager John Hart's plan. Surely the organization acquired some players of worth in dealing away a cluster of star players. But as Foltynewicz, Wisler, and Banuelos surfaced and fans were able to connect them with the offseason trades, disappointment and anger set in among a faction of the fan base.
The instant-gratification society that is present today expects top prospects at any level to come in and dominate, ala Mike Trout. The reigning American League MVP may very well be the best player in baseball, but he is an outlier when it comes to instant success for well-thought-of young players. Let's take a look at some examples for the Braves this season.
Foltynewicz came first, making his Braves debut on May 1. He pitched five innings against the Reds, giving up three runs (two earned) on six hits while earning the win. He has had his ups and downs but has shown flashes recently. He is criticized for being too reliant on one pitch - a four-seam fastball with little to no movement. At this stage of the season, he's made 15 starts and sits with a 4-6 record and 5.71 earned run average.
Wisler, if you recall, outdueled Mets hurler Jacob DeGrom in his debut on June 19. He was sensational in eight innings of one-run ball. In much the same fashion as Foltynewicz, Wisler has endured peaks and valleys in his first season in the big leagues. He sits with a 5-4 record and a 5.43 ERA.
We have not seen as much from Banuelos, as he has only made four starts. But in those four starts, he has pitched well overall, to the tune of a 2.49 ERA. His season was cut short due to elbow inflammation, but fans should get another look at him out of the bullpen in September.
For hope, Braves Country need look no further than its own franchise history. The Hall of Fame trio of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz were by no means Cy Young winners in their first stints in the big leagues.
Smoltz made 12 starts in 1988, and posted a 2-7 record with a 5.48 ERA. In that same year, Glavine made 34 starts in his first full season, and promptly lost 17 of those starts. Greg Maddux pitched his first full season at the Major League level in 1987, making 27 starts for the Cubs. In much the same vein as Smoltz and Glavine, Maddux posted an unconvincing 6-14 record with an ERA of 5.61.
Read this next sentence very carefully. In NO WAY am I insinuating that Foltynewicz, Wisler, Banuelos, or any other prospect in the Braves system will have careers that parallel that Hall of Fame trio. Not in the least.
The point is, there is a good chance that what we have seen so far is not the ceiling for these guys. They will undoubtedly improve as they become more seasoned and experienced. But it may take time.
The rest of the prospects acquired by Hart will go through this same learning curve as the ones we have already seen. Granted, not all of these guys will pan out as expected, but a number of them will. Just do not lose hope in them before they reach their potential.
The time will come. Bear with them. Avoid sending off nasty tweets.
The future is bright.
Does any franchise hate their fanbase more than the @Braves ???— Daniel Beckworth (@danielbeckworth) August 28, 2015