Any optimism and excitement that you, I, any other Braves fan and even any neutral fan had when it came to Game 5 of the NLDS between the Braves and the Cardinals was completely evaporated by the end of the first inning. That was when the Braves gave up 10 runs in one inning and effectively lost the deciding game of what had been a hard-fought series up until that inning.
You can easily argue that the Braves shouldn’t have even been in this position to begin with. Had they cashed in any of the many scoring chances that they had while they were leading Game 4 in St. Louis, the Braves would have been busy watching tonight’s game taking place in Los Angeles and getting ready for the winner. Instead, they had to play Game 5 and they got obliterated before they even got out of the starting blocks.
The most disappointing moment of the season ending is how it ended. Mike Foltynewicz could’ve gotten out of that ill-fated inning had the defenders behind them been on their game to start out. Instead, Freddie Freeman let a ball eat him up to put the cap on what has been an absolutely miserable series for the first baseman. Instead of having two outs at least, the Cardinals proceeded to go on their rampage (even as Max Fried entered the game) and it was all over before it even started.
The disappointment is all-encompassing. This was as embarrassing and downright depressing of a loss that you could take even just as a fan, so I can only imagine what the emotion is like for the players, the coaches and the front office. So my question as a fan to the players, coaches, front office and even ownership is this: What are you going to do about it? You just got embarrassingly destroyed in your own stadium that still has the new car smell on it. What. Are. You. Going. To. Do. About. It?
How will this organization react to what turned out to be such a failure? The Braves had home field advantage and while the Cardinals have proven that they absolutely deserved to advance, they definitely weren’t the favorites going into this series. The Braves won the division when they expected to win it and the season still resulted in the team getting bounced out of the playoffs as soon as they entered. How will you respond to this?
The next few months will go a long way towards determining what happens. There will be some tantalizing names on the free agent market and the Braves still have organizational depth to pull off some moves if they want. If the Braves choose to stand pat with what they’ve already got and have an offseason similar to what they had last season, I’d understand. I’d also accept that the organization has decided to be complacent and just sit on being the best team in the NL East instead of desiring something more.
If they choose to go for it and actually decide to strengthen the team during the offseason instead of waiting until the middle of the season to do so, then that’ll send a message to the rest of the NL and baseball that while their 2019 exit was incredibly embarrassing, 2020 will be a different story. Will there be any sort of shake up or fresh blood to let the players who are here for the long haul know that the organization is truly behind them? Or will we continue to see the team have a quiet offseason and rely on the other teams in the division slipping up so that they can play their way to another divisional title?
Most of all, what will the players do about this? Namely, Freddie Freeman. Freddie has been the cornerstone of this franchise for most of his career and he’ll probably be the first to tell you that he was dirt poor when the team needed him the most during this series. As a matter of fact, he was indeed to first to tell you exactly that.
Freddie Freeman:— Zach Klein (@ZachKleinWSB) October 10, 2019
I really thought we had a special team.. this one (the series) is on me
Will he respond by making sure that this type of thing never happens again while he’s around? If you want to be a leader, then you have to bear the brunt of responsibility when adversity comes around — especially if you were contributing to the adversity with your poor play. Freddie Freeman is nowhere near as bad as what he showed, but he’s going to have to take this offseason to heal up and make sure that he does his part to make sure the rest of the team comes back strong.
This is not a situation that should be seen as “Well, they won the division!” As a fan, aren’t you tired of just winning the division? This is no time to enter next season on a victory lap and then complain about nobody predicting the Braves to win again if they choose to sit on their hands again. It would be great if they responded to this result as not just a “bad day at the office,” but something to make sure that it never happens again. The best way to make that happen is to strengthen the weaknesses of this team and for the core to continue to improve. I’m not worried about Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, Mike Soroka, Dansby Swanson, and any of the young players who can still develop. Even though I criticized him for his poor performance in this series, I’m not worried about Freddie Freeman. He’ll get right and I believe he’ll respond in the right way to what happened here in October. I’m worried about what the team will look like around those guys during this window where they’re all clicking.
This can’t happen again, and when I say “this,” I mean losing in the divisional series. The fanbase is fed up. The sports fans in the city of Atlanta are fed up. It’s time for the right people to get fed up and push as hard as they can to make sure that this never happens again. Everybody in the organization should be as angry as I am and as angry as the rest of the fanbase is at the moment. This can’t be the acceptable standard. Divisional titles are nice and it’s something neat to look back on, but this can’t be the ceiling for this franchise.
Nobody should be satisfied with how this season turned out. It was a good season, but it’s time to strive for something more. The offseason is officially here. It’s time to get ready for 2020. No more settling for less. No more “just gotta tip the cap.” No more postseason embarrassments. We should demand better and hopefully in 2020, we’ll get better from the Braves when it matters most.