For all our talk of postseason disappointments, for all the talk of having only one World Series trophy to show for all of the playoff appearances that the Braves had in the 90s and early 2000s, it’s reasonable to say that the Atlanta Braves have been a really successful franchise. I think there would be quite a few MLB fan bases that would trade places with us. One thing we haven’t been known for though, is being an exceptionally fun group of players. We haven’t been at Yankees-level of policing behavior, anathematizing such distractions like beards, long hair,
and domestic abuse; but we haven’t exactly been a barrel of fun either. We have had our fun bright spots in our past—Deion Sanders, the “chicks dig the long ball” commercial—but overall, this franchise has mostly been all about business. And I can get the appeal of that for some people. Hell, it’s the reason that vanilla ice cream, plain cake doughnuts, Grape Nuts, and 3 Musketeers candy bars exist: some people are just boring. While the 90s Braves had a lot of winning, they also had a lot of Grape Nuts. Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are two of the greatest pitchers this game will ever see, but most of the time they couldn’t personality their way out of the third inning. Would anyone be talking about Fred McGriff if he didn’t wear his hat comically high on his head? I’ve been a Braves fan for my entire life, and I honestly cannot recall ever hearing Javy Lopez speak. And I know, ladies...he doesn’t have to.
I think this is what I find most refreshing about the 2019 Braves team: They are the most fun sports team I have ever followed. I’m sure that there have been some very fun moments in the clubhouse of the 90s Braves, but I’d hazard a guess that many of those stories shouldn’t see the light of day in 2019. But this team has Ronald Acuña, who may be the most exciting young player in baseball. We have Mike Foltynewicz, who is worth the price of admission just to watch his reactions on the mound when someone hits the ball hard off him. In just the past few days, Josh Donaldson hit a home run and paraded around the dugout holding an umbrella, Dansby Swanson and Matt Joyce slid into home at the same time, and Dallas Keuchel did whatever this is supposed to be:
Keuchel's got the moves like JD— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) September 4, 2019
Keuchel's got the moves like JD @kidkeuchy has the “@BringerOfRain20 can’t believe he’s not getting that call” maneuver DOWN.#Braves | #ChopOn pic.twitter.com/YyQxloPLHR
We have a team with Ozzie Albies and Acuña, who have one of the funniest relationships in recent memory. We have seen a player batflip a walk. Adeiny Hechavarria was a Brave for five minutes and flipped a bat out of the frame after hitting a homer. New players are coming to the Braves and are almost immediately adapting to the culture, relaxing, and having the time of their lives. Freddie Freeman made a name for himself a few years ago by hugging other players all the time, and he almost looks boring next to some of these new guys. Remember during the rebuild, Dave O’Brien and Jeff Schultz took it upon themselves as their personal mission to convince us that teams led by Adonis Garcia and Alberto Callaspo would be “fun to watch”? The 2019 Braves are undeniably fun to watch, on top of being really good.
One huge benefit of the age of the internet and social media is that we have better access to the players directly and know them in a way that wasn’t possible before. Without it, we likely wouldn’t know that Andrew McCutchen is legitimately one of the funniest baseball players in recent memory. While old school fans will likely regard all this as disrespect for “the game,” I think it is unquestionably good for baseball. People love to see athletes enjoying what they do, and these Braves are doing it better than any team. It’s making the wins more enjoyable, and the losses (and there haven’t been many) more palatable. Weeks ago, the Braves blew a lead against the worst team in the NL in terrible fashion, and Sean Newcomb immediately softened the blow by clearing out the locker room with a fire extinguisher. And the loss immediately stung a little less.
The Braves have a division lead, and I’m looking forward to September baseball, which is perhaps the toughest accomplishment yet. As a fan, I’ve panicked a lot less this year, and I’ve enjoyed the successes more. Baseball is at its best when we can see the players having fun, and that’s all the more reason to let the kids play. So quit yelling at clouds, and have a good time. Games are meant to be fun, after all.