I can remember the end of the 2017 regular season like it was yesterday. The Atlanta Braves had just ended their season on a winning note, even though there weren’t too many wins to get excited about that year. Atlanta finished with a 72-90 record, which was a very slight improvement over the previous season’s record but we were starting to see the light at the end of the rebuild tunnel that John Coppolella and John Hart were digging. If you looked hard enough at both the major league roster and the minor league prospects at the time, you could squint and see the skeleton of a team that could be a contender in the near future. The time wasn’t “now” but it was surely coming soon.
I also remember what happened the very next day after the season ended. That was when Coppolella resigned when it became publicly known that he had broken rules when it comes to the International Free Agent market. It was bad enough to where John Hart ended up leaving the organization as well and that was right before Coppolella ended up getting banned for life (or at least until 2023) due to his actions. Speaking for myself, I went from being very cautiously optimistic looking while forward to the 2018 season to feeling a bit embarrassed and somewhat worried about the future of the team now that the Braves suddenly needed to look for a new leader on the baseball side of the organization.
So imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when the Braves managed to land on their feet and end up with Alex Anthopoulos becoming their General Manager (and current President of Baseball Operations). Expectations went back up, since this was a guy who quite clearly knew what he was doing in his previous stint as a General Manager in Toronto and was a highly coveted member of the Dodgers’ front office. Even with the sanctions that hit the organization in the wake of Coppolella’s actions, there was still a lot of reason to feel optimistic about the direction that the Braves would be heading in in the future.
Here we are in 2024 and this seems like as good of a time as any to take a quick look at how the Braves have fared on the field since Anthopoulos took the job as GM here in Atlanta:
- 2018: 90-72, NL East Champions
- 2019: 97-65, NL East Champions
- 2020: 35-25, NL East Champions, First NLCS appearance since 1999
- 2021: 88-73, NL East Champions, World Series Champions
- 2022: 101-61, NL East Champions
- 2023: 104-58, NL East Champions
So yeah, they’ve won the division every season since his appointment, made two consecutive NLCS appearances, won a World Series in that span and are now on a run where they’ve won 205 games over the past two seasons. If we go back to his final season in Toronto, Alex Anthopoulos has had at least one locker room champagne celebration a season since 2015. We’re talking about an executive who has made the moves necessary to put Atlanta in a position to where we could potentially be looking at another golden era of Braves baseball. Obviously we’re all hoping that 2021 doesn’t end up being the “Thank God for 1995” version of this current era but it’s clear that Atlanta’s going to have plenty of shots in the future to make sure that the 2021 trophy gets another friend to join it in the trophy case.
The Braves under Alex Anthopoulos have become an undeniable force in baseball. Everybody else in the NL East knows that if they want to take this division, they’ve got to knock off the Braves. The rest of the National League knows that (unless the Phillies get in the way), the path to a NL pennant goes through Atlanta. They’ve become a team that other teams see on their schedule and go “Ah, that’s gonna be a tough few days.” The organization’s reputation has become so strong that any contract extension of any given core player on the team usually has the reaction of “Well, of course they did.”
If the Braves have a hole in their roster that needs to be filled, nine times out-of-ten, it’s going to be filled and filled with an extremely capable player. Anthopoulos has spent money, he’s nailed extensions, he’s nailed trades, and while the farm system is currently lowly-rated, it’s rated as such for the best reason possible since all of the best young players in the organization are currently playing for the big league team. You could easily make the argument that AA’s work at the 2021 Trade Deadline directly contributed to the Braves making their run towards lifting the World Series title that season. Jorge Soler was acquired from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Kasey Kalich. Kalich still has yet to play in a Major League game. Meanwhile in early-November of 2021, Jorge Soler did this:
This is an extremely well-run organization from top-to-bottom and the President of Baseball Operations deserves a lot of the credit for where the club is at right now. The Braves always figured to have a bright future ahead of them entering the 2018 season but this level of success is beyond anything that I or anybody else could’ve imagined. Again, Atlanta has always had a decent amount of respect across the baseball world due to what happened during the 1990s but that level of respect definitely waned the further we got from that era. However, thanks to Alex Anthopoulos’ tenure as GM and President of Baseball Operations, the Braves have returned to that level of respect and that’s an undeniable aura around this team that can’t really shaken.
It won’t be gone for a long time either, as Alex Anthopoulos recently agreed to stay on as the President of Baseball Operations through the 2031 season. The architect of this current machine of a baseball club is going to be able to see this thing out all the way to its end or maybe even make sure that it continues on into the next decade. He’s only going to be 54 by the time his new contract expires — for comparison’s sake, John Schuerholz turned 50 in 1990 when he started his illustrious tenure as the General Manager of the Braves. Anthopoulos still has plenty of years in the tank if he’s healthy and motivated and for all we know, we could be doing this same song and dance by the time 2031 rolls around.
One thing is for certain, though: He’s absolutely earned the right to see this thing through for as long as he wants to. The Braves have hit a new level since his arrival in 2018, which is when he took a franchise that was reeling from the controversial exit of the previous regime, made sure that the organization landed on its feet and also made sure that it started running, sprinting and eventually flying towards the upper echelons of Major League Baseball. The Alex Anthopoulos Era in Atlanta has gotten off to an amazing start and now he’s getting an opportunity to make sure that it really is only the beginning of a special era for this franchise.