The Braves Still Have Enough To Win NL East

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The 2020 Major League Baseball season is fast losing its legitimacy. Games are being postponed. Key players are opting out. Players are mixing in public, being careless, and testing positive for the coronavirus. There are debilitating injuries. Sluggers are trying to catch up to pitchers, which is usually the case the first two weeks of a season, but in a 60-game season, you don’t want marquee guys flailing away.

If you are an Atlanta Braves fan you shouldn’t be afraid of this calamity around the game. Your team deals with stuff.

No one has been struck down by this hot mess of a season more than your team, which lost its ace, Mike Soroka, on Monday night to a catastrophic injury. Alex Anthopoulos, the general manager, said the clubhouse was undeniably downcast following the game Monday night.

It wasn’t surprising the Braves regrouped. The night after Soroka went down they beat the Blue Jays, 10-1. Two nights later, they got solid pitching in a 2-1 loss.

The Braves have a certain makeup that shows itself regularly in last at bat wins. Where does it come from? The manager, Brian Snitker, has a lot to do with it. So does Freddie Freeman, a squared away guy who carries the ethos of the team. Then you look at unperturbed youngsters like Ronald Acuna, Jr., and Ozzie Albies, pure ballers. Acuna played youth baseball on a field with a graveyard over his shoulder. He doesn’t get spooked.

Shortstop Dansby Swanson is coming into his own as a player and would be an All-Star in any other season. The bullpen has arms galore and veterans. Don’t look now, but A.J. Minter is finally turned into a beast of the pen. Nick Markakis shoved aside legitimate concerns about health to come back to the club.

The Braves lead the NL East and Acuna and Albies haven’t found their groove yet.

The makeup of this club is why adding Yasiel Puig would have been an abomination. He wouldn’t have fit and it is not surprising to many people he tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Braves cannot, should not, make a deal for a pitcher to partially fill the gap left by Soroka’s injury. The cost would be too high, no matter the terms, because the season could go up in smoke in the next two weeks. Trading prospects for a front-line pitcher, who could be a two-week rental, is too risky.

Anthopoulos knows that. He is always in discussions about trades and he did not sound hopeful Tuesday in a conference call with reporters about a deal.

“I’m not fairly optimistic that anything comes to fruition anytime soon,” Anthopoulos said.

He added, “The likelihood is that, you know, we were going to go internal. That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to continue to look and make phone calls and things like that.”

The trade deadline for 2020 has been moved from July 31 to Aug. 31. Only the 60 players in a team’s Player Pool will be eligible to be traded, which limits the bartering of prospects. Again, you don’t want to make moves in this crapshoot of a season.

The Braves have Max Fried, who has pitched like an ace, then Sean Newcomb, and Kyle Wright, who found some traction in his start over the weekend. Touki Toussaint had a nice outing August 1 against the Mets.

It should be a no-brainer that when the Braves have to get down to 26 players in two weeks they should be stocked with 14 pitchers and thread together 27 outs. Fried and Wright must go six, ideally seven, because The Committee in the bullpen has to pitch and pitch and pitch. There is no limit on the amount of pitchers on a roster this season (it was 13 for the new 26-man roster). The Braves should carry 14 pitchers because they have every day players who can move around the diamond to different positions.

Losing Soroka should mean the Braves need to be counted out of this 60-game sprint. Not so fast. The NL East is a wreck, what with the Marlins’ issues on safety, the Mets’ poor bullpen, and the Phillies and Nationals scuffling. A third NL East title is still attainable, however tainted it is.

Things certainly depend on Wright, a first-round pick, finding his way immediately. Mike Foltynewicz? There are suggestions his drop in velocity is mental. If that’s the case, he has a chance to help the Braves again. If it is physical, it’s over. But we saw in 2019 how Folty bounced back and was lights out down the stretch and in one playoff game. The Braves also have prospect Ian Anderson in the wings. I saw him in spring training against a semi-Big League lineup of the Orioles and he was magnificent.

“Somebody else is going to get an opportunity,” Snitker said. “Things like that happen. These guys will regroup here. And somebody’s going to get an opportunity to do something really good. We’ve got some young guys who are going to continue to get better and we’ll be fine.”

Losing Soroka only means the Braves aren’t going to run away with the National League East. The playoffs are still in the picture. But in this lost season of 2020 what will that really be good for when all is said and done.

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