While Atlanta fans apparently are pretty touchy about any perceived criticism of their club, even we have to admit there’s something pretty baller about clinching the NL East one day after the Phillies broadcasters were bitching about the bravado Atlanta showed as they were kicking the Phils’ ass once again. Which all led to this:
Check and mate.
Oh sure, the Phillies won last year’s Division Series. That was four games. Over the last five full regular seasons, when Philly and anyone else in the NL East has had 162 games to prove they were the better team, rarely has anyone come close. The Mets did last year, and lost on a tiebreaker. But that’s been about it. Atlanta clinched this year with 17 games to go. In 2021 they won by 6.5 games. They won by four in 2019, over the eventual World Series champs. 2018 the gap was eight games.
Perhaps the most startling stat, is that the NL East in its current iteration has been around for 28 seasons. Atlanta has won it 18 times. This is just what they do.
Whatever we may think of their White Flight ballpark and suburb, or their gleefully racist chanting at games that we’ll soon be bombarded with in October, this is the model team on the field in all of MLB. While the Mets and Padres have tried to shortcut the building process through cash and trades, or other teams have gone the other way like Tampa and Cleveland, what Atlanta and the Dodgers have proven is that if any team wants an extended run of dominance then a team must spend and develop at the same time. Atlanta did it a different way, paying their guys like Ronald Acuna Jr. Ozzie Albies, Spencer Strider, Austin Riley, Michael Harris II, and others at the beginning of their careers, giving them more money at the start so they could give them less at the end. That certainly raised some controversy when Acuna and Albies signed, but then again, no one made them sign those deals. And they got more money then they would have. Perhaps it will look callous if Atlanta goes on to discard them as they approach 30, but it’s more likely no one will care as they rack up division titles and possibly pennants too.
Perhaps what Atlanta has been best at is knowing which of the surplus of prospects they had to move along in deals for guys that were established and ready to contribute big time. Matt Olson came in return for some auxiliary bench pieces and one pitcher who’s done ok at AA. Sean Murphy arrived for the real contributor of William Contreras, who wasn’t needed when Murphy was arriving, and a whole bunch of lottery tickets. It used to be when John Schuerholtz was in charge of Atlanta that if he called you offering any of his prospects, you needed to hang up the phone. Alex Anthopoulos should be gaining the same rep.
They’ll be the most complete team, certainly in the NL, heading into the playoffs. The Dodgers are scraping together a rotation at this point. The Brewers can barely hit. The Phillies are still built for short series where they can mostly focus on the top of their roster. The Cubs have a spotty offense, one starter they can trust, and a manager who eats paint chips. Everyone below that is ass.
It’s going to be this way for a while. Everyone who truly matters for Atlanta is under 30. And it’s not like anyone in the East is poised to spring on them when they age. It’s been this way for 30 years.
And something to make you smile
-Anyway, we’ll close with a heartwarming aspect of baseball. Click all the way through in reverse if you can:
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