Atlanta Braves (7/1/2017)

It’s been nearly four seasons since the Braves last winning campaign. At the close of 2013, the Braves had won their 17th division title with a record of 96-66 and boasted a roster with the likes of Jason Heyward, Evan Gattis, Andrelton Simmons, Craig Kimbrel, Brian McCann, and both Melvin (known as B.J. at the time) and Justin Upton. Despite expectations of a deep October run, the Braves fell just shy of defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers to face the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.

Now in 2017, the Braves have plenty of fresh faces and veteran stewardship to build into the National League’s next dynasty. While still in the infant stages of reaping the reward of their investments, the future appears bright for a young core that includes Dansby Swanson, Freddie Freeman, and Ender Enciarte. By placing veteran bats such as Brandon Phillips and Matt Kemp around them, the offense has steadily improved. As Julio Teheran continues to find a sense of consistency, the flashes of extraordinary talent that has kept his name in trade rumors of recent years has begun to shine through.

Recent call up Sean Newcomb, acquired in the trade which sent Andrelton Simmons to the Angels, has done nothing less than stoke the fire. Despite a 1-2 record, the 24-year-old southpaw has struck out 21 batters while posting a 1.48 ERA in only 4 games. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey has begun to rebound after a shaky start to the season. Dickey has won back-to-back outings, ending June with a 3-1 record while striking out 28 batters. While Dickey’s June ERA was a less-than-stellar 4.07, that number is down considerably from the 5.70 ERA he posted in May.

One of the few deals made by the Braves that hasn’t gone according to plan is Bartolo Colon. When Colon signed with Atlanta this past offseason, hopes were high that his age-defying consistency and workhorse history could eat innings, if not excel. Instead, Colon has been a disaster, going 2-8 with an 8.14 ERA in 13 games. After fighting an oblique injury, the Braves have designated Colon for assignment, possibly ending the 44-year-old’s tenure with Atlanta and perhaps punctuating the final lines of “Big Say’s” storied career.

As a complete unit, the Braves have hung tough in a division wrought with power pitching and big bats, sitting 8 games back of the Washington Nationals with a record of 37-41. While these Braves may be a far cry from the “team of the nineties” many of us grew up with, they are gritty and determined. No longer are they cellar-dwellers, or the doormat of the National League East. Through intricate trades and patience, the Braves have put together something that will spell disaster for everyone else. It still might be a few years down the line from now, but the Braves are coming.


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