On Tuesday night, the MLB Network televised the debut of its documentary: “Atlanta Rules, The Story of the ’90s Braves.” A fine stroll through good times and glory, from two stadiums ago.
Wednesday morning, on the Disney network of green fields, where all who enter pass beneath an arch that reads, “Where Dreams Come True,” was the debut of the 2018 Braves. It is a story as yet unwritten, but one that will by all projections put more distance between this franchise and its winning ways.
Spit a sunflower seed in any direction here on the morning of the first gathering of pitchers and catchers and you’d likely hit someone not yet born in 1991, when the Braves strung the first pearl on the necklace of 14 consecutive division titles. That’s how great the gap is, the Braves a full generation removed from their best days.
Kolby Allard, born in 1997, is a left-handed pitcher ranked as the 58th ranked prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. He didn’t know the documentary was on. He was watching the Winter Olympics, snowboarding to be precise.
Born in 1992, pitcher Aaron Blair said he doesn’t watch much TV at all. He needs the screen for this gaming.
In instructional league, 20-year-old pitcher Mike Soroka, as part of a team assignment, once did research on Dale Murphy. And he promises he’ll get to the documentary sooner or later.
The Braves’ hottest prospect, the one everyone will watch this spring, turned 20 in December. Ronald Acuna took up his locker in the major league clubhouse this morning, unboxing a new blue glove and immediately setting to the chore of beating it into submission. Acuna reported to camp before even the Braves interpreter, so I’m not really sure what he watched Tuesday night.
On such young shoulders is borne the weight of making the Braves documentary-worthy again.
It’s fine if they didn’t rush to watch the highlights of the dusty 1990s, even if the history is their own for as long as they play here.
But they really should check it out eventually, if only to understand the standard that was set. If only to calibrate their own expectations.
The new general manager, who remembers vividly watching the Braves in the 1992 NLCS as a 15-year-old in Canada, feels the weight of that history keenly.
“A ton,” Alex Anthopoulos said.
He watched the doc Tuesday. “It’s a reminder,” Anthopoulos said. “It has never been spoken about, never been told to me, but I feel it when I watch that. Not that you expect to re-create what’s been done. I don’t know if that will ever occur again. But you feel the magnitude of the responsibility.”
It is Anthopoulos’ belief that, “When you say the Braves, I think everyone associates us with winning. I really do, whether you’re young or old. That hasn’t gone away. It won’t go away for a long time.” But the truth is, this franchise has averaged just 71.5 wins over the past four seasons and hasn’t won a postseason series since 2001. That documentary starts to have the ring of ancient history.
This is the spring of the so very young. For the Braves, this is the spring of the prospect. Hope is this franchise’s leading commodity.
Raised in Gwinnett, 23-year-old pitching prospect Lucas Sims is more in touch with Braves history than many of his peers. “The history and tradition of winning, the pennants – that’s the baseball I was raised on,” he said.
He, too, missed the documentary, but did catch a short preview. Even that resonated with him.
“The two-minute clip I saw, there was one quote in there, someone said, ‘Everybody knew coming into camp, they were expecting to win.’ While it was only two minutes of the entire thing, I think that’s a pretty cool quote to sum it up. You expect to win. That’s something that hits home.”
Coming into this Braves camp, no such grand expectations exist.
Ah, but there was a time. ...