Even though the Braves are a nightmare for anybody into social justice, they’re also a dream for those of us hugging miracles.
Just like that, the Braves became the most improbable world champions in baseball history.
“This is my sixth World Series as either a player or a coach, and I’ve never been associated with a team that has overcome this much,” Braves bench coach Walt Weiss told me over the weekend, reflecting on his 14 years as a player through 2000 before he managed the Colorado Rockies for four seasons. He joined the Braves in 2017. “The cast of characters that overcame this adversity this year, you could never draw it up. In July, there’s no way we’re even winning the division. To be standing here now, it’s a minor miracle.”
Actually, it’s a major one. These Braves have done something no other MLB team has done before.
The 1969 Mets? They were legendary underdogs, but unlike these Braves, they didn’t have injuries sideline their No. 1 starting pitcher (Mike Soroka
) for the season, along with their best player (Ronald Acuna
) after early July. In addition, starting Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud missed three months with a bad hand
, and their cleanup hitter (Marcell Ozuna
) left the lineup for good after May over allegations of domestic violence.
These Braves also lost their best pitcher of the season (Charlie Morton
) to a broken leg in Game 1 of the World Series.
If not those Mets, then what about that 1914 team during the Braves’ stay in Boston before they moved to Milwaukee in 1953 and then to Atlanta? That team was called The Miracle Braves
after surging from last place on July 4 to sweep the powerful Philadelphia Athletics to win it all.
Neither those Braves nor any other MLB team spent the season with a losing record as long as these Braves before reaching the World Series.
These Braves didn’t break .500 until August 6
. Even so, they won the National League East for a fourth consecutive year. Afterward, they grabbed the National League Division Series (NLDS) over the Milwaukee Brewers and the National League Championship Series (NLCS) against the Los Angeles Dodgers, both favorites over the Braves. So were the Astros, playing in their third World Series in five years with one of the game’s most lethal offenses.
The Braves had a stifling bullpen, though. They complemented that with a star-of-the-moment approach at the plate, but nobody on either the Braves or the Astros surpassed Soler for clutch moments. He slammed a homer as the very first batter
of this World Series. He clobbered another one as a pinch-hitter in Game 4 for the game winner. Then he ripped his three-run strike Tuesday night to signal the Braves were ending their season-long tribute in style to Hank Aaron, the franchise icon and baseball great who died in January.
Still, the Braves aren’t a fairy tale without controversy.
There was former President Donald Trump’s appearance at Truist Park for Game 4, and there also was the Braves organization joining Georgia Republican governor Brian Kemp earlier this season in blasting MLB for yanking the All-Star Game out of Atlanta. Commissioner Rob Manfred did so after Georgia’s Republican-led state legislature passed a draconian voting law, whose restrictions were — as I’ve written elsewhere
— an attack against the state’s minority citizens.
Before Game 6 of the NLCS, the Braves invited Travis Tritt
to sing the national anthem, and Tritt is an Atlanta-area native who is an anti-vaxxer and prince of right-wing politics.
Most strikingly, Braves officials refused to get rid of the chopping and the chanting. They encouraged it during games with a digital image — on all of the ballpark’s video boards — of a tomahawk going up and down.
Even miracle workers have a lot to improve on before next season.