• Exclusives

    Braves CAN Still Be Successful In 2016

    One of the definitions of the word success is “the accomplishment of one’s goals.” (Dictionary.com)

    With that in mind, the Braves may yet enjoy a successful 2016 season. Their 0-7 start merely makes what was already likely that much more likely … that the Braves will miss the playoffs this year. But a playoff berth was never really the goal. It was understood from the time this team broke camp that the only Braves players likely to sniff the playoffs would be the veteran journeymen dealt away to contenders in late July.

    So what is the primary goal in 2016?

    Atlanta’s 2016 season is essentially the 2017 pre-season. Over the past 18 months their farm system has been transformed from a landfill to a treasure trove. And with that, the foundation for the Braves’ next World Series contender has been laid. They now plan to begin laying bricks on that foundation, installing the first wave of talent from their now top-rated pipeline.

    OF Mallex Smith made his MLB debut this week

    OF Mallex Smith made his MLB debut this week

    Speedy outfielder Mallex Smith has already debuted, and other top prospects including Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, Aaron Blair and Tyrell Jenkins could arrive in Atlanta later this season.

    Braves fans old enough to remember M.C. Hammer’s last hit will also remember the beginning of Atlanta’s remarkable 14-year division pennant streak. In 1990, the Braves were the laughing stock of the National League. But the foundation had been laid for something far greater. Prior to the 1991 season, accomplished veterans like Terry Pendleton and Sid Bream were added to an inexperienced but talent-rich roster, and … well, we know what happened next.

    I am certainly not predicting that the Braves will play game-7 of the World Series next year, as they did in 1991. It is bloody unlikely that the big league transformation will happen that quickly. After all, prior to ’91, no team had ever gone from worst to first. And in 1991, burgeoning stars like Ron Gant, David Justice, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz already had at least a couple of Major League seasons under their belt. They weren’t as green as the new baby Braves will be come next April.

    But look for the Braves front office to begin adding proven talent to the mix this winter. Braves GM John Copolella will be active in both the free agent and trade markets as the team looks to field a winner at their new Cobb County digs in 2017. While the ’17 Braves are unlikely to match the success of the ’91 team, there will be similarities. Come next year, this Atlanta roster will be brimming with young talent and will likely feature a feature a few more proven big league standouts than the 2016 squad. It’s a smart bet that the Braves will be much better next season and will be good for years to come.

    Braves GM John Coppolella

    Braves GM John Coppolella

    If you’re a Braves fan determined to agonize over every loss this year you may want to ask your family physician to prescribe a good antidepressant. But if you’d rather enjoy this season, try to take the long view.

    With so many talented kids likely to arrive in Atlanta this year, you will be witnessing the birth of something good — maybe even something great. It may not look like much at first. Rookies often take their lumps. If you need proof, check out the early stats of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Steve Avery and former Braves sluggers like Gary Sheffield and Andres Galarraga. But talent will eventually translate to wins.

    And the first pitch or at-bat of a big league rookie’s career is a special moment. You’ll see more than a few of those moments this year. Enjoy them!

    The Braves’ 2016 season will likely expire with the end of the regular season schedule, but as more and more young talent arrives, this team might just be playing an exciting brand of respectable baseball by the end of this season. And in any event, there’s plenty of cause for excitement if you’re able to ignore the standings this year.

    Take a deep breath, Braves fans. Come down off the ledge. Better days are ahead and they’re not all that far off.

    Excited about the future … or just disgusted with the present? Let me know what you think. Chirp me up on Twitter: @FriedbasballATL

    Kent Covington is a national radio news reporter and BravesWire Editor.