Outside of winning, watching rivals flounder is one of the best things in sports. The Braves are doing all they can, taking two out of three against the Orioles en route to an NL-leading 24 wins as well as an MLB-best seven-game division lead. Moreover, Braves Country is enjoying their most hated fan bases thrashing in misery.
The Mets and Phillies were supposed to give Atlanta a run for their money in the NL East, and though it’s far too early to make any sweeping judgments, both clubs have severely underachieved up until this point in the season, but there’s another rival that is doing even worse — the Cardinals.
St. Louis isn’t a division rival, but a lot of Braves fans might despise them even more than their NL East foes. The club’s fan base acts as if they invented baseball. “The Cardinal Way” is an illusion that the franchise has some innate insight about how to play the game that no other organization possesses. It’s old, played out, and clearly not working for them. The Cardinals sit nine games back of the Pirates in the NL Central at the time of this writing. Part of their shortcomings is the lack of starting pitching, but the team’s biggest offseason acquisition has turned into a colossal mistake.
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, John Mozeliak and Oli Marmol decided to sign Willson Contreras to a five-year $87.5 million contract instead of trading for Sean Murphy, who is now playing like an MVP candidate for the Braves.
Despite being an offensive weapon, Contreras has left a lot to be desired behind the dish, which the Cardinals are learning the hard way. It’s been an overwhelming failure for St. Louis, and they could’ve had an ascending Gold Glove talent in Sean Murphy, but the Cardinals decided the A’s asking price for Murphy was too rich, according to Rosenthal.
For Murphy, the A’s asked the Cardinals for outfielder Lars Nootbaar, Gold Glove-winner Brendan Donovan and a power young pitcher like Gordon Graceffo, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I later reported the A’s wanted Nootbaar or Donovan, plus Graceffo. The Cardinals were unwilling to trade any of those players, and instead wanted the A’s to choose two from a group of four consisting of outfielder Dylan Carlson, second baseman Nolan Gorman, outfielder Alec Burleson and first baseman/outfielder Juan Yepez.
Needless to say, the Braves are more than happy with their current circumstances. Murphy leads the entire MLB in fWAR (2.1) while leading all catchers in wRC+ (179), on-base percentage (.426), slugging (.621), home runs (9), RBIs (28), and several other metrics. That’s just the offensive production, and not even considering the job he’s done behind home plate, which he has been heralded for by the club and its pitchers.
The Braves have the best record in the NL, and the Cardinals have the worst. Planting Sean Murphy in St. Louis wouldn’t turn the entire program around, but it’s just more proof that Atlanta is the class of baseball, and gives Braves Country more ammo in their disdain for Cardinals fans.
To make things even sweeter, Rosenthal notes the Braves extended Murphy to a six-year $73 million deal while the Cardinals not only paid $87.5 million for Contreras, but they also lost their second-highest selection in the 2023 draft in addition to $500K in international bonus pool space due to a rejected qualifying offer.
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