MLB veteran on Braves stint: “Never been happier playing baseball”

Hurston Waldrep Braves hat AJ Smith-Shawver

The Braves own the best record in baseball, and they’re doing it without some of the top talents in the sport living up to expectations.

Atlanta has been without Spencer Strider and Sean Murphy for a vast majority of the season, but even more impressively, the club keeps winning without significant contributions from their three best hitters.

Ronald Acuna Jr. is coming off a unanimous MVP campaign but is off to a slow start in 2024. The Venezuelan superstar has a 102 OPS+ and only one home run in 26 games.

Austin Riley had the walk-off single in Sunday’s series finale against the Guardians, but he owns a 93 OPS+, which is 7% lower than league average. For a guy who has been a lock to finish in the top 10 of the MVP voting, that isn’t ideal.

Matt Olson led baseball in home runs last year but only has three so far this season. The Braves first baseman owns a 101 OPS+ amid a lengthy slump.

Still, the club owns the best record in the sport, and it’s a testament to the work Alex Anthopoulos has done building out the roster. Not just the 26-man roster, but the 40-man roster as well.

Moreover, it’s not just the breadth of talent in Atlanta. The Braves have cohesion off the field that few organizations in sports can match. Anthopoulos and Brian Snitker have created an environment where everyone from executives to trainers wants to show up to work and pull on the same rope.

It’s been heralded as one of the best franchises in sports, and that was echoed by an MLB veteran. Kevin Pillar said on Foul Territory that he’s never been happier playing baseball in his life than when he was with the Atlanta Braves.

Pillar has had stints with eight different clubs — seven years with the Blue Jays, and one year with the Braves, Mets, Giants, Rockies, Red Sox, Dodgers, and White Sox.

Some of those were very short stays, just four games in Los Angeles, but the sentiment remains. The Braves are one of the best teams in baseball because of the sheer talent on the roster; however, it’s among the most well-oiled machines off the diamond as well.

From Liberty Media to the ushers at Truist Park, everyone is tugging on the same rope and wants to do a good job for the guy or girl next to them.

Photographer: Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire

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