Fans in all sports overreact far too quickly, which is how it should be in most instances, but it may not be more prevalent in baseball, a game where it is much easier to fail than to find success.
Alex Anthopoulos and the Braves organization receive a lot of praise for just about everything. They draft and develop as well as anyone, they ink their young talent early resulting in team-friendly extensions, and rob opposing teams in trades for All-Stars. They haven’t missed in quite some time, but it’s really the little things that go unnoticed that have put the Braves head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the league.
I talk all the time about Alex Anthopoulos’ ability to find diamonds in the rough. Every season, some guy that nobody has ever heard of joins the Braves and contributes in a significant fashion. In the past, it’s been guys like Tyler Matzek and Dylan Lee. This season, look no further than Michael Tonkin, who hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2017. The Braves are capable of finding value where nobody else thinks to look; they are also incredibly patient, which has paid major dividends over the years.
The Braves aren’t quick to give up on their players, especially ones they feel have talent and are doing the necessary things to improve their level of play. Think back to 2021; everyone was ready to give up on A.J. Minter. He just wasn’t getting it done in high leverage situations. But even after a stint in AAA, they knew how valuable he was going to be during their playoff run. Once he came back up, Brian Snitker didn’t hesitate to toss him right back into the fire. Fast forward to the postseason, and he was an integral piece to the Night Shift, which helped lead the Braves to their first World Series since 1995.
There are countless examples of this over the last six years, but perhaps the greatest has been this season with Marcell Ozuna. There were probably four different times when the Braves could have said goodbye and nobody would have blinked an eye for various reasons. The off-the-field issues coupled with his abysmal results at the plate looked like it was reaching a boiling point in April, as he hit just .085 in the first month of the season.
I’m not sure there was a Braves fan left on the planet that was still banging the table for Ozuna to be on the roster, but the organization saw what he was doing behind the scenes and kept giving him opportunities. Now, Ozuna looks like the best designated hitter in the National League. Since the calendar turned to May, The Big Bear is hitting .293 with 26 homers — good for a .933 OPS. He is once again a critical piece to this Braves lineup, looking like the player he was when he had a historic 2020 campaign.
Without Ozuna, the Braves would still be pretty damn good. They might still have the best record and offense in the league. But with him, this lineup has become an unstoppable force.
I can’t advocate for what Ozuna’s done off the field. It’s awful and deserves to be condemned. But what I can do is praise the Braves for their baseball decisions. They continue to prove time and time again that they know what the hell they are doing, and anybody questioning them at this point may want to take a look in the mirror and ask themself…
Photo: John Adams/Icon Sportswire