Atlanta

·7 min read

Getting traded sucks.

Like, I won’t lie — I wasn’t looking to leave Chicago. I enjoyed playing for the Cubs, enjoyed the city, enjoyed Wrigley….. plus I’d already changed teams last offseason. I wasn’t exactly dying to do it twice in a year. So when I saw Jed’s name pop up on my caller I.D. over the All-Star break, my heart kind of sank a little. We’d been losing, and I’d heard the same rumors as everyone else — that the Cubs were going to be sellers.

Turns out the rumors were true. Jed thanked me for my time with the club, and told me that the Braves had come after me hard. So they were moving me to Atlanta.

Atlanta??? Man, I was pretty surprised. At the time, the Braves were a game under .500. They were third in the division — 4½ back. And they’d just lost Acuña, an MVP–caliber player, for the rest of the season. In my mind, I was thinking, you know, No offense.… but shouldn’t these guys be sellers, too?? I actually remember one of the first things that somebody said to me when I got there: “Don’t get too comfortable.”

Translation: If things don’t turn around, you might be getting traded all over again.

Slowly but surely, though….. things turned around.

It wasn’t anything crazy at first. No huge winning streak out of the gate. No dramatic changes. It wasn’t like in the movies where the music hits and the team just rips off a bunch of W’s. It was more of a gradual thing, you know what I mean? It’s like at some point we just started winning a little more than we were losing.

And then it’s funny — I remember about a month after the trade, we’re a few games over .500 and on a long road trip. And I was playing cards on the plane with some of the pitchers. The plane ride ended, and then from there it’s like, the team has two buses: one for pitchers and one for position players. I wanted to keep playing cards with those guys, though — so I hopped in with them instead. And we’re on the bus, playing cards, talking trash, you know….. when at some point someone asks me, “Wait. Why are you on the pitchers bus?” And I wasn’t really even thinking about it. We were just having a good time, I guess, and I was in one of those moods.

But I said: “Because y’all are the motherf*ckers who are going to win us a World Series.”

I think we won like six games in a row after that.

Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

And I’m bringing that story up, not because I’m trying to say that that’s what jump-started all of this. Obviously not. We’re here because this is one hell of a baseball team — and guys have been playing great when it’s mattered most.

But I also think, in terms of looking at success, that sometimes some of the “other stuff” can be underrated.

Like…. baseball seasons are long, man. They’re a serious grind. Things can get stale. And I think over the course of a long season, it’s stuff like culture, like swagger, like vibes, like whatever you want to call it — it’s stuff like that that can actually make a pretty big difference. Stuff like that can get everybody’s energy right.

And if there’s one thing that I think I’ve been able to bring to this team, beyond just my bat and my glove, I’d say it’s that energy — and that belief: That nothing is as dangerous in baseball as a team with a ton of confidence.

Y’all are the motherf*ckers who are going to win us a World Series.Joc Pederson

I’ll give you another example real quick. So we’re in L.A. for a series near the end of the summer — and my wife has this great stylist there who comes to the house to do hers and the kids’ hair. And since I’m around, the stylist asks if I want to do anything with mine. I probably would have just said no.… but then I remember something.

So, back when I was in Chicago, Rizzo had this idea: that halfway through the year, we needed to go blonde. “Trust me, good things happen when you go blonde.” Not sure if he fact-checked that, or where it came from, but he’d always be saying it. Then I got traded, though, and he did too, so it never happened. But now flash-forward — it’s late August, I’m kind of grinding, not hitting like I should be….. and I remember the blonde thing with Rizzo. So I’m like, alright — why not. I tell my wife’s hair stylist, “Let’s switch it up.” Went blonde.

The guys in the bullpen saw it, and had my walk-up song changed to “The Real Slim Shady.” The fans caught on to it, and of course did their thing. The whole team got a kick out of it. And then also….. it kind of worked???

Very next game, I hit a home run off Buehler.

Rizzo texts me right after, thrilled — as if I proved his theory, and we discovered a major breakthrough in science or something. And I’m not saying we did…...

But at the same time: It really has just been that kind of season, man.

Like, it’s been an incredible run — game in, game out. It’s been so many different guys stepping up in so many different moments. It’s been us getting MVP–type seasons from Albies and Riley. It’s been Soler legitimately carrying us for stretches. It’s been Freddie taking Hader deep to send us to the NLCS. It’s been Adrianza coming through with that pinch-hit double.… then Eddie hitting the bomb that changed everything. It’s been Matzek, in an elimination game, giving us two of the most ridiculous shutdown innings you’ll ever see. It’s been Will slamming the door on some of the best lineups in baseball. It’s been Dansby flashing the glove to get that final out. It’s been the entire pitching staff, frankly.

It’s been championship-level baseball, up and down the roster.

But when I look back on these last few months, and when I look ahead to this World Series in front of us — what stands out to me, just as much, is the little things.

What stands out to me is the stuff that you can’t see in a box score.

It’s the front office believing in this group just crazily enough to be buyers at the trade deadline with a team that was under .500. It’s our security guys coming up to me during my very first batting practice, and saying how glad they were to have me on board. It’s Ian Anderson convincing me to change my walk-up music to “Way 2 Sexy,” and then promising, “It’s gonna bang.” It’s the white pearls becoming….. whatever the white pearls have become (shoutout to Gabe, my jeweler). It’s “Wine Club,” this thing that me and a few guys have started, where after each big playoff win we’ll crack open a new bottle. It’s Poppy, my three-year-old daughter, running out onto the field after we clinched the pennant and letting me know, “Dada, the Braves won! You played good defense!” It’s a couple of former teammates I’m really close to, coming up to me postgame and saying, “Hey — I love you. Now go beat the Astros for us.”

And it’s the city of Atlanta, being absolutely electric, every single night at Truist, and matching our energy when we’ve needed it most.

Obviously I don’t know what’s coming next — it’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen over these next four, five, six, seven games.

I like our chances, though.

Because, yeah — we might not be a superteam. We might have only won 88 games. We might have had our share of injuries, and slipped below some people’s radars, and taken an unconventional path to get to this stage.

But we also just might be those motherf*ckers.

And no one’s beat us yet.