Welcome to The Stew’s annual team elimination posts. Like our video-game posts of last year, these are best done in theme. This time? We’re going with “Game of Thrones.” Each eliminated team will join the “army of the dead.” But we won’t just talk about their demise. We’ll also highlight some positives, pick out a memorable moment, tell you their biggest need and let you know when the club might be good again.
Sorry, Atlanta Braves, but you won’t sit on the Iron Throne this season.
The Braves ushered in their new suburban stadium, but the season wasn’t as pristine as their digs. They weren’t expected to compete — beyond a few pundits who picked them as a sleeper because of their mixture of veterans and young prospects — so 2017 won’t go down as disappointing in Atlanta as it was in some cities. But the Braves didn’t even get the best of Bartolo Colon or their No. 1 young player.
Let’s further break down the season that was in Atlanta:
UNBOWED, UNBENT, UNBROKEN (aka WHAT WENT RIGHT)
The Braves discovered a new star after moving to SunTrust Park. His name is “The Freeze.” Though he won’t help the team on the field, he’s quickly become an Internet sensation and one of the best providers of in-game entertainment in any sport. Ballpark entertainment aside, the Braves had to be mostly pleased with the development of their young pitchers and extremely happy with the continued awesomeness of Freddie Freeman and Ender Inciarte. (Mark Townsend)
THE RED WEDDING (aka WHAT WENT WRONG)
After giving Dansby Swanson a pretty quick promotion last season, the former No. 1 overall pick struggled mightily in 2017 and was ultimately demoted. An injury to rookie Johan Camargo opened the door for Swanson’s return. He’s played better during his second stint which is hopefully a sign of better things to come, but overall it felt like a lost season. The same optimism will not be reserved for Jim Johnson. The veteran reliever blew nine of his 31 save opportunities for a team that had no margin for error. (Mark Townsend)
THE NORTH REMEMBERS (aka MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT)
The most memorable of the Braves’ season didn’t even involve baseball. The Braves and their crowd-pleasing racer The Freeze gave us what was perhaps baseball’s most viral moment.
This is the race that brought The Freeze national attention because of his competitor’s premature celebration that totally backfired. Let’s all remember this glorious moment:
Here’s hoping nobody in Atlanta falls on their face next year. (Mike Oz)
WORDS ARE WIND (aka MOST IMPORTANT THING TO FIX)
The Braves are coming to the end of their rebuild, which means making some difficult decisions. The most difficult will be deciding what to do with manager Bryan Snitker, who was the interim manager after Fredi Gonzalez was fired in 2016. When a team is rebuilding, you don’t look at the wins and losses to decide the fate of a manager. You need to look at how he handles his players, and that’s where Snitker has fumbled a bit. Between Dansby Swanson and some puzzling decisions with his young pitchers, Snitker has some issues. And with Ron Washington and Bo Porter on the coaching staff, there are options aplenty. But Snitker remains popular in the clubhouse, so it’s not an easy decision. The Braves have the pieces they need to compete, and could actually do so soon, but their front office needs to decide what they really want out of the person who could lead them there. (Liz Roscher)
A DREAM OF SPRING (aka HOPE FOR THE FUTURE)
The Braves are up there with the White Sox for best farm system in the game. Now, it’s all about developing those guys and getting them to the majors. The team experienced some of that this year. Ozzie Albies looked like he belonged almost immediately. Others weren’t as fortunate. Sean Newcomb, Luke Sims, Max Fried, Luiz Gohara and Aaron Blair all dealt with some struggles. Mike Foltynewicz and Matt Wisler have yet to figure things out as well. Pitchers can be fickle. It may be a while before they are finished products. Thankfully, the Braves have a lot of them, and can afford to let them all try and figure things out in the majors while they prep the reinforcements in the minors. Still, it might be a few years before they get back into contention. (Chris Cwik)
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