Nobody Gave the Braves a Chance

ALSO: WILL WINTER MEETINGS FALL HOSTAGE TO LABOR NEGOTIATIONS?

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Pregame Pepper

Did You Know?

In nine of Atlanta’s 11 post-season wins, Braves pitchers held opponents to two runs or less . . .

Oft-criticized during the season, Atlanta closer Will Smith had a 0.00 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and .139 opponents' average in 11 post-season appearances, and was 2-0 with six saves in six opportunities (no other pitcher on any team had more than one save this postseason) . . .

Rookie lefty Dylan Lee, who started the Game 5 “bullpen game” for Atlanta, was the first pitcher to make his first major-league start in a World Series game . . .

Unsung hero for the Braves was Kyle Wright, who took the roster spot of injured ace Charlie Morton and pitched 4 2/3 innings of quality relief in Game 4 in just his fourth major-league appearance of the season . . .

With the exception of two homers by Jose Altuve, Atlanta hit all of the 13 home runs in the 2021 World Series . . .

The Astros both leagues with a .272 team batting average with men in scoring position and also scored the most runs but scored just four times in their four World Series losses . . .

Dusty Baker has more regular-season wins (1,987) than any manager never to win a world championship.

Leading Off

Pitching Plus Power Propels Underdog Braves

By Dan Schlossberg

Before the 2021 baseball playoffs started, New York Post columnist Ken Davidoff was the lone prominent prognosticator who picked the Atlanta Braves to win the World Series. But, then again, what do forecasters know?

Like the TV weather girls who invariably predict fair skies on rainy days, most baseball writers missed the boat. They simply failed to see that the Braves were surging — the hottest team in baseball since finally vaulting over the .500 mark on August 6.

Trade deadline acquisitions Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall, and Joc Pederson combined for 27 home runs after donning Braves uniforms and were just as devastating in postseason play.

Rosario, obtained while idling away on Cleveland’s injured list, recovered in time to run away with MVP honors in the National League Championship Series.

Then Soler did the same in the World Series, smacking three home runs — one as a pinch-hitter — that put the Braves ahead.

As a team, the Braves hit 11 home runs against the Astros in the Fall Classic while holding Houston hitters to a pair — both by diminutive Jose Altuve.

In nine of their 11 postseason wins, Atlanta pitchers limited powerful opponents to two or less runs. That was some job by a much-maligned pitching staff — and especially a bullpen led by a trio of talented lefties.

A.J. Minter, Tyler Matzek, and Will Smith had their way with the Astros, the highest-scoring team in the majors during the 2021 season. Houston averaged more than five runs per game during the 162-game campaign but went limp against Atlanta.

Manager Brian Snitker also deserves lots of credit. Normally steadfast in playing eight regulars and batting them in the same order, the veteran organization man (45 years in the Atlanta system) moved things around, especially in Game 7, and wound up winning it all.

It was the first World Series exposure for Snitker, who was managing in the minors when the Braves won their only previous world title in 1995. Earlier versions of the franchise, playing in other cities, won in 1914 and 1957.

Snitker, the oldest manager in the National League at age 66, has one of the youngest teams. Atlanta stars who have yet to reach their 25th birthday include Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, Ronald Acuna Jr., Mike Soroka, and Ian Anderson, among others.

With Acuna a potential MVP and Soroka a possible Cy Young Award candidate, their return in 2022 suggests the Braves will be even more formidable next year.

That’s not good news for the Phillies, who have been out of the playoffs since 2011; the Mets, absent since 2005; or the Nationals, who have fallen into the divisional basement since winning the 2019 division Wild Card and knocking off Houston in the World Series.

Only an unsigned Basic Agreement stands in their way.

HERE’S THE PITCH weekend editor Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is the author of 38 baseball books, including When the Braves Ruled the Diamond and The New Baseball Bible. E.mail Dan at ballauthor@gmail.com.

Cleaning Up

Winter Meetings Subject to Success of Labor Talks

By Dan Schlossberg

Just when it looked like the Baseball Winter Meetings would be back this year after a cancellation caused by Covid, the highlight of the baseball off-season could be lost to a labor dispute.

That’s because the current Basic Agreement between players and owners expires on Dec. 1 — five days before the meetings are set to begin at the Disney World Swan & Dolphin in Lake Buena Vista, FL.

Extending the deadline for a week would be a simple solution toward saving the meetings, a business event with highly social overtones.

It’s a time of trades, free agent signings, and posturing by people like Scott Boras, the prosperous but reviled superagent who commands big money for his clients. He always holds court with any reporters he can find, especially in the middle of a hotel lobby where there’s plenty of room for TV cameras.

Managers, two at a time, hold hour-long seminars with reporters, GMs huddle in hotel rooms, and out-of-work executives show up to shake hands and perhaps stumble into a job as a broadcaster (MLB Network is overloaded with them).

All sorts of TV and radio stations, including the New York-based SNY and YES as well as the national MLB Network from Sirius XM Satellite Radio, set up booths outside the press room and reporters sit for hours, patiently waiting for rumors to turn into reality.

News can break at any time and often does. During the days when Ted Turner, George Steinbrenner, and Brad Corbett were calling the shots for their teams, middle-of-the-night deals were not uncommon. The guys would go drinking, come back to the press room after the bars closed, and announce swaps made in various states of inebriation.

Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, to cite one example, was moved in a four-team swap at the Hawaii Winter Meetings in the ‘70s.

There’s also a trade show of new products, from baseball cards to uniform hats, and a slew of award presentations from Topps, Baseball America, and Minor League Baseball, among others. Baseball food, product giveaways, and occasional appearances by current and retired players are also part of the trade show.

During the last winter meetings, at San Diego in 2019, Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg were among those who got new contracts or extensions.

Major-league managers have a luncheon, baseball writers have a meeting, and various Veterans Committees of the Baseball Hall of Fame announce votes that this year could put Gil Hodges into the gallery after a way-too-long wait.

The Baseball Winter Meetings are good for the game because the publicity puts baseball back in sports page headlines in the middle of the winter. For teams, they help sell season tickets. Fans are not allowed in but they gobble up the news like leftover Thanksgiving turkeys.

Let’s hope Rob Manfred, Tony Clark, and their respective minions don’t kill the golden goose by rattling their sabers rather than negotiating in good faith.

Baseball hasn’t had a work stoppage in 26 years but fans still remember the 232-day strike that killed the 1994 postseason and the start of the ‘95 campaign. A lockout or a strike would be devastating at a time when the game is fighting against football, basketball, and hockey for the right to call itself the national pastime.

The only strikes should be the ones thrown by pitchers — not by a bunch of crybabies not satisfied with seven-figure salaries and perks too numerous to list here. That applies to lockouts too.

Should the game stop, this winter would be the coldest since 1994-95, with the winter meetings cancelled, spring training threatened, and even the end-of-March openers uncertain.

A delay for Covid was understandable; a delay for greed is unforgiveable.

Baseball will have only itself to blame if fans stay away in 2022.

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is weekend editor of Here’s The Pitch and contributor to forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Ball Nine, and Sports Collectors Digest. E.mail him at ballauthor@gmail.com.

Timeless Trivia

After leading the majors with 107 wins, the San Francisco Giants not only made an early playoffs exit but also lost star catcher Buster Posey, a former MVP who shocked the baseball world by retiring after a fine 12-year career . . .

Max Fried, the only World Series starter to last as long as six innings, conjured up images of Hall of Famer Tom Glavine, who worked eight scoreless frames to clinch the 1995 World Series for the Braves . . .

The Mets are the only NL East team without a World Series win during the 2000s . . .

Postseason studs Eddie Rosario and Jorge Soler are unrestricted free agents . . .

Yordan Alvarez, Most Valuable Player of the AL Championship Series for the Astros against the Red Sox, totally evaporated in the World Series.


Know Your Editors

HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [bchrom831@gmail.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [nymfan97@gmail.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [ballauthor@gmail.com] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.

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