Disappointment can be defined as the gap between our expectations and reality. For Braves fans in 2023, that gap was as wide as the Grand Canyon.
The Braves came into 2023 with sky-high expectations. Coming off a disappointing 2022 that included them being eliminated by the Philadelphia Phillies in four games, the Braves returned most of their core and seemed ready to make a run at the World Series.
The regular season was a greatest-hits montage. Think of Led Zeppelin at their peak. When Plant, Page, JPJ, and Bonham were clicking and in sync, no band on earth could touch them. The same could be said for the Braves in the 2023 regular season. They tied the 2019 Minnesota Twins (who could forget that team, by the way) for the most home runs in a season at 307. They achieved their sixth consecutive NL East title, had All-Star talent one through nine and stellar pitching. Add in a season that matched the franchise record for wins (104), and Atlanta seemed destined for another championship.
The Phillies put a quick end to that dream and eliminated the Braves in four games in the Division Series for the second straight year. Statistics between the two rivals show that the Fightins might own the Braves.
Head-to-head in the last two postseasons, the Phillies outscored the Braves 44-21 and hit 16 home runs to the Braves’ 8. They beat the Braves’ pitching, whose starters had a 6.82 ERA compared to the Phillies’ 2.31. Finally, the Phillies led the Braves for 49 innings, while the Braves led for a mere six.
This is domination, and the Braves’ excuses are getting old. Many blame Fox Sports’ Jake Mintz, who reported that Braves shortstop Orlando Arcia taunted Phillies superstar Bryce Harper in the clubhouse after the Braves’ 5-4 victory in Game 2. Braves fans argued that Mintz’s reporting violated the “sanctity” of the clubhouse and swung the series’ momentum.
This take is a joke; Arcia talked trash, and Harper responded in kind, hitting two homers in the next game and pacing the Phillies to a series win. If you can’t take the heat, then get out of the kitchen.
Another, more popular take among Braves fans is that the MLB playoff format punishes good teams and cheapens achievements made in the regular season. But some would argue that this is good for baseball. Winning a championship is not based on what you do in the regular season; it never has been. It’s about getting hot at the right time, and that goes for every sport, not just baseball.
The more chaos, the better, and the MLB playoffs have been nothing but chaos in 2023. This year, the three teams with the best regular season records were the Braves, the Orioles and the Dodgers, which combined for one win in the playoffs. They faced more competent opponents in the Phillies, Rangers and Diamondbacks, teams that got hot at the right time.
So, what we have are unhealthy expectations being met with a heaping dose of “copium.” Rather than face the reality that their teams aren’t up to par, fans will make constant excuses to cope with their disappointment.
It’s certainly not terrible to hope; sports fans should dream big and root hard for their teams. But they should also be ready to surrender their expectations to the chaos of sports.
One of my favorite parts of being sports editor for the Crimson is sitting back on a packed sports weekend and just soaking it all in. The passion of college football, the talent of NFL football, and the chaos of playoff baseball this past weekend made for a potent sports cocktail. More fans need to appreciate sports for what they are and stop making excuses. Ride the wave. Sometimes, it will consume you, but you always float back to the top. After all, there’s always next season.