After seeming like they might finally be getting things on track with a series win over Philadelphia last weekend to reach .500 for the first time this season, the Braves followed that up with their second sweep at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays in as many weeks. Thursday's loss came after Will Smith allowed four earned runs in the ninth inning of a perviously tied ballgame.
And to add insult to injury — or I suppose injury to insult would be more accurate — Ronald Acuña Jr. left Thursday's game after injuring his ankle at first base and it was announced earlier this week that Mike Soroka will need additional exploratory surgery on his Achilles stemming from his injury last season.
Seemingly everything that could go wrong is continuing to do so. And it's time to really take a long look in the mirror and ask if that's going to change.
All I keep hearing from the people who don't want to accept a harsh reality is how early it is. "It's only 37 games!" they'll tell you excitedly. I imagine the'll be saying the same thing when it's 60, then 85, then 110 and so on until it's October and the Mets have won the division by 11 games.
Is Freddie Freeman going to hit .214 for the entire season? Probably not. Maybe Dansby Swanson and Marcell Ozuna really get it going at some point, too. But I'm going to need someone to explain to me where in the world the pitching is going to come from, because it isn't going to be from more than two starters currently on this team and it sure as hell isn't going to be from a bullpen with Smith as its closer — whose Thursday performance brings his 2021 ERA to 5.02 after a 4.50 mark last season.
But it's honestly not the fault of any of the people I just mentioned. It's the fault of a front office which saw nearly everything break perfectly for three years and thought that would just keep happening, so they didn't need to really improve the team. Soroka was the only serious injury the Braves suffered in the last three years they've won the division. You found out Acuña is one of the best players in baseball and had him playing alongside an MVP at the peak of his career. You got unbelievable value out of one-year deals from Ozuna and Josh Donaldson. Excluding Postseason mishaps, pretty much everything went better than could have possibly been expected.
And now we're seeing what happens when your strategy is relying on that to continue being the case rather than actually improving your team. Should Charlie Morton have been a better signing than it looks like he may end up being? Absolutely. And I don't think Alex Anthopoulos signed Drew Smyly with the expectation that he'd be atrocious, either. But when those were the two supposed upgrades to your pitching staff and you let Mark Melancon — who has been the best closer in baseball this year — walk, people have a right to question these decisions.
The Braves absolutely have enough talent to theoretically turn this ship around. I understand there are 125 games left. But I would like anyone who has watched all 37 of the ones this team has already played to tell me exactly what the encouraging signs are that they've seen. Because it seems to me this is much likely to get worse than better. And that's not even accounting for the fact that Acuña might be out for an extended period of time.
I'm mostly just sad. From up 3-1 in the NLCS to this. I just want the pain to go away.