By Tony Hooker
It’s why we play the game
When the MLB playoffs started, only one of the teams still standing had won fewer than 90 games. Even my beloved Redbirds, left for dead in September before putting together an epic 17 game winning streak to sneak in as the final seed in the National League, managed to win 90, on the dot.
The one team not to win 90? That would be the team that hoisted the Commissioner’s trophy on November 2, the Atlanta Braves. Of the dozen teams to make the field, the Braves were sixth in hitting and fourth in pitching during the regular season. Freddie Freeman was the only player on Atlanta’s squad to be given a sniff at MVP honors, and he’s expected to finish well back of the pack. Likewise, there are no Braves listed amongst the top ten candidates in ESPN’s Cy Young predictor. So, what the heck happened? How did a team who played middling ball all season, without any standout individual performers, bring home the World Series title for the first time since 1995?
With apologies to Robert Allen Zimmerman, perhaps a tiny bit better known by his stage name, Bob Dylan, the answer isn’t really blowing in the wind. And, as much as I tend to like her thought processes, it’s not really all about that bass, as Meghan Trainor hypothesized.
One answer is that it’s all about momentum. In baseball, the best team doesn’t always win. Sometimes it’s the team who gets hot at the right moment. To me, the coolest thing about all of this is how an otherwise pedestrian major leaguer (pedestrian being relative, of course. They’re still one of the best players in the world, even if they’re not superstars) can find their mojo at just the right time to become a legend in the eyes of the baseball world. For the Braves, this year, a pair of players stood out in this regard. In the national league championship series, Eddie Rosario hit .560 with three homers and nine rbi’s to take home MVP honors. The guy hit seven homers in 33 games during the regular season, with a .271 batting average, and then goes off in their series win against the Brewers, hitting three in four games.
Jorge Soler is another fine example. During the regular season, the 29-year-old Cuban hit a decent .269, with 14 homers in 55 games. Then, under the brightest lights of all, he proceeded to hit .300, with three homers and six RBIs in six games. All of this after hitting a paltry .091 in the NLCS. Oddly enough, he became the first player in history to lead off a world series with a home run. Then he used the momentum from that blast (there’s that word again) to fuel his MVP performance, including a pinch-hit homer in game four that proved to be the game winner. His game six monster blast that cleared the train tracks in Minute Maid Park on its way out of the stadium was all the Braves would need.
To me, that’s the essence of sport. Soler played 55 games to help Atlanta win the east, then put them on his back and moonshotted them to their first World Series win in 26 years. It’s all about who shines brightest when the lights are on. Those that don’t are forgotten. Those that do are immortal.