The Atlanta Braves are the World Series Champions!
On Tuesday night in Houston, the Atlanta Braves — the last team to win a division this year — won the organization’s first championship in 26 years.
They did it with a roster that has a bunch of homegrown stars and a completely overhauled outfield. They did it with a group of pitchers with few household names, one of the most underrated superstars in the game and a lot of smiles.
So what did we learn from the World Series — and the rest of the 2021 MLB season?
The Right Changes Win
It’s a narrative fans have listened to the entire postseason. The Atlanta Braves were dealt a tough hand this year and overcame it because of an incredible sequence of decisions before the trade deadline.
They acquired Eddie Rosario, who was having a mediocre season in Cleveland, for literally nothing; the Indians released Pablo Sandoval immediately. Rosario went on to be named the NLCS MVP.
They acquired Jorge Soler, who was having a mediocre season in Kansas City, for almost nothing. He was named the World Series MVP last night.
The Braves also added Joc Pederson and Adam Duvall to their outfield mix mid-season. Those four outfielders paid huge dividends throughout the playoffs.
The key is that the moves they made were the right ones.
Other teams in the postseason were also active before the trade deadline.
The Dodgers might have been the most intriguingly aggressive at the deadline, adding Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. But injuries to players they couldn’t replace — Max Muncy and Justin Turner — killed their postseason.
The White Sox were maybe the most bold at the deadline, trading for Craig Kimbrel and Cesar Hernandez. Neither worked out for them.
The Yankees brought in Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo; they did not bolster their pitching staff. The Astros added to their bullpen but didn’t help their rotation.
Atlanta identified players they could acquire at a reasonable cost who did what they needed them to do. And it worked. They were bold when many thought they should fold. But as the old axiom (and a new Matt Damon crypto commercial) reminds us, fortune favors the bold.
Organizations Can Overcome Trials
Because of their 88-win regular season this year, many forget the Braves were supposed to be this good by now. But four years ago, the Braves were in a bad place.
On Nov. 21, 2017, John Coppolella was banned for life by Major League Baseball and the organization was stripped of 13 prospects because MLB found the Braves guilty of circumventing international signing rules between 2015-17.
Four days before the hammer fell, John Hart stepped down as the senior advisor for the Atlanta Braves. And Gordon Blakeley, who was Atlanta’s international scouting chief, was suspended from baseball for one year.
The sanctions imposed by the commissioner’s office kept the Braves from being able to fully recruit prospects in Latin America for four years (until this season).
Their front office was in shambles and the franchise was facing a potentially dark period when it appeared to be on the cusp of something special.
But good organizations can overcome even damning penalties, and the Braves proved that.
They rebounded from the investigation and hired Alex Anthopoulos, whose masterclass at this year’s deadline will be remembered forever in Atlanta. They signed their young superstars early, maneuvered around injuries and remained competitive.
Now, they’re champions.
The Mets could learn something from how the Braves overcame obstacles of their own creation.
Nothing Lasts Forever
On the other side of the ledger, the Houston Astros have now lost in the World Series twice in the past three years. And they’re facing a second consecutive winter with a potentially devastating departure.
Last year, George Springer left for big money when Toronto made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Now, shortstop Carlos Correa — the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft — is arguably the best player in an historically deep free agent class at the position.
The Astros may be on the verge of their window slowly sliding in the wrong direction. And they aren’t alone.
Seven years ago, there were two franchises that were the darlings of the modern rebuild mindset: the Astros and the Chicago Cubs. Chicago won the World Series in 2016; last night was the fifth anniversary of their remarkable Game 7 triumph in Cleveland. Houston won their tainted World Series the following year.
Houston has lost Springer and, now, may lose Correa. As we all know too well, the past 12 months have seen the Cubs lose even more than that.
Kyle Schwarber and Jon Lester signed one-year deals in Washington after Schwarber wasn’t tendered a qualifying offer and Lester wasn’t offered a new deal. The Cubs then traded Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant — three central figures from their World Series roster — before the deadline this summer.
Two franchises that were supposed to win more than one haven’t, because winning the World Series is really, really hard.
Ask Braves fans, who have seen their team make the playoffs 16 times(!) between championships without a parade.