There’s something about sports teams that don’t impress you on paper but wow you on the field. It’s what made the story of the 1991 Braves so special. Well, that and just playing a meaningful game after Memorial Day seemed cool.
But for too many Octobers in the 1990s, the Braves seemed just the opposite: They impressed you on paper but not on the field. Some considered the team good but robotic, lacking passion. This year’s team is different. They are playing above their depth, certainly when you consider the “stars” who aren’t performing. We’ve all noticed it. Tim Hudson has noticed it.
In fact, the Braves’ pitcher had some remarkably candid comments late Thursday night following his win over Tampa Bay. While praising this year’s team for it’s passion and aggressiveness, he pretty much indicted Braves teams in the past few years for being “passive.”
Here’s a Q-and-A with the pitcher.
♦ Question: You’ve been able to beat a lot of great teams in this stretch. What is it that stands out?
Answer: “On paper and out there on the field, I don’t think people look at us with a lot of fear. You know, ‘Gosh, here come the bombers to town.’ But I think after we play anybody and after somebody sees us for a while, they know that we’re no pushovers. The way we pitch. We love to play defense. We don’t throw away many at-bats. We’re a tough, gritty team. To be honest with you, that really wasn’t the personality of the Braves in a few years past. Now we have a little bit of a different personality on the field. I think it shows in the games that we play and the games that we win.”
♦ Question: How did that change?
Answer: “It’s amazing. You get a few pieces in here, and all of a sudden your team can take on a different personality. Whether it be from a couple of guys coming off the bench, keeping everybody ready. Or sometimes it’s just winning. That can change your attitude a lot, realizing you can play and win these kind of dirtball games.”
♦ Question: In past years, did you realize at the time that the team wasn’t tough and gritty?
Answer: “It seemed a bit passive. It seemed a little bit passive and not a real aggressive type of baseball. You come in now and you’ve got guys who are really ticked off when they get out, really ticked off when they give up a run, really ticked off when they don’t do the little things to win. I’m not saying you have to tear down the dugout and tear down the bat rack and go nuts. But it’s nice to see somebody with a little fire up under him and not take it well.”
Some pretty revealing stuff. We’ve all speculated about this being a Braves’ problem in past seasons but it means more when a guy like Hudson says it. Do you agree with him?