A special Braves’ season is unfolding before our very eyes

Win, win, win: It's not exactly boring this time around. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Win, win, win: It's not exactly boring this time around. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

You felt it first on Opening Day, and again in the back-from-the-dead rally against the Phillies in April, and again and again in the last-at-bat victories since. And you felt it Monday night, when a big crowd showed up to behold Stephen Strasburg and saw the home side win again. You felt, for want of a better word, electricity.

Electricity at Turner Field. Electricity at a Braves’ game. Electricity not felt at this venue this millennium. Electricity for a Braves’ club unlike the Braves we’d come to know and take pretty much for granted.

Larger gatherings. Tougher-minded players. And — oh, yeah; this, too — more victories.

It began with Jason Heyward hitting a three-run homer on his first big-league swing, but it has become a roster-wide thing. From Martin Prado hitting everything to Troy Glaus crushing everything to Tim Hudson re-inventing himself to Derek Lowe finding himself to Eric Hinske becoming more than just a pinch-hitter. From Kris Medlen to Brooks Conrad to Johnny Venters. From a team that had fallen on mediocrity to a club that keeps clinging to first place.

For 15 seasons the Braves won so much we got bored with the winning, but there’s no tedium to this bunch. This feels closer to the worst-to-first crew of 1991 than its more lordly successors. This team feels like an underdog, which it was when the season commenced and surely still is. This is a collection of old and young, of the unsung and the unassuming. You wouldn’t take this everyday eight over Philadelphia’s, but this everyday eight leads the Phillies by 3 1/2 games.

For 15 seasons the Braves came to own first place, and then, in 2006, they lapsed into mediocrity. They’re not mediocrities any longer. They’re in first place, and they’re fun to watch, and this has already been the most exhilarating season since the old ballpark was demolished. And it’s not yet the Fourth of July.

164 comments Add your comment

labo2000

June 29th, 2010
9:37 am

First! And I totally agree on this season’s specialness

Noah

June 29th, 2010
9:37 am

Let’s go Braves! Bring it home!

Mark Bradley

June 29th, 2010
9:38 am

Kudos to labo2000. Condolences to Noah.

Nick

June 29th, 2010
9:38 am

Being Brave in Cochran

June 29th, 2010
9:38 am

Being Brave in Cochran

June 29th, 2010
9:38 am

ATMDAWG

June 29th, 2010
9:39 am

First…This season reminds me so much of 1991. It’s going to be a fun summer.

Bob

June 29th, 2010
9:40 am

Mark, I’m still waiting for you to own up to being dead wrong about how this group of Braves can’t win the division. Heck, didn’t you also say they weren’t any good? I know that was during the 9-game losing streak, but weren’t you saying that they weren’t much good? And that possibly they wouldn’t be good until 2011 or even 2012?

Being Brave in Cochran

June 29th, 2010
9:41 am

You know, Mark, I hadn’t put my finger on it, but your article is spot on. I have been a Braves fan since 1981, but haven’t had much desire to watch them the last few years. This year, however, I rarely miss a game. Heck, even my wife has been watching with me. This has been a fun team to watch night in and out. Good article.

dap01

June 29th, 2010
9:42 am

It’s good to see Chipper being the GREAT player that he is again. What a team.

Mark Bradley

June 29th, 2010
9:44 am

Thanks, Being Brave in Cochran.

Chuck

June 29th, 2010
9:45 am

Tenth, maybe….

Good to see Turner Field catching on fire. I’ve been taking heat from my Boston-born girlfriend about how lethargic Braves fans (and Atlanta fans in general) are. It does feel like 1991 all over again.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

June 29th, 2010
9:47 am

this team does have a certain vibe to it. I think Wags said it best yesterday on 680 that they all are “gelling” together. Chemistry is huge and this team has it. These next 11 games are crucial- we need to manhandle our division teams and create some space between the Mets & Phils.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley, jimboknows and candacemcc, Allegra Coleman. Allegra Coleman said: RT @MarkBradleyAJC: Not to sound like Mike Krzyzewski, but this Atlanta Braves' season feels "special." http://bit.ly/9UgBtY [...]

Wreckmaniac

June 29th, 2010
9:50 am

I think this team is most comfortable as an underdog. Philly has to live with being the team that is expected to be 10 games ahead by Sept 15. I hope ESPN never thinks of this team that way. ESPN is very confused about these Braves and now is talking about when the Mets will be in first. Thats good. I hope they stay on that topic. Lets pretend the Braves are already out of it.

Bruce Mac

June 29th, 2010
9:54 am

Crap Mark, you have jinxed the Braves once again. Please continue to be pessimistic, it was working.

jdubb

June 29th, 2010
9:56 am

Mark, about the only players on the ‘Phillies Eight’ that I would take over our bunch are R Howard and J Werth (maaayybe Utley). But I would be hard pressed to admit who to get rid of.
It seems like every single one of our guys (excluding pitchers) whether a starter or a bench guy, have something they add to this TEAM. Clutch hitting, sacrificing bunts, stealing, pinch hitting; it all seems to mesh perfectly. So totally agree with you….how much more rewarding it is for me to watch or go to the games this season. Even Melky has grown on me since his horrible start.
Lets just hope the dreaded injury bug doesnt take a significant toll on us.
My favorites this year are Hinske, Conrad, and Prado…

THis whole team reminds me of those Damn Yankees when we use to meet them in the postseason. We are so patient, it frustrates the other pitchers. We wait, wait, wait, then walk – or crush their hopes with a timely hit, then pour it on with a quick blast of consecutive RBIs. Just like last night and the Nats; this year its more the norm than the abomination.

You’re right, so many awesome games and moments this year, it takes a lot of writing just to list them!

Mark Bradley

June 29th, 2010
9:56 am

Sorry, Bruce Mac. But you’ll note I still haven’t picked the Braves to win anything.

sleeze

June 29th, 2010
9:58 am

Wake up, Mark. You were dreaming and actually woke a positive article.

sleeze

June 29th, 2010
9:59 am

Correction: Wake up, Mark. You were dreaming and actually wrote a positive article.

Mark Bradley

June 29th, 2010
10:00 am

I actually enjoyed your initial turn of phrase, sleeze.

matt r

June 29th, 2010
10:06 am

I started to feel this Friday night after Billy’s 400th… a lot of guys on their way out trying to go out with a bang (I’m including Chipper in this bunch), and a lot of guys trying to help them accomplish that.

Voice of reason

June 29th, 2010
10:06 am

Anyone else think that this all kind of started last season in the last 4-5 weeks when we woke up and made a little surge?? Add a few new pieces in the offseason, get Huddy back, and on we roll….

PS- Chase Utley has gotta be a lil’ embarrassed about starting over Martin in the mid summer classic…. ( i hope he is.)

extremus

June 29th, 2010
10:07 am

All that’s missing now is that middle-of-the-year pickup that helps the Braves catch fire for the second half, like what happened with Alejandro Pena in ‘91 and with Fred McGriff two years later. Of course I don’t expect a trade or signing of anyone anywhere near McGriff’s caliber, but another solid outfield bat couldn’t hurt. But even if such a signing doesn’t happen, I still think this team may just have the staying power to do something special. There are a lot of intangibles that seem to bode well for the Braves this year; if they make the playoffs, there won’t be that old “business as usual” atmosphere for a more passionate opponent to exploit.

GO BRAVES!!!!!

Ramblin Wrecker

June 29th, 2010
10:07 am

Honestly this team (aside from the starting rotation) is better than the 1991 team.

Mark Bradley

June 29th, 2010
10:08 am

That sounds like a good topic for a future post, extremus.

Tim

June 29th, 2010
10:11 am

THIS guy knows what he’s talking about:
http://TwitPWR.com/Lcr/

Tim

June 29th, 2010
10:11 am

I haven’t been to this many Braves games in a LOOOOONG time

Minimalist

June 29th, 2010
10:12 am

Atlantan living in Chicago

June 29th, 2010
10:13 am

This team is certainly special. What I love most is that Chipper, who has been a glue for a long time, is getting a lot of leadership help from McCann and Hudson. Bobby is having fun and the fans are talking about the team again. You’re absolutely right, Mark…it is 1991 all over again!

I don’t care if they win the World Series this year, I’m just happy that the city has rediscovered their team.

Peachtree John

June 29th, 2010
10:24 am

The TEAM showed something new with the vacant dougout after the home run for a winner by our FORMER center fielder. Now Chipper gets the raz! Caring for your fellow teamates wins games. (well, our current shortstop is excluded here. Don’t thing he is capable of anything but self.)
I’ve been in Atlanta since 1966 and have experienced much frustration. It’s good to have the excitement back at the ballfield. It’s good to see the business as usual faces disappear from the team. It’s good to see Bobby calling squeeze plays. This is good!!!

lazydawg

June 29th, 2010
10:26 am

Told ya so!!!Go Braves!!!!

jeffrey d

June 29th, 2010
10:27 am

Three blown “First!” calls in a row

leland

June 29th, 2010
10:28 am

Dear Mr. MB–I been messing around out here not doing much, fixing to cut the grass, fixing to water the garden–that kind of thing. Just as I got the mower out, this here limerick came to me, so I rushed back in and wrote it down. It don’t have no name yet. You can give it one if you want to.

There was a young lad from Kentucky,
Moved to Atlanta to get lucky.
He wrote about sports
Of various sorts,
With never a word of it mucky.

The last line could end with “murky” if you want to. I like that better–it doesn’t rhyme exactly. Called a “half rhyme” or “slant rhyme” in contrast to the full rhyme, so-called, in the first version.

Also, here’s another couple of last lines you might like:

With skill and wit, never too plucky.

Stayed a bit long and now he’s stucky.

Feel free to change it around any ol’ way.

Your pal, Leland

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How2fish

June 29th, 2010
10:32 am

Great post Mark, I’m really loving what the team is doing. The key here will be for the Braves and most other teams is how bad will the injury bug bite…we have been bit pretty well already and now Heyward is going on the 15 day DL, if we can get healthy I think we are the team to beat in the Division. Fingers crossed and chopping like crazy..And how COOL was it watching the fans chopping like 1991 last night !

bill

June 29th, 2010
10:37 am

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens when McLouth finally gets healthy. This team has so much chemistry right now and frankly, Heyward, Hinske, Cabrerra and Blanco are getting it done. I know Diaz is back while J-Hey heals, but Blanco is playing well and I’d hate to see him sent down. That’s a good problem to have, I guess, especially as the trade deadline approaches.

Grandpa Right (once of Cochran)

June 29th, 2010
10:42 am

Our midseason pickup could easily come in the form of a healthy Matt Diaz or Jordan Schafer, or a strong Jurrjens when he returns. We are in first place despite missing some key folks and receiving sub-par first halves from others (Escobar, Jones, even McCann). If they join Prado, Glaus, Heyward, Hinske and Conrad in playing up to their capabilities, this could indeed get special.We have the potential to be better, and that says something.

Where have all of the Wrenn bashers gone?

Minimalist writ large

June 29th, 2010
10:43 am

Minimalist in tribute to Cochran

June 29th, 2010
10:44 am

Chop Chop

June 29th, 2010
10:46 am

Kinda makes me sick to read the comparisons to 1991. We won 86 games last year, folks.

We won 65 in 1990.

We had no history of doing anything in 1990.

We have the recent history of fourteen straight division titles in 2010. Name me a season since 2005 where the Braves weren’t predicted to be in the hunt. You can’t. Therefore, enjoy the “surprise” of this season, but don’t get it confused with the absolute thunderbolt in the dark of 1991. It came out of nowhere and is not being repeated in 2010.

Jfreak13713

June 29th, 2010
10:49 am

What is crazy about this team is that when you consider what MOVES the Braves MIGHT make to better their club at the Allstar break you really can’t pick a player that you’d be comfortable trading?? I’d be afraid of screwing with what is working. I know we’d like to have a LEADOFF hitter so Prado could move to the 2 hole but he’s doing so good at leadoff. Heck even MELKY is hitting well! If any moves are made and I doubt there would be they will probably be pitching moves? Our everyday lineup is good and I must admit that I wrote the Braves off early on in the season.

Good Job Boys … Keep have fun because we are sure having fun watching you guys play.

jdubb

June 29th, 2010
10:51 am

Dang, I forgot about McClouth. He needs to sit until Gregor/Melky/Diaz cant get it done. Send him to Gwinnett. If he can pound the ball consistently there, THEN give him his spot back.
Something in me (probably the lifelong ATL/GA sports fan) knows that Bobby can’t keep this up all season…i.e. – playing the hottest guys instead of going with the stubborn loyalty he normally shows.
I’ll just enjoy these games until the anvil drops [eventually] .

How2fish

June 29th, 2010
10:53 am

Chop Chop the comparison is not the team stats, but how the city is feeling toward the team. We as you stated had no record of winning and it caught us by surprise and then the city really got behind the 91 team. This team has a 14 season winning legacy that has gone somewhat by the wayside in recent years, this team is coming to us somewhat out of the blue.but has rekindled memories of how good we once where..and want to be again..the common thread is how the city is getting behind this team just like they did for the 91 team..not team stats.

Mike S

June 29th, 2010
10:53 am

It was mentioned up thread – but the biggest thing this team has is CHEMISTRY.

It was best shown the other day when the entire team stayed in the dugout as Chipper trotted to 3B after having hit a mammoth HR the previous inning. When Chipper turned around, realized he was alone and spread his arms out at the dugout – I knew right at this moment that this was a TEAM! and not just a group of highly payed athletes. That one little moment said more about this team, their comraderie and the chemistry of that clubhouse than any number of wins ever will.

And NEVER underestimate the power of a TEAM playing together for each other, that is the type of situation that makes a group of decent players become something special.

And no matter what the final outcome, I would rather have a TEAM than a group of Superstars any day of the week.

bfred

June 29th, 2010
10:54 am

I don’t live in town anymore but caught the game on ESPN2 last night and the Ted looked like it was absolutely rocking. Nice job Braves fans got making the city look good again. ESPN was there for Strasburg but instead the country got a look at what a solid lineup the Braves have top to bottom. Great exposure for All-Star hopeful Hudson as well.

benchwarmer

June 29th, 2010
10:55 am

What the Braves have now is pitching and hitting. I also like the new fun and grit attitude. It makes for enjoyable baseball. Marteeen for MVP!

benchwarmer

June 29th, 2010
10:57 am

The Phillies just don’t have the pitching depth to make it this year.

bfred

June 29th, 2010
10:57 am

Aargh – AJC ate my post! Here we go again:

I don’t live in town anymore but caught the game on ESPN2 last night and it looked like the Ted was absolutely rocking. Great job Braves fans making the city look good for the national audience. ESPN was there for Strasburg but instead gave the country a look at how strong the Braves’ lineup is top to bottom. Also some great exposure for All-Star hopeful Hudson.

Otto

June 29th, 2010
10:59 am

Mark,

I give you your share of crap but you are correct, I was at the game and it does have much the same feeling as ‘91. The chop which even as an Atlanta native I identify as a FSU trademark was alive and had feeling not something overused like the wave. It is exciting again to go to a Braves game.