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Chris Gay: Don’t sell the Braves short

Posted: June 25, 2017 - 12:55am

I'll admit it. Sometimes, I'm a dreamer. Thus, my optimism for the Atlanta Braves.

Being a journalist for almost 20 years, I'm more of a realist in many situations. Even when it comes to my beloved Braves, I've bought into this rebuild and understood Atlanta getting back to its winning ways will take some time. Still, I've caught myself paying more attention to the Braves in recent weeks.

After Friday night's victory, Atlanta improved to 35-38 on the season. The Braves sat in second place in the National League East, nine games behind Washington.

Back in 1991 - Atlanta's worst-to-first season - the Braves trailed by six games in the standings at the same date. Atlanta eventually trailed the Los Angeles Dodgers by 9.5 games a few weeks later (July 7). The Braves, many observers said, were out of it. But they weren't, eventually catching and passing the Dodgers in September.

Can Atlanta make another surge this season? Let's take a look at the team.

First, the pitching needs to improve. Translation: no more Bartolo Colon. This season's starting pitchers have been mediocre at best. Julio Teheran, the "ace," is 6-5 with a 4.76 ERA. Jaime Garcia is 2-5 with a 4.03 ERA. R.A. Dickey entered Saturday with a 5-5 mark and a 4.91 ERA. Mike Foltynewicz is 5-5 with a 4.10 ERA. This isn't exactly the glory days of Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz.

Atlanta has received a major boost with the recent addition of Sean Newcomb from Triple-A. Newcomb is 0-2, but he's allowed just four earned runs in 18 innings. He has the potential to be a superstar.

If Teheran can turn it around and Foltynewicz can continue improving, Atlanta could be tough to face. And if Garcia remains on the team (there are rumors of him being traded), the staff could be solid.

As for offense, Atlanta is about to get back Freddie Freeman, who was arguably the league's top hitter before suffering a fractured wrist in late May. When Freeman (14 homers, 25 RBI) returns in a few weeks, he'll give the Braves another power bat in the middle of the lineup to go with Matt Kemp (12 homers) and Matt Adams (12 homers).

At the top of the lineup, Ender Inciarte is hitting .308. Then, there's the resurgent second baseman Brandon Phillips (.303) - there's rumors of the Braves possibly trading him next month, too. Then, there's the consistent Nick Markakis (.293). Catcher Tyler Flowers is having another solid season. And then there's the face of the franchise, shortstop Dansby Swanson.

The 23-year-old Swanson is recovering from a slow start to the season. His average is up to .233 after hovering below the Mendoza line the first two months.

While Swanson has made 12 errors so far this season, he made a stellar defensive play Friday night that helped save the game. After Milwaukee's Eric Thames opened the ninth with a leadoff double, he stood 180 feet from tying the game. Then, Domingo Santana hit a sharp grounder to Swanson, who turned and threw to third to nail Thames. The play sucked the air out of the Brewers' potential rally.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think the Braves are going to be all right this season. Atlanta is trending upward, and the addition of Freeman will be a major boost. I'm not saying Atlanta is going to the World Series or even the playoffs this season, but don't be surprised if the Braves make some noise.

MONOPOLY MONEY: Sometimes, I enjoy driving by billboards listing the current lottery amounts. I look up at the current totals and my mind drifts. The larger the lottery amount, the more I fantasize about what it'd be like to win.

What would I do with $50 million (after taxes - of course the government has to get its share)? Would I continue working? (Hello, early retirement.) Would I start my amateur golf career? (You betcha.) Would I join a prestigious golf club? (To be determined.)

Would I buy a bodacious beach house? Would I buy a mega-mansion in the mountains? Would I do both?

Maybe I'd donate to our various high schools, especially on the sports side. Evans, Greenbrier, Harlem and Lakeside could all use new stadiums. Every school could use more athletic equipment. To paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield in the 1980s classic, Back to School, artificial turf for everybody!

It's nice to rest in the backyard hammock and fantasize about what could be. The odds of that happening? Not good. But I've found another avenue to make quick money. Get involved with politics.

As you know, Republican Karen Handel defeated Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff in the special election for Georgia's 6th congressional district. According to The New York Times and other outlets, it was the most expensive House race in American history, with the candidates and political groups pouring in about $55 million. Maybe it's me, but that sounds a tad ridiculous.

Ossoff, who doesn't even live in the sixth district (which sounds even more ridiculous), raised $23.6 million and received another $7.6 million from outside groups. That's more than $31 million flushed down the toilet for the losing candidate. Let that sink in.

Politics is a different world, one where real money is more like Monopoly money. The great thing about free will is people are allowed to do whatever they want with their money, even if that means giving to losing political candidates. It'd be nice if that money was used to help the poor, help the community, help the athletic programs. What are the odds of that ever happening? Worse than the Braves winning the World Series this season.

 

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