That’s what’s defined as a good problem.
Granted, even if they had a running start into last year’s postseason, the Braves likely would have been easily ousted by the Dodgers. They just weren’t complete enough to compete. Still, it would be in no way helpful for this team to do as that team did, lose four of its last five on the way to October.
There are reasons that the Braves might convince themselves to play with steely purpose all the way to the end, certain factors that might create the illusion of competitive tension.
They awoke today three games behind the Dodgers for the best record in all the National League, and all the home-field perks that entails. Catching them won’t be a simple matter and may not even be realistic given that their schedule is softer than peach fuzz (only five games left against teams with a winning record). But there is value in the chase.
The Braves are required to continue playing winning baseball if they would care to be the first 100-win team in this town since 2003. That’s a fine and worthy goal, especially for a bunch that had to watch this spring as Philadelphia and Washington were dominating the discussion. Nothing quite quiets the doubting mob like triple digits in the win column.
Then there is the very real intra-team competition for a meaningful place on the playoff spectrum. That, especially among the arms, should keep the pilot light lit.
And, really, just how much rest do the frontline players require at this stage? Consider that the schedule is kind down the stretch, with two off days over the season’s final six days. There is plenty of built-in cushion, no need to over-stuff the work week with further eider down.
Just one rule: No criticizing the fellow perched on the front step of the dugout if a player gets hurt doing only his job while in the course of a possibly “meaningless” game. If you want to minimize all risk, hire a nanny rather than a manager.
This bunch is having such a grand time now. Why would you even think about slowing the roll?