NORTH PORT, Fla. – As the Braves have gone through spring training with their eyes toward the regular season, they have not displayed arrogance. They have not made any inflammatory statements or guarantees. Even with World Series signage all over their spring training facility, the players have tried to treat these last few weeks like they’re business as usual.

Explore‘This is a special time’: Braves and their fans are back for more

There’s a reason for that.

“We all know how hard it is to do it,” opening-day starter Max Fried said. “Nothing is going to be handed to us, everyone’s going to be coming after us.”

No one – well, no one outside of the Braves’ clubhouse – saw them winning the World Series after then-NL MVP frontrunner Ronald Acuña Jr. tore his ACL. Atlanta was under .500 as late as Aug. 4. Pundits and outsiders declared the Braves dead.

Fast forward to now, and the Braves have their sights set on repeating as World Series champions. And this is a realistic goal. As Thursday’s opening day nears, the Braves and Dodgers appear to be ahead of the rest of the NL’s teams.

ajc.com

Credit: ArLuther Lee

Credit: ArLuther Lee

On the opposite end of the country, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts guaranteed a World Series title on The Dan Patrick Show. While Roberts was simply professing his faith in his club, you won’t find statements like that from the Braves. Theirs is a quiet belief. They know this: There’s a reason you play the games.

ExploreBraves defeat Astros to win 2021 World Series title

“Still feel hungry,” Fried said. “You can still see that guys want to go out there and play and win games. There’s no complacency. I know everyone is really excited to get to Atlanta and experience the opening weekend there.”

Added manager Brian Snitker: “I didn’t expect these guys to come in any other way than what they’ve played with for the last five years. Just coming to play the game right and work and be consistent. They’ve shown me that’s exactly what they’ve done this spring.”

History would tell you the Braves’ odds of repeating as champions are not good. No club has won back-to-back titles since the Yankees won three in a row from 1998-2000. But in this game, as Atlanta showed last season, odds are sometimes meaningless.

The outcomes for teams in the season after they won the World Series are scattered. Since 2000, 10 defending champions have won at least 90 regular-season games. But six finished under .500.

What do these Braves need to do to repeat as champions?

“I think just play our game,” Austin Riley said. “I think we’ve got a really good squad. If we can just stay healthy and not look at the end picture, just take it day by day. You do that and at the end of the season, I think you give yourself a chance to make a good run.”

The Braves have been one of MLB’s most successful clubs since they hired Anthopoulos prior to the 2018 season. They rank sixth in the sport with 310 wins during his tenure. And in that time, they are fifth in runs per game (5.05), fifth in on-base plus slugging percentage (.770), sixth in home runs (776) and 10th in ERA (4.00).

They’ve been building this.

ExploreMax Fried named opening-day starter

It culminated in a championship last season. Now they want another. They don’t believe they’re showing any complacency.

“We’re still doing all the work that we normally do in spring training,” Fried said. “We’re not really cutting corners. It feels very similar to the process that we had the last couple of years. And just the conversations you have with the guys. They know what’s coming and it’s not going to be an easy road, but we’re ready to take it head on.”

ajc.com

Credit: ArLuther Lee

Credit: ArLuther Lee

The Braves have one of baseball’s top lineups. Their rotation should be good. Their bullpen, even with the potential loss of Luke Jackson, is still talented and deep. The club is also relatively healthy, as Ronald Acuña Jr. should return in May. Mike Soroka and Kirby Yates could be pitching for the club in the second half.

The Braves have the pieces for another run. But anything can occur in this sport, as the Braves showed us last season.

Recently, a reporter asked Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud to finish this sentence: “The Braves will repeat as World Series champions if …

“(We) just try to win every series and keep having fun,” he said.

It might be simple, but it probably doesn’t need to be more complex. Many factors go into a World Series run, and it might not be worth going into each and every one of them.

The Braves are just ready to finally play baseball games that count.