Hummer: 10 things I absolutely love about these Braves

Marcell Ozuna embraces Ozzie Albies after hitting a home run during the ninth inning against the Washington Nationals at Truist Park in the final game of the regular season on Sunday. Oct. 1, 2023. (Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Marcell Ozuna embraces Ozzie Albies after hitting a home run during the ninth inning against the Washington Nationals at Truist Park in the final game of the regular season on Sunday. Oct. 1, 2023. (Miguel Martinez /

For generations now, the Braves have done division championship banners like the U.N. does flags.

Truist Park is overgrown with them. They sprout from tall outfield light poles like arrogant kudzu. If you were to shimmy up and break off a couple from the 1990s – a little something for the den – who’d even notice?

That’s six consecutive now, and 21 since 1991. We enter another postseason also painfully aware that the division title-to-World Series conversion rate is terribly steep, almost a peso-to-dollar kind of exchange.

Here, emerging from this fog of success is the 2023 vintage Braves, already standing as one of the most intriguing collections of them all.

Even before knowing how much more winning is to come for them, they marked themselves as singularly memorable while they broke records seemingly daily. Spencer Strider mowed ‘em down, Matt Olson hit ‘em out and Ronald Acuña Jr. stole ‘em at rates unknown to this franchise. Fittingly, their penultimate hit of the regular season was a Marcell Ozuna homer that pulled the Braves into a tie for the MLB season home run record. You had no choice but to watch them to their final out.

Such much to like, so little time. But here are 10 things I absolutely love about these Braves:

No. 1: Acuña’s swing gets its adult teeth

Watching Acuña at the plate when he was an apprentice phenom compared to today is the difference between drinking grape juice and drinking wine.

Take the aged, mature product every time, enjoy the intoxicating experience, and then call a rideshare service to get home from the park.

What a joy it has been to witness the MVP-in-waiting match his new-found canniness with fathomless physical skill. This season, a selective and situationally aware Acuña dramatically cut his strikeout rate in half from his first five seasons, to where this season he amassed one of the lowest strikeout rates in the game. His batting average is a good 40 points plumper than it has ever been, without sacrificing power.

There is plenty of youthful exuberance left in Acuña and his game. His braided hair is always on fire. He’ll match any Gen-Z star in bat-flip hang time. You can mow your yard in the time he takes to round the bases after a home run. He’s a one-man mall jewelry kiosk out on the field. He’ll pull out a base by its roots in the middle of the game if he thinks it’s important you notice him.

No. 2: No Dansby, no problem

The voodoo that Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos does is routinely remarkable. Chief among the chief’s magic is the way he manages the tough break-up.

He can make you forget your ex quicker than a blurry weekend in Vegas.

As a season ago, when the Braves split with first baseman Freddie Freeman. That initially felt like losing a limb. There remains some phantom pain, but Anthoupoulos brought in Matt Olson, who set team records in home runs and RBIs, and numbed all regrets.

Then, this year, there was the sloughing of the locally sourced shortstop with the flowing locks, Dansby Swanson. Disaster loomed as the Vaughn Grissom experiment blew up. Tofu isn’t meat and Grissom isn’t a shortstop – and they never will be no matter how much hemp-clad vegans or Ron Washington try.

But then Orlando Arcia, acquired by Anthopoulos from Milwaukee in 2021 for pitchers Chad Sobotka and Patrick Weigel, opted to become an All-Star. Neither Sobotka nor Weigel threw a major league pitch in 2023, while Arcia nailed down the middle of the infield. And we have been free to enjoy life without Swanson, absent any of the guilt or recrimination.

No. 3: So many home runs, so few toys

The story of the 2023 season has been the long ball. Everyone – not just chicks – dig it.

While the Braves were hammering out a record-tying number of homers, they did so like they’ve done it before. No gimmicks when the man of the moment made his circuit of the bases and returned to the dugout. A little flapping of arms, but no props, like the flimsy plastic sword that Guillermo Heredia used to wave, turning the Braves dugout into a grade-school production of “The Princess Bride.”

Now they’re just grown-up men doing grown-up work, the home run being an expected result.

The kind of power the Braves display requires no extracurricular flourish. Beyond the loud report of Olson’s bat, what other entertainment do you require?

Let the poor, underpowered wretches do their silly home run pantomimes.

By the way, at last word, Heredia was playing in Korea, hitting around .325. Don’t know if he was able to get the plastic swords on the plane for the flight over.

No. 4: Broadcast HOF bros

No other team in baseball could have pulled off this formula: Mix three Hall of Famers in their still energetic and lucid 50s. Give them the leisure of a full baseball game to wax nostalgic, irreverent and wise. Equals some TV broadcasting magic, an oddly compelling mixture of an ESPN documentary and Comedy Central roast.

Twice this season Chipper Jones, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz joined Jeff Franceour to air a game – and it was all worth it if only to see them fall out over a classic old video of Smoltz taking a pitch to the midsection in Colorado and collapsing like he had been struck by a meteor.

The broadcasts were such a perfect bridge between the Braves’ past glories and more glories sure to come. The greatest generation of Braves stars symbolically looking on from above, smiling and laughing, enjoying what they’re seeing from the young’uns as much as we were.

Two times was just right. Any more and the clubhouse banter and the busting of kumquats would start to get old. Sooner or later you need to know such trifling details as the score, the count and the opponent.

No. 5: Snit serves another great year of baseball life sentence

It has been more than seven years now since I was sitting in the cubby of a Brian Snitker’s manager’s office in Gwinnett, talking about the basic unfairness of life.

This was well after a Braves lifer – drafted by the team in 1977 and been nowhere else since – was scapegoated and demoted from major league third base coach to Triple-A manager.

He was chapped. But he was a realist. “At that point in my life I was too old to go somewhere else,” he said. “I was at an age where I didn’t want to leave home and start over somewhere else. I’m a Brave. You don’t like it, but you handle it. I feel like I’m professional enough that I can’t let that affect the job I was hired to do.” His situation quickly changed after that conversation.

With each season that passes with Snitker watching the big league club from the dugout steps, his story only gets better and better. And for his work this season – thriving amid a starting rotation that remained unsettled longer than the TV writers’ strike – if he isn’t manager of the year material, they should immediately compost the award.

Snitker will turn 68 on Oct. 17 while rounding out his seventh full season as manager (the Braves ideally will be knee-deep in the NLCS then). Only five more years and he’ll match the time he put in managing just Class A and lower for the Braves, at such outposts Sumter (S.C.), Durham and Myrtle Beach.

Every sighting of Snitker in a big-league uni is a reaffirming reminder that just sometimes life gets it right.

No. 6: Winning the class struggle

It’s not as if the Braves are playing for tips and Groupons. They’re paid handsomely for their labors, coming in with the 10th highest payroll in the game.

Still, with their play this season against the real free-spenders, they once more struck a satisfying blow against the kind of senseless wealth that would hang a Van Gogh in the bathroom.

In other words, they beat up the teams that needed beating up.

One of the most satisfying weeks of this season included five days the Braves spent in New York between Aug. 12-16 in which they won five of six (a doubleheader sweep included) and outscored the Mets and Yankees by a combined 58-13. The Mets outspent the Braves by more than $100 million; the Yankees by more than $70 million. The two fattest cats on the payroll list also finished a combined 48 games out of first in their divisions. They redefined the meaning of the phrase “more money than sense.”

In all the Braves finished 13-3 against the city of New York, a feat worthy of another banner up on the Truist light poles.

They also were 17-13 against the other four of the top-six spenders.

The Braves aren’t Tampa Bay (27th in payroll) or Baltimore (28th), the two real fiscal heroes of this postseason. But don’t tell me you wouldn’t be happy if the government spent half as effectively as the Braves.

No. 7: The bottomless lineup

The universal designated hitter certainly has altered lineup depth. By simply plugging in superior players at the tail-end of their lineup, the Braves have taken that depth even deeper. We’re talking Rene Descartes deep. I hit, therefore I am.

There has been no rest for the poor opposing pitcher and no restroom break for the poor beer-soaked fan when the Braves bat this year. You overlook the bottom of this lineup and you risk missing something special. So, just hold it.

The stereotypical No. 8 and No. 9 hitters are guys of whom it is said, “do things that don’t show up in the box score” or “are good clubhouse guys.”

Better when you can simply point at two guys like Arcia and Michael Harris, the two who manned the 8 and 9 holes for much of the year, and let their 35 combined home runs and .278 combined batting average speak for them.

The Braves have made bringing up the rear fashionable.

No. 8: Set it in stone: Players proudly play

When baseball players started looking like NASCAR drivers this season, sporting sponsorship patches on their blouses, the two or three traditionalists left in the world were no doubt aghast.

But you know, in a way, the Braves even got that right. They didn’t go with any slick financial firm or tech company, although that surely will come. They went with a packaged concrete outfit, which set an apt tone for a team that this season has been so blue collar and so foundationally solid.

So, yes, they literally wear their working-class appeal on their sleeves.

For as much as the Braves starting rotation has been shuffled by injury, their everyday lineup has been largely, well, concrete. Olson played all 162 games. Acuña and Austin Riley played 159 each. Three others appeared in more than 140 games. Load management, my knee. There is an admirable ethic of putting in a day’s play for a day’s pay running through this team.

Just add a little water, and the Braves should set up nicely for years.

No. 9: The adorable face of Braves pitching

Strider’s 2023 Strikeout Tour has been a terror for opposing hitters, but a boon for the fake mustache industry. Your leading novelty companies will be forced to switch workers off the whoopee cushion and dribble glass production line to faux facial hair duties (even more now that Strider has added a full beard to his repertoire).

Strider’s starts were marked by kids in the seats affixing their costume lip fur and dreaming of being a modern day gunslinger just like him. Best of all, now they don’t have to borrow their mothers’ pearls to look like a ballplayer (think Joc Pederson from the last World Series run).

As Max Fried returned from his sore forearm and regained prominence in the rotation, he has deserved imitation as well. But, alas, not all great pitchers are similarly hirsute.

Parents will have to decide whether it’s worth the bother now to give their children the Fried lookalike treatment: Gluing small swatches of dryer lint randomly here and there about their face.

No. 10: Every week belonged to the Braves

The Braves regular-season dominance was spelled out regularly – it seemed with almost each announcement of Player of the Week award winners. Braves players must be up to their waist in custom Rob Manfred-signed certificates, or whatever you get for that award.

Almost embarrassing, the number of different Braves who have been the best of any given week. Just as it was almost embarrassing that they turned the All Star Game into an intrasquad scrimmage (placing eight players on the NL team). Almost.

In all, six different players won weekly notice – Olson (twice), Acuña, Riley, Harris, Sean Murphy, Eddie Rosario. And Ozuna has cause to appeal over one of his hot weeks. No other National League team can claim more than four. There you have tangible proof of the Braves long list of contributors, which is their very identity this season.

On the strength of such unrelenting production the Braves never led the division by fewer than eight games for the last three months of the season.

Now, one more award awaits, one of a little more heft. Can so many Players of the Week bring home Team of the Year?