Brian McCann’s 1,000th RBI fittingly came in dramatic walk-off fashion in front of a sellout crowd Friday night at SunTrust Park. Since that game-winning single, Braves coaches and players have been delving into what makes McCann such a valued member of the organization.
As manager Brian Snitker explains, McCann is a voice that resonates with rookies and veterans alike. He’s a player who, aside from being a treasured Brave, has a World Series ring and a borderline Hall of Fame case.
“The instant credibility that he brings, the competitiveness he’s always had since he was 18 years old,” Snitker said. “I’ve never seen a more competitive guy, or a guy who loves to be in that competitive arena like he does. When he speaks, they listen. He knows how to do it. He’s willing to share that with younger teammates, how to prepare. He has a routine.
“When you get 1,000 RBIs as a catcher in this league, and to play the bulk of your career here in this heat, that’s saying something about how he’s learned over the course of his career. And what he’s gotten from other places, from other veteran guys he’s played with and learned from.”
For as talented as the Braves are, another credible presence was a welcome addition. Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, Johan Camargo, Max Fried and others got their first taste of the postseason last year – a four-game ousting at the hands of the eventual National League champions, the Dodgers. For Austin Riley, Mike Soroka and others, that experience has yet to come.
That’s where adding McCann, Josh Donaldson and Dallas Keuchel came in. The Braves needed more players who’ve had signature October moments, who’ve paced themselves for the playoffs and dueled in stressful postseason environments.
In McCann’s case especially, the Braves saw tremendous value in adding him as a clubhouse sage of sorts. They had strong veteran leaders in Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis and Tyler Flowers, but bringing in McCann - and now Keuchel - was plugging recent champions into the mix.
“(McCann) been there, done that,” Snitker said. “(They don’t know) this fight that they’re in. They got a taste of it last year, how hard it was to get there and how hard it is to advance. How strong you have to be to advance in the playoffs. That was the difference between us and the Dodgers. They were stronger than us. No doubt about that. But we’ve gotten stronger. We’re stronger this year than we were last year. … Having guys like Brian McCann, Dallas Keuchel, they’re going to make us stronger. We bring up the Austin Rileys, they’re all things that make us a better club.”
Snitker lauded Keuchel, who made what’s expected to make his final preparation start Saturday for Double-A Mississippi before joining the big-league club. Keuchel, a one-time Cy Young winner who’s coming off a 200-inning season, can share his methodology with Soroka, Fried and the team’s bevy of young starters, Snitker expects.
“Having a guy like Dallas Keuchel here who’s been there, done that, been successful, knows the routine and has a routine that he can share with those guys, probably some stuff to help them,” he said. “He’ll be huge once we get him in the mix. He’ll be really good for us.”
Overall, the Braves feel they’re improved from last season not only because of external additions and internal growth, but because the clubhouse is collectively wiser. The Braves are waiting for their experience to catch up with their talent, and whenever it does, their window of title contention will truly open.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.