Alex Anthopoulos on the Braves: ‘Our talent speaks for itself’

Atlanta Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos has confidence in All-Star first baseman Matt Olson (right) and the other players on his roster.    (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

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Atlanta Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos has confidence in All-Star first baseman Matt Olson (right) and the other players on his roster. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

You’re not thrilled with the Braves. The Braves aren’t thrilled, either. They believe they’re better than their record, which, as of Wednesday morning, was 23-27. They haven’t won three consecutive games. They opened a run against sub-.500 opponents May 18, and so far they’re 6-6.

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They rank 14th among MLB teams in runs scored, 22nd in runs allowed. They’re 20th in ERA, 21st in WHIP. Their batters are 12th in OPS. They lead the majors in striking out. They’re 10 ½ games behind the Mets in the National League East, five games back of San Francisco for the third and final wild-card spot.

Then again, they’re the reigning World Series champs. To dismiss their October chances after two months would be the height of folly. The in-house feeling is that this team will eventually get going – last year’s team did, you’ll recall – and we’ll forget how pedestrian it looked in April and May.

Speaking from Denver on Wednesday, general manager Alex Anthopoulos was asked a series of questions about his level of concern. Being a GM means you’re never not concerned, but from his responses, it seemed clear he has faith that his team won’t linger below .500 forever.

Said Anthopoulos: “The focus is on, ‘How are we winning the next day’s game?’ I know it’s a cliché, but that’s what we’ve done the last four years. That’s the only way you play better. If you look ahead, it doesn’t help things. It’s stating the obvious, but everybody wants to win more games. But it’s my 11th year as a GM, and over six months, things change quickly. You try to stay even-keel.”

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Is the exec who famously bought a whole new outfield last July plotting any moves? “You’re always thinking about how you can make the club better, but it’s more challenging earlier in the season. With the trade deadline, most activity starts in July. Even last year, when we added Joc (Pederson), that was considered an early deal. We did it at the All-Star break … Doesn’t mean you don’t try, doesn’t mean you don’t have conversations. You do everything you can. You look internally. But historically you don’t see a lot of trades prior to July.”

About Matt Olson, in whom the Braves sank $168 million to replace Freddie Freeman: “He got off to a great start; then he got cold. He had a really good game (two homers and a double, four RBIs) last night. Track record speaks for itself with me. Clubhouse, makeup-wise, the person – he’s everything we were told and even up and beyond that.”

“It's stating the obvious, but everybody wants to win more games. But it's my 11th year as a GM, and over six months, things change quickly. You try to stay even-keel."

- Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos

Then: “Overall, the talent on this club speaks for itself, especially the track record of all these players. You really don’t overweight smaller sample sizes. Even last year with all those guys we got at the trade deadline, they had good track records but had gotten off to slower starts. I’m not equating that to Matt or anybody else, but you just know that over the course of time, you can go over our team and where they’ve been at their careers – a lot of them are still playing well, but they’re probably still below their career norms. You just know that over the course of six months, it’s likely going to balance out.

“Even last year, whether it was Freddie or Dansby (Swanson) or (Austin) Riley or (Travis) d’Arnaud, they started out slow, but the numbers ended up being there at the end of the year. I think Snit (manager Brian Snitker) said it, too. Things get magnified at various times, but these guys are established.

“You look at the body of work over six months, and it winds up being where you want it to be. Even Max Fried got off to a slow start last year, and the second half he’s great. He had the year he’s capable of. The same goes for Charlie Morton. The list goes on and on. We’re sitting here, the beginning of June, a little less than a third of the way through. There’s still a good chunk of the year left. It’s still too early to make any determinations, except knowing who these guys are and what they’ve done in their careers and their work ethic.”

Ronald Acuña hasn’t yet returned full time to outfield duty, but he’s on track. Mike Soroka is throwing 92-95 mph as he nears his rehab assignment. Eddie Rosario, sidelined by blurred vision, is expected back in late summer. Kirby Yates, a reliever signed over the winter, figures to be ready then, too. So does Tyler Matzek, the hidden MVP of the 2021 postseason. The Braves should be better at season’s end than now, which, as we know, is what matters.

Is it surprising to see them so far behind the Mets so soon? Yes. But the Braves don’t have to win the East to make the playoffs. The extra wild-card spot means they need only to catch the Padres or the Cardinals or the Giants. The glittering team that Anthopoulos assembled hasn’t done much yet, but four months remain. Nobody’s excited by this team’s record. That record, we note, is subject to sudden change.