The Braves should win more trophies. We’ve said that before

We are the champions!! Braves manager Bobby Cox (right) holds the championship trophy along with (from left) Stan Kasten, John Schuerholz and owner Ted Turner after winning the 1995 World Series. The Braves defeated the Cleveland Indians 1-0 in Game 6 on Oct. 28, 1995 to win the best-of-seven series four games to two. (From the files of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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We are the champions!! Braves manager Bobby Cox (right) holds the championship trophy along with (from left) Stan Kasten, John Schuerholz and owner Ted Turner after winning the 1995 World Series. The Braves defeated the Cleveland Indians 1-0 in Game 6 on Oct. 28, 1995 to win the best-of-seven series four games to two. (From the files of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The Braves enter the slightly delayed 2022 season as reigning World Series champs. Last fall’s triumph bore a bolt-from-the-blue-element – postseason heroics were wrought by many players who weren’t Braves at the All-Star break – but we can’t say we hadn’t seen this team coming. The Braves made the playoffs in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, they fell one game short of the World Series.

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Each member of the 2022 Braves’ starting infield is under 30, the new first baseman included. Three of those four infielders have won a Silver Slugger award or a Gold Glove. Their best outfielder has made the All-Star team twice, won two Silver Sluggers and finished among the top dozen in league MVP voting three times. He’ll turn 25 a week before Christmas.

Big fat fact: The Braves just won a World Series without Ronald Acuna swinging a bat or Mike Soroka throwing a pitch. Yeah, the Dodgers have so much money they can buy anything, the former face of the Atlanta franchise included, but the Braves are 7-6 against L.A. over the past two Octobers. These guys are good, too.

For 25 years, we wondered if the Braves would ever win another World Series. Today we’re back where we were in the spring of 1996, asking how many more autumn celebrations this team can author. Acuna is under contract through 2028, Ozzie Albies through 2027, Matt Olson – Freddie Freeman’s replacement – through 2030. Austin Riley won’t be eligible for free agency until November 2025. Ian Anderson, who’s 23, has started eight postseason games; the Braves have won seven.

As glittering as the future seems, full disclosure requires that we reference the past. In 1995, the Braves capped a fourth consecutive playoff run by winning the World Series. (Sound familiar?) Many luminaries – Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, David Justice, Marquis Grissom, Mark Lemke, Jeff Blauser – were 29 or 30 on opening day in 1996. A second wave of Braves – Chipper Jones, Javy Lopez, Ryan Klesko – had hit with full force. Andruw Jones, 19, would soon make his debut.

The 1995 Braves won three World Series games at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. A year later, they returned to their about-to-be-demolished ballpark up 2-0 in the Series, having outscored the Yankees 18-1 in the Bronx. The next time the Braves would win a World Series game at home would come two stadiums and a quarter-century later.

Baseball is weird. The Dodgers made the playoffs the past nine seasons; they won the World Series only in COVID-shortened 2020. From 1991 through 2005, the Braves finished first 14 times over 14 completed seasons, a stream of excellence viewed within the industry as beyond belief. What most Atlantans tend to recall, though, is those Braves going 1-for-14 in pursuit of championship rings.

“Only one World Series” became the all-purpose dismissal of 14 surpassing seasons. As much as those in the know sought to explain it away – the postseason is a crapshoot, et cetera – it remains inexplicable.

The Braves just won a World Series that, given their many injuries and panic-buy imports, they probably shouldn’t have. (Of the 10 playoff qualifiers, they had the worst record.) Though the future is unknowable, it would be a surprise if the next few seasons don’t bring many more World Series games to Truist Park. But who the heck knows?

The Braves are set up to win big for a long time. Heck, they have already. Under general manager Alex Anthopoulos, they’ve finished first, first, first and first. That said, another batch of Braves won big for a long time – hired as GM in October 1990, John Schuerholz didn’t preside over a non-first-place finish until 2006 – only to leave its audience wondering what went wrong.

The vagaries of October are manifold. We saw for ourselves last fall, this time in a happy way. All an organization can do is keep positioning itself to play postseason games. Even Anthopoulos might concede that the Braves’ team he liked most entering the playoffs was the 2019 edition, which lost the Division Series by yielding 11 first-inning runs in Game 5 to the Cardinals, who were swept by the Nationals, who hadn’t led the National League East for a day but wound up winning it all. That’s baseball.

Five months after giving us the giddiest finish imaginable, here the Braves go again. Wish them luck. Even the best team, which they might well be, needs a little luck.

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