Rebuild Reflection #1: Can We Love a Team That We Don’t Know?

I’m a Braves fan.

My first memory of my Pops involves him yelling at the television while the Braves did something insufferable… probably a called strike three. I grew up around people following the Braves. Not following the inner workings and strategies of the organization, but following the win-loss column and the rollercoaster outcomes of the long season. I think that’s where most of us started, even those of us who now find great joy in a more analytical relationship with the teams that we love. In fact, during the Braves strip down, I’ve found myself remembering that this is where the overwhelming majority of baseball fans are now, too. Not wielding modern statistics on Twitter and devouring Fangraphs articles (which you should do too!), but putting on your team’s gear and pulling hard for a damn win. Yelling at the television when your guy strikes out looking.

This mode of indulging in our game is more than ok. It’s everything. If we reduced baseball fandom down to it’s headiest patrons, baseball would be toast. The fringe doesn’t exist without the center. I definitely believe that the typical baseball fan would benefit from a basic understanding from the very useful modern statistics that have found their way into baseball (Neil Weinberg wrote a great piece about a “liberal arts education for all” in sabermetrics here at Hardball Times). But the fact is, that’s not where most of us are at. Read More

Remembering Tommy Hanson

What words are there to say about such a sad development for Braves Country, Baseball as a whole, and most importantly for anyone was close to Thomas J. Hanson Jr.? Like most people carrying around a pit in their stomach about his passing, I didn’t know Tommy Hanson. Growing up in Augusta and Athens, GA, I was never more than a couple of degrees of separation from knowing him, but that’s it. What I did know was that TH had that sort of personable glow about him that few baseball players can transmit in the context of playing baseball on television. Call it vague, an empty nicety if you insist, but the man was so damn human out there, even backdropped by the intense scrutiny of his every start. Particularly as he faltered towards the end of his run in Atlanta (I’ll explore that claim statistically a little bit below). A life is always more than what outsiders can get a peak at, in richness and in complexity. I’ll never know the first significant detail about what Tommy’s life was really like, but I’m compelled to use this space to celebrate how fun and relatable of a ballplayer he was to watch coming up in the Braves organization. Albeit a frustrating pitcher at times, relative to his seemingly mighty stores of potential, Tommy’s run in Atlanta holds a special place in so many of our hearts. Here’s a short remembrance in pictures starting with the early years, accompanied by some commentary about how his career went down by the numbers. Read More

that’s baseball

This article is about narrow windows, luck and money, the anti-dynasty tonic for all but the biggest market teams in the bigs. I’ll use the Mets current reality at second base and center field as a leaping off point. Full disclosure if you will, I just clicked together some words about this year’s rise of the Mets and Cubs, focusing on how refreshing it was to see, and how the young talent of both teams is likely to pay dividends to their fans in the future. However, a closer look at the free agent beat as the Hot Stove season ramps up exposes a different perspective, peeling back a layer from the optimism and exposing the tenuous nature of building a winner, something sturdy and built to last.

The Mets would like to keep Yoenis Cespedes, who was a huge part of the feel good story of their second half this year. Many fans in Flushing no doubt are full of hope that Cespedes will sign with New York in the offseason and continue to provide much needed wind behind their sails in the future. It’s will likely amount to hopefulness and nothing more, though.  Read More

Celebrating the Success of the Cubs and Mets, Like ‘Em or Not

[UPDATE: The Mets have indeed fallen to the Royals 4-1 in the World Series, in case you missed it]

Given the still (barely) alive nature of the Mets 2015 campaign, this is a bit of a premature retrospect in a sense. It feels good to do something on the early side of ideal timing. I suppose non-ideal is non-ideal though, so I’ll cool it on the accidental self-deprecation and get on with the matter at hand. Hey! The Mets AND the Cubs were big players in the post season this year! As a gander at the Baseball-Reference list of postseason series will show you, this has never before been the case. Anyway, this article is less about permutations [faint sound of math geeks exiting], and more about celebrating the resurgence of two teams that have been perennial also-rans for most of recent memory [not so faint sound of Braves and Cardinals fans exiting]. I personally hold little affinity for either of these teams as a fan, though I’ve found it very easy to pull for both this postseason. More objectively though, as a devout subscriber to the Church of Baseball, I value what the Cubs and Mets have done with themselves. I’ll explain. Read More