Yes, the Atlanta Braves are off to a slow start. It’s early. It’s the second week of the season. There are still five-and-a-half months left in this long season.
Now, I’m not saying the Braves haven’t been sloppy. It has been a disappointing start. The Braves have not hit the ball like the team did late last season, and the defense has been awful.
The expectations were high because of how the Braves finished last season. Then, on paper, they looked even better this year. But count me as one who didn’t have high expectations, at least for April.
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This team might need a while to get its legs under it. Remember, there were 14 new players on this year’s opening day roster compared to the one 12 months ago. While some players came in late last season, this is really a different team than the one that started the 2016 season.
Plus, the schedule is brutal. The Braves have only seven of the first 24 games of the season at home, giving SunTrust Park more time to be completed. That’s not easy. And then, when they are at home, it’ll be new. It might take time to get comfortable in their new digs.
Those sound like excuses, but it just set things up to believe this team might be better later in the year than early on.
It’s not your typical 68-win team trying to get better, mainly because of how well the Braves played after the All-Star break. But history tells us teams trying to make big win jumps can sometimes start slow and take a little time.
Let’s go back a few decades. The 1979 Braves were 66-94 under second-year manager Bobby Cox. When 1980 rolled around, the belief was the young Braves would be better, much better.
They had a core group of young players in Dale Murphy, Bob Horner, Bruce Benedict and Glenn Hubbard. Doyle Alexander had been added to the rotation, which needed to improve.
The expectations were high, but the team struggled a bit. The 1980 Braves were 17-26 after the first two months of the season and were even 12 games under .500 on Aug. 6. But things then clicked late in the season, and the Braves finished 34-21 down the stretch to end with a winning 81-80 record.
It was a somewhat frustrating season, and it mirrors what happens with a team around .500. It’s sort of like the Atlanta Hawks this season. They might play great one week and look like they’re going to turn the corner, but then turn around and play awful the next week. A team trying to get over .500, to get over that hump, usually has ups and downs.
And there’s nothing tougher on a fan base. We might be asking, “What’s wrong with the Braves?” this month, but next month we might wonder when we can order playoff tickets.
Patience is required, and that’s not easy, especially after three straight losing seasons. Plus, there’s that stadium that opens this Friday in north Atlanta that would be much better with a winning team.
The Braves have good talent. The roster is better. There are holes, and they’ll be filled if the need is there. Just don’t jump off the bridge yet. The front office must be patient, and the fans must show patience. The players need to get going, but there’s plenty of time to make this slow start fade away.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at email@example.com.