The Atlanta Braves Eulogy of 2013

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Freddie Freeman still can’t believe it.

I don’t know about you but my house looks like the aftermath of a real rager. Stacks of empty beer cans, snack remnants and somewhere along the line, my shorts got ripped.

Monday night was one of those heartbreak games of which Braves fans have unfortunately become accustomed.

If only that made the Atlanta Braves eulogy of 2013 easier to swallow.

I suppose this Atlanta Braves eulogy all started like a movie — the bad guys bring in the hatchet man, the unbeatable pitcher who recently had proven just how tough he really is.

The good guys sent out their mid-season acquisition who was trying to prove he still had what it takes. And for six innings, the team battled hard, punch-for-punch, both doing a great job of keeping in the game. Then, the good guys got the upper hand and suddenly it seemed less impossible. It even looked likely. But one pitch changed all of that.

Juan Uribe’s awkward-looking swing changed the entire ballgame. It deflated the Braves and set Kenley Jansen up to do what he does best — throw hard and strike people out. And just like that, the season was over and the Atlanta Braves eulogy began.

I won’t lie to you. I woke up this morning feeling like I just went through a break-up. I’ve been trying to find the right words to say about this team, this season and how to wrap it up like a TV show, complete with the little monologue at the end that leaves everyone with that warm, fuzzy, lesson-learned feeling. But I don’t know if that’s the way a season ends, especially when it showed so much promise.

I could say “That’s just baseball.”

And in a lot of ways, that’s very true. I talked to a long-time Atlanta resident last night and he told me how good I’ve had it as a Braves fan. He was going to Fulton County stadium in the 70s, mostly to see stars from other teams play and move into the good seats in the fourth inning. Even though I wasn’t there to see it, I know the bad stretch the Braves went through for more than just a little while.

But it’s not much relief, even when one considers the amazing season this team put together and knowing full well most of these players who left it on the diamond for 162 games will be back next year, ready to make this run again. I still feel let down.

Don’t worry, we’ll get to the nitty-gritty in due time. There are several of tough questions to answer in the aftermath of this postseason run and scattered throughout this Atlanta Braves eulogy. There are many potential spots to place the blame, although when you have a roster of 40 guys, it starts to make it a little hazy to place it square on one man. There’s going to be talk of strategy for next year and how to handle the division again and what changes will be made.

For now, though, we can grieve.

We can question how a team that did so well during the regular season could look so broken the first week of October. We can go over the one move or the one play or the one decision that would have changed the outcome, but we’ll never know if that’s true. And if we still have the heart for it, we can keep watching the rest of the postseason. But we would all be remiss if we didn’t talk about what went right.

We would be silly to forget that the Vegas odds in March were almost 25:1 against the Braves winning the eastern division. We would simply be in denial to discount the fact that most of the baseball world wrote the Braves off before they even started and projected them to maybe take a wild card spot. And frankly, we might look like jerks if we claimed that winning their first division title since 2005 didn’t mean anything because they didn’t go to the World Series.

Don’t worry, I’m not saying you can’t be mad. Go ahead, be angry! Be sad! Get good and disappointed, then cross your arms and shake your head real slowly. Put some comments in the box below and tell everyone how pissed you are that Craig Kimbrel wasn’t brought in to finish the game in the 8th inning. I understand. I feel your pain! I’m right there with you.

Just bear in mind that 22 other teams finished their season a week ago, and by week’s end, three more teams will join the Braves in sorrow, each with their own eulogy. Teams that were sure this was going to be their year. Teams that deserve to be in the playoffs and win it all.

Remember, that making their fan base believe in them is part of being a Major League baseball team. And we aren’t stupid or gullible for buying in. It’s what keeps us coming back for more. I know that winning all the way to the end is the goal and what we, as fans, all want to see. But only one team gets to do that in a given year and it’s the trip there that makes it so much fun.

Braves country is a big one, friends. I don’t just write articles here, I watch and listen and go to the games. I talk to you guys on message boards and Facebook groups and (recently) subReddits, so I know how strong this group of fans is and has been. So I know we’re all so disappointed because we expect more. We want something in return for our commitment and I respect that. I also won’t do you the disservice of telling you to get over it.

I can, however, say that baseball is a long season. But it’s an even longer story, one that I personally have been a part of for 22 years. If I can offer any solace, it’s this: the 2013 season may have been cut off shorter than we would have liked, but it’s also been the start of a new chapter. One that is going to include some new storylines and create new legends that will become part of the larger picture.

Because, frankly, I feel good about next year. I know I said that back in March, but I wasn’t wrong, was I? I may have overachieved on the final result, but I wasn’t totally wrong. And while it may be a little early to say it, I know most of you feel the same way.

We’re baseball fans. We’re Braves fans. And no matter how hard the heartbreak gets, we still come back for more. That’s just baseball.

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