Thirty years ago the Braves had a new manager. Chuck Tanner was one of the most positive people in the sport. He was smiling all the time, happy and optimistic to the max.
When Braves’ owner Ted Turner hired Tanner after he had been fired in Pittsburgh, Tanner promised that one day there would be a parade down Peachtree Street after he managed the Braves to a World Series title.
Well, that parade came a decade later, and Tanner had been long gone. He lasted only two-and-a-half years, and it took Bobby Cox to manage the Braves to get that parade down Peachtree Street.
Tanner’s enthusiasm is something we’ll need this year. The Braves are going through the same type of rebuilding plan that was happening when Tanner was in the Atlanta dugout. But the Braves are in so much better shape this time around.
Cox had been the general manager in the late-1980s before he returned to the dugout, but when he was remaking the Braves Cox didn’t have the luxury of trading valuable veterans as the front office has in the last 18 months. John Coppolella, the current GM, used Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel and most recently Andrelton Simmons and Shelby Miller in trades to rebuild Atlanta’s farm system.
But with so many prospects, so many young players, it’s just going to take time. The last thing a fan base wants is patience, but that’ll be required this season and maybe for a couple of more years.
This spring one of the biggest stories has been the impressive performance of two young prospects – Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies. Both play second base and shortstop, and they are the future of the middle infield for the Braves.
Swanson is 22 years old. The Braves somehow got him from Arizona in the Miller trade in December. He was the top overall pick in the draft last June, and now he’s being looked at as the next Chipper Jones. He’s the next young player who could be the primary face of the franchise for years to come.
Albies is only 19 years old. He’s a diminutive speedster with a great bat, a la Jose Altuve of the Astros. He was only in Low-A Rome last season, but with his solid showing in big league camp (a .371 batting average), Albies is not too far away.
There’s a good chance Swanson and Albies could take over next year when the Braves enter Sun Trust Park. They’ll decide who plays what position this season, but regardless who plays where those two are a solid core of position players to build around.
We know the Braves have concentrated on pitchers in this rebuilding plan, just like they did 30 years ago. But to have two position players like Swanson and Albies will be a huge benefit.
The issue is the youth of these players. Even though both Swanson and Albies, and most of the pitchers, are very talented, how long will it take them to become comfortable major leaguers? Getting to the big leagues is one thing, but they have to be productive. That doesn’t always happen overnight.
And that’s why the fans have to be patient. Atlanta’s 25-man roster might be better than we think this season, but the win-loss record will not be important as the development of the players who will make up the roster for years to come.
Patience shouldn’t be looked at as a four-letter word with the Braves. Right now, it just has to be the behavior most fans must practice, at least for a little while longer. And maybe some of Tanner’s unabashed enthusiasm is something we can learn from and use this season.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.