It’s not easy to try and convince a fan base to be patient. We’re a society that wants everything now, today, not tomorrow. So when a team is rebuilding, getting fans on board for the process is easier said than done.
The Braves are somewhere in the middle of their process. It started 17 months ago when John Hart and John Coppolella became the power brokers in Atlanta’s front office. There has been a record-number of trades since, which have reshaped an organization that was badly broken.
But how will the Braves do in 2016? It’s great to hear what might happen next year or the year after, but what about the season that starts Monday?
Well, there are no easy answers to those questions.
In other words, I really don’t know.
There are so many reasons to compare what is going on now to what the Braves did to rebuild in the late-1980s. They are doing it with pitching, just like they did many years ago. They are sacrificing the present for the future. The biggest difference is a new building this group will move into a year from now.
Sun Trust Park may accelerate the process a bit, as the team will want a winner in the new ballpark. So in a way, this process is somewhere in the middle, as the Braves wait for more young players to become part of the conversation.
A year from now, the Braves could graduate even more prospects to Atlanta. But this year, those players are still developing. It’ll be worth a Braves’ fan time to keep an eye on what Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies or Sean Newcomb are doing down on the farm, even if they get frustrated by what may be going on in Atlanta.
And yes, it might be frustrating. The rotation has two mediocre veteran pitchers, Bud Norris and Yhoulys Chacin, who will be asked to bridge the gap until the young guns are ready. The bullpen should be better than it was the last two months last season.
The lineup is the mystery. Will the 2016 Braves hit? They were last in baseball in runs scored last season, so the team must be better at the plate. But there are questions everywhere.
This is so reminiscent of the 1989 season. The Braves, at least in Atlanta, were in a holding pattern. Getting Jody Davis from the Cubs and giving Lonnie Smith a second chance were the biggest stories heading into that season. It was all about seeing how close the young players were to making a difference.
Then the next year, it wasn’t really about wondering how Nick Esasky would do in his first year in Atlanta, or how newly-acquired Jim Presley would do as the new third baseman. It was all about the kids, all about how Ron Gant would do, or when David Justice would come up and if Tom Glavine would finally get over that hump.
This season will be the same thing. Sure, watch the games, enjoy the baseball. But don’t get bogged down in wins and losses. Don’t have high expectations. Just know this is a process and the Braves are not finished yet. There is more work to be done, more patience to be practiced and more prospects to be developed.
The Braves are building depth and a talent base for the future. The core is impressive, but it’s just not ready. Yes, we have to wait a while longer. We have to remember if the Braves get into a losing streak this season that better days are ahead, even if it’ll be a year or two down the road.
And with that, forget about predicting a record for this season. Hope the Braves are better than last season and are getting closer to the days where we can once again have high expectations.
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.