Baseball’s reigning world champion is looking to repeat a road full of potholes.
For the second year in a row, the Atlanta Braves struggled in the National League East, which they won four years in a row.
As Memorial Day weekend approaches, the Warriors have more than their share of disappointments, including injuries, but there are reasons to hope that something better will soon follow.
Here are five reasons why they won’t be the first repeating world champion since the New York Yankees won their three-peat in 1998-2000:
1. Without Freddie Freeman — After spending his entire 12-year career in Atlanta, when the Warriors traded four top rookies to the Oakland Athletics for young Atlanta native Matt Olson, The face of the team found itself without jobs cheaper, March. Freeman, 32, soon signed with the Dodgers (six years, $162 million), allowing him to live near his home in Southern California. But his impact on and off the field should not be underestimated.
2. Lockout – The 99-day lockout initiated by the owners on Dec. 2 broke the window for negotiation, signing and trading, well beyond the scheduled start of exhibition games in March. As a result, the Warriors were not only unable to talk to Freeman, but also lost World Series MVP Jorge Soler, who signed a three-year, $36 million contract with the Miami Marlins, and another Playoff standout Jock Pederson. Instead, he signed with the San Francisco Giants.
3. Rocky Rotation – Manager Brian Snitker enters the season with the hope that his big three, Max Fried, Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson, can be a strong troika. But Morton, 38, the oldest on the list, had a terrible April, possibly caused by the suspension of spring training, as he tried to prove recovery from the broken leg he suffered in the World Series. . Plus, no one stepped up to fill the fourth or fifth spot, with Huasca Enoa, Bryce Elder, Tucker Davidson, and even Jesse Chavez in the rotation.
4. Difficulty defense — No injured Ronald Acuña, Jr., a potential Gold Glove right fielder with strong arms and a left-to-right opening day outfield Ser Ozuna, Adam Duvall and Eddie Rosario. Although Duvall won the Gold Glove last year, he was better as a corner outfielder. Ozuna is quick but has a weak throwing arm as a result of shoulder surgery, while Rosario’s defense is below average and, like Ozuna, would be better as a DH. It won’t be long before the Warriors could promote potential players like Drew Waters, a switch hitter now playing at Triple-A Gwinnett, or Michael Harris, a guy who’s worked hard at the Double-A level but is clearly making his way to school fast. The team’s five-tool player. A year later, both could join Acuna in Atlanta’s outfield. The infield should have been more stable, especially with the double-double tandem of Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson sandwiched between Olson and up-and-coming third baseman Austin Riley, but their game against the Padres last weekend gave San Diego a pair of wins. Team Best guard and backup receiver Manny Pina missed a year after wrist surgery.
5. Delayed Arbitration – Under current rules, players requiring wage arbitration must accept the arbitrator’s decision, which is either the club’s or the player’s, not a negotiated settlement. Arbitration usually takes place in the offseason, before spring training begins, but was delayed by a lockout this spring. Austin Riley’s case has already been lost to the Warriors, while the cases of Adam Duvall, Dansby Swanson and Max Freed are still pending. Riley asked for $4.25 million, not the team’s $3.95 million.
But wait! All is not lost. Here are five reasons the Warriors still have hope:
1. Acuña Factor – Ronald Acuña Jr. has only played in 2,022 games so far after tearing his ACL while trying to catch Jazz Chisholm’s smash last July 10. Acuña, with the talent of a 40/40 prospect, returned earlier than expected, but then missed a week with a groin strain. Without a strong starting hitter and proven game-changer, the Warriors have a hard time scoring. The day before Acuna’s return earlier this week, Atlanta had just two hits in a 1-0 run at Milwaukee. But due to his speed, strength and arms, Acuña is definitely a game-changer.
2. Eddie Rosario is back – 2021 National League Championship Series MVP with a much-needed left-handed bat and deadly racket speed. Last year, he actually completed a cycle in five pitching ranges — singles, doubles, triples and home runs. Rosario will return around the Aug. 2 trade deadline, giving him a chance to be a key second-half savior for the second straight season.
3. A better bullpen — Shortly after Freeman left, the Warriors used their newfound money to sign former Dodgers All-Star Kenley Jensen, who was more reliable than current Will Smith. Signed to a one-year, $17 million deal, the tough right-hander has been even better than advertised so far. Rookie Steven Strider, the toughest pitcher on the team, has been electric, helping to make up for the loss of playoff players Luke Jackson (Tommy John surgery) and Tyler Matzek (shoulder inflammation). Not only will Matzek return in June, but he will likely be followed by Kirby Yates, the league’s save leader who also underwent elbow surgery. Because he’s left-handed, Matzek is a vital player. The Warriors are also hoping for something better from Atlanta native Colin McHugh, who is a free agent, especially if Smith is in trouble again.
4. Warmer weather – Major league hitters complain that balls that once went out of bounds now end up in outfielders’ gloves. One obvious reason is that there is now a humidor at Truist Park, home of the Braves, which has become as common as DH. The batch of balls used in major league games — especially in the National League — appears to be less active, and the shortened spring training has hurt hitters, who typically need more time to fine-tune their timing. As the weather warms, there should be more hits and home runs — especially on a Warriors team that could have a 30-homer sextet in Acuña, Olson, Albies, Riley, Duvall and Ozuna.
5. Front office – Brian Sniteke, 66, is the oldest manager in the National League, but a beloved figure in Atlanta for an organization that has been with the club for 45 years , played a variety of roles. He also received instant analysis after the team’s president of baseball operations, Alex Ansopoulos, took over in 2017. Ansopoulos, who is 20 years younger than his ground manager, has proven to be a player acquisition guru, attracting key veterans without sacrificing top prospects (at least until the Matt Olson trade in March). Won’t). The young Warriors saw the stoic Sniteke as the grandfather type and disciple of Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox. He’s also comfortable enough to have former managers Ron Washington and Walter Weiss on his coaching staff.