By: TJ Hartnett
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
The baseball gods can be a cruel, unforgiving higher power.
When the hubris of a front office interferes with their will, they can strike down upon a team with great vengeance and furious anger that would make Samuel L. Jackson proud.
The baseball deities seem to have made their displeasure with the Atlanta Braves known, though mercifully not to Sam Jackson levels just yet.
Instead, they have handed out minor injuries to the Braves pitching staff, apparently in retaliation for the Braves’ front office avoiding spending any significant money or prospect capital this offseason. More specifically, not acquiring a stud pitcher to stand alongside Mike Foltynewicz and lead the staff in 2019.
Hyperbole aside, it really does seem like the injuries to Folty and Kevin Gausman (not to mention to relievers Darren O’Day and AJ Minter) are, at the very least, correlated to Alex Anthopoulos’ failure to pick up a starter since October.
That isn’t how real life works, I realize, but the lack of a new Brave and the slew of pitching injuries simply cannot be separated.
Imagine if the Braves had gone out and miraculously picked up Patrick Corbin, the biggest free agent pitcher available on the market. With Corbin reported to Spring Training in a Braves uniform, a couple of minor injuries to Folty and Gausman that, at worst, hold them out until the end of the April don’t seem like the end of the world.
But the reality is that injuries to the top two pitchers on the team, even minor injuries, are concerning developments with no one to pick up the slack.
It seems like Gausman is likely to be ready for Opening Day and that’s great.
But Folty missing two or three weeks at the beginning of the season has the potential to be truly damning for the Braves’ early season success.
It adds extra shine to the fact that the Mets, the Nationals, and the Phillies have all improved themselves (yes, the Nats lost Harper, but they picked up the aforementioned Corbin to solidify a terrifying rotation and also Harper is supremely overrated).
The Braves were falling behind even at full strength, but losing their ace for the first few weeks of the new campaign could put them in a deeper hole than necessary. Especially, since the Braves open the season in Philadelphia and host a four-game set against the Mets with the first two weeks.
Couple those tough series with tough draws like the Chicago Cubs, the Colorado Rockies in Denver, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Indians in Cleveland and not having someone to step into Folty’s shoes may cause the Braves to be looking up in the standings by a significant margin well before the close of April.
It was foolhardy for Anthopoulos and company to do nothing. Even signing a 3- or 4-type pitcher would have strengthened the Braves’ ability to weather this injury storm, but as it stands right now Julio Teheran is looking like the team’s number 2 to start the year (assuming Gausman’s health), and that is not a position Atlanta should be comfortable with if they intend to repeat or even compete for another division title.
Gausman may take the mound on Opening Day, or the Braves could turn to Sean Newcomb. Neither scrape the bottom of the barrel, but neither are who the Braves nor Braves Country want to see throwing the first pitch of the season.
There is still one avenue the Braves could take to remedy this situation and that is by calling Dallas Keuchel’s agent and paying him what he wants.
There is an ace-level pitcher sitting at home while Spring Training games are being played and the Braves are scrambling to fill their rotation.
Of course, even if the Braves do sign Keuchel, he won’t be ready for Opening Day on account of missing the start of Spring Training.
Never piss off the baseball gods.