October 16th, 2022
ATLANTA -- Asked what he was thinking about or feeling after he awoke on Sunday, Braves manager Brian Snitker said he was "disappointed and pissed off."
"I just wasn’t feeling real good, to be honest with you," Snitker said. "I was thinking I’d much rather be getting ready to come down [to Truist Park] to play Game 5."
Instead of playing Game 5 of the National League Division Series on Sunday, Snitker and team president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos met with media members via Zoom to discuss the team's great season -- and its disappointing conclusion. The Braves’ bid for a second straight World Series title ended when they lost Game 4 of the NLDS to the Phillies on Saturday afternoon.
Here are some of the key takeaways from their discussion.
If last year’s Freddie Freeman negotiations reminded us of anything, it’s that “mutual interest” really doesn’t mean anything until a deal is done. There’s no doubt the Braves would like to keep Dansby Swanson, who has made it clear he’d like to continue playing for his hometown team. A four-year, $60 million deal may have seemed fair as recently as May. But the veteran shortstop’s production this year increased his cost approximately $5 million per year.
Snitker and many of the Braves have expressed how much they want Swanson back. Anthopoulos took time to discuss how highly he thinks of the All-Star shortstop.
"He gets better every year," Anthopoulos said. "You can look at his stats and he’s always been a good teammate, but I think he rose to new levels. I told him that as well. I’ve been impressed with him across the board. He’s as good a teammate as you’re going to find."
Ozzie and Soroka
Anthopoulos said Ozzie Albies was hoping to be ready to play during the NL Championship Series, had the Braves advanced. The second baseman missed three months with a fractured left foot this year and then fractured his right pinkie finger on Sept. 18, 24 hours after he had returned from the lengthy stint on the injured list. Albies was swinging the bat fine from the left side of the plate this week, but he still felt some discomfort from the right side.
As things stand, Albies, Mike Soroka and Kirby Yates will all come to Spring Training without any restrictions. Soroka will be looking to prove he can be effective with his twice surgically repaired right Achilles tendon. Yates returned from a second Tommy John surgery this year, but he experienced some late-season discomfort that left him off the NLDS roster.
Playoff format layoff
The Braves clinched the NL East on Oct. 4 and rested most of their players the next day. So some of these players went a full week between playing in games. Atlanta had its players take live batting practice against Minor League pitchers over the three days leading up to the NLDS, which began on Tuesday.
The reward for winning the division included a chance to rest throughout the following weekend, while other teams played in the Wild Card Series. But this didn’t look like much of a reward, as the Braves’ potent offense looked dead while the team was bounced from the NLDS by the Phillies, who had spent the previous weekend playing a Wild Card Series in St. Louis.
"I had worried about that going in," Snitker said. "Three days [of rest] is plenty, six days is probably too much. It’s the way the system is."
Bad timing and tough luck
The Braves produced a .594 OPS over four games and they led at the end of just four of the 36 innings played in the NLDS. They were thoroughly dominated by the Phillies. But there is reason to wonder if things would have been different had the regular season concluded on a better note for Max Fried and Spencer Strider.
Strider strained his left oblique muscle on Sept. 18 and didn’t pitch again until he started Game 3 on Friday. He was dominant for two innings, before his velocity dropped during a decisive third inning. This certainly shouldn’t have come as a surprise. He had thrown off a mound just twice over the previous 26 days.
Game 1 certainly might have had a different outcome had Fried not battled the flu and an upper respiratory infection over the final week of the regular season. The lefty was far from full strength, lasting just 3 1/3 innings in the opener of the best-of-five series.
Instead of using these ailments as an excuse, Anthopoulos and Snitker repeatedly gave credit to the Phillies.
"I’m disappointed," Snitker said. "There’s like an emptiness there. I expected us to go a long way in this whole tournament. But I’m excited about where we’re at. I’ll be really excited to get to Spring Training to get to work again."