braves v. future

Turner Field by Nicolas Henderson via flickr and used under a Creative Commons license.

The World Series is now over and the Kansas City Royals, who fell just short last year, showed their mettle by coming back time and time again to win the crown.

We can only hope the Braves were watching.

They did it with what has become more and more lacking in major league baseball, playing fundamentally sound defense and taking advantage of the other team’s mistakes.

The Royals had good starting pitching, not the great young starting pitching espoused by the Mets, but solid and good. They were not a power laden team, hitting just enough home runs to keep a pitcher honest, but relied on putting the ball in play and running. They have a bullpen as good as any, so as long as the starting pitcher doesn’t get blown out and they get the game in the late innings, they have a better than good chance to win. And they did.

The Mets have a solid foundation and with their young pitching they can look forward to being competitive in the future, but the Royals proved no matter how good the starting pitchers are you can’t expect them to simply go out and shut a team down every time they take the mound. This was something the Braves believed in for years, and while the run of division titles and playoff appearances was impressive, they only won one World Series.

It should be noted that Ned Yost, the often maligned manager of the Royals, now has the same number of World Series rings as the allegedly great Bobby Cox.

The message here for the Braves is, yes, you are acquiring a lot of good young arms but you can’t win on just that.

Playing solid defense and having a bullpen that can keep you in the game, and keep the other team down when you are winning, has become the benchmark for long term success. Certainly you can’t have complete oil cans as your starting rotation, but you also can’t rely on tremendous starting pitching as the primary consistent factor in winning championships.

The idea the Royals have shown how to do it and the Mets have shown what every Braves fan must surely know, except for some local sports writers at the AJC, is that good pitching and good hitting will beat great pitching because the best pitching in the world is not enough since nobody wins 0-0.

Great starting pitching, surrounded by little else, will keep you in a lot of games and let you rack up enough wins so that you can always be competitive. Good pitching, supplemented by the other aspects of a fundamentally sound team, can carry you to a championship.

The Mets will likely be very good next year because pitching is always where you start. But the ability to hold a lead, put the ball in play, run the bases and play sound defense, ultimately won the Royals a World Series.

The Atlanta Braves (or is it the Cobb County Braves?) have touted all the moves being made as rebuilding a pitching staff that will rival the best in the league. If those pitchers pan out the Braves may be more competitive this year than last, but even if the brain trust are right the Mets have clearly shown that is not enough.

If the Braves hope to claim any notion of being a championship caliber team in the coming years, they should not be looking at the Mets but the Royals, a team built with players schooled in the way to play baseball.

Meanwhile, Ned Yost can call Bobby Cox and say, we’re even.

Image: Turner Field by Nicolas Henderson via flickr and used under a Creative Commons license.

Ric Latarski

Ric Latarski has written for a variety of publications in the Atlanta area, was a stringer for Time Magazine, did commentary for Georgia Public Radio and wrote the guidebook, Atlanta: 101 Great Choices. He now writes fiction and recently completed his first novel.