By: Matt Sharp
Two weeks from Christmas, the College Football playoffs about to kick off, hunting season in full swing, Holiday parties and gift giving. It’s a time about as far removed from hotdogs, peanuts and the “Tomahawk Chop” as you can get for the average Braves fan, but sitting here in the middle of Braves Country on an unseasonably warm December evening my mind goes back to the night before opening day 2015. It’s probably the Weather. Come to think of it, it may have been colder back in April. Anyway, I had just stepped out of the car having returned from Sunday evening Church, like most in Braves Country, completely oblivious to the night’s work. I still remember the faithful text message I received from a friend. “Braves traed Kimbrel” and then immediately a second message right behind it. “*trade”. So what, my pal didn’t proof read the text. Who could blame him under the circumstances? I immediately took a deep breath and steadied myself.
I guess all of us knew it was coming. At least knew that it was possible. Still it stung to know we wouldn’t be hearing “Welcome to the Jungle” anymore at “The Ted”. No more flaming LED Lights burning the name KIMBREL into the eyes of the opponent, knowing that, even up a single point with the best part of the order coming up we were going to cheer and chop Craig Kimbrel to victory with a little help from his fastball and evil slider. But, it was over. Like Glavine going to the Mets or Chipper Jones stepping off of third base and walking into legend. Looking back, superstitious fans would say that maybe trading your star closer, one of the most popular guys on the team, on the night before opening day, was bad luck. Maybe it was.
The names read like a casualty report after a decisive battle. Craig Kimbrel, Chris Johnson, Melvin Upton, Evan Gattis, Justin Upton, Alex Wood, Jason Heyward ,Ian Thomas, David Carpenter, Juan Uribe ,Tommy La Stella, Kelly Johnson, Andrelton Simmons and on and on. Some before the first pitch was thrown. Many others through attrition as the brutal season progressed and still more at the merciful end, as the Front Office works to pick up the pieces. By August the Braves had already used 49 players. I am not sure of the final count. Without checking into it I’d say close to 60 guys put on a Braves uniform and trotted out onto the field this season, as the faithful chopped and cheered through a bullpen with the propensity to choke on thin air, sometimes comically bad outfield plays (remember Uery Perez, August 3rd against the Giants? At least he tried!) and heroic defense from Andrelton Simmons. We moaned for Jason Grilli when he went down and jumped for joy when “Folty” hit a random homerun or AJ Pierzynski got a critical RBI with two outs. Yes, there were good times and bad, but perhaps the Kimbrel trade does tell the tale of the Atlanta Braves 2015 campaign after all. Heart break and heroes riding off into the sunset…
So now as the Braves faithful settle in for Christmas and the fabled “Winter Meetings” we look at the smoldering ruins of our 2015 Campaign and wonder who will take up the mantle of the departed. After all, it is the Atlanta Braves! The team of Hank Aaron, John Smoltz, Dale Murphy, Chipper Jones and Phil Niekro will always rise from the ashes. Hope springs eternal as they say and Pitchers and Catchers report in only 65 days!