It’s a depressing time to be a fan of the Atlanta Braves. The team is currently 28-57, has the worst record in the major leagues, and has not had even a miniscule chance at contending since a 4-17 start. The franchise is rebuilding, but I’ll be honest: I’m not the patient type, so waiting for the future stars who are currently developing in the minor leagues isn’t easy for me.
There are not many fans left attending games, and while I am not privy to the Braves’ regional TV ratings, I would imagine they are not good. However, I have still been watching the Braves every night that I am not working, despite how disheartening it can sometimes be. There are, believe it or not, still some reasons to watch; here are the five best:
5. To watch good opposing players and teams.
There are currently only a handful of Braves players who I look forward to watching every day, but often times the opponent is worth watching. The Braves play 19 games per year against the Nationals, who lead the NL East and feature defending MVP Bryce Harper; the Mets, the defending NL champions with excellent young pitching; and the Marlins, with slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Outside the division, there are games like tonight’s contest against the Cubs, who are the best team in baseball and feature seven All-Stars, as well as potential playoff teams like the Giants, Cardinals, and others. I appreciate good baseball, and while I don’t see much of it from the Braves side, I can acknowledge it from the opponents, even if it means the Braves losing.
4. There are occasional bright spots.
That being said, in these series against very strong teams, the Braves have won their share of games. For instance, the Braves are 2-3 against the Cubs, and can split the season series if they can find a way to win tonight at Wrigley Field. In a three-game series against the Royals, the Braves won just once, but it was a 5-0 domination of the world champs. The Braves are 6-7 thus far against the NL champion Mets, and are even 8-4 against the contending Marlins. There have also been some individual accomplishments, such as Julio Teheran’s 2.72 ERA, Freddie Freeman’s cycle, Dario Alvarez’s 19 strikeouts in 8.2 innings, and walk-off hits by Chase d’Arnaud and Freeman. The bright spots have been few and far between, but they have kept me watching.
3. To see the future in action.
For a team like the Braves, with a bright future ahead, the names who will be a part of future success are slowly starting to make it to the major leagues, especially on the pitching side. I’m a sucker for getting to see players make their major league debut, and seven players, including Mallex Smith, Aaron Blair and Hunter Cervenka, have done so for this team. 19 players debuted with the Braves in 2015, including Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler and Jace Peterson, who are all likely to be future pieces for the Braves and are continuing to develop this year before our eyes. Of course, established major leaguers like Freeman and Teheran, who are still just 26 and 25, respectively, are also a big part of the team’s future. There’s a lot of the Braves’ future core still in the minors, but some already have a “cup of coffee” in The Show.
2. I’m loyal.
I was brought up to be loyal, whether in sports fandom or something more serious, even when the going gets tough. I’m not very fond of so-called “fair-weather fans,” so it would be hypocritical for me to become one during this rebuilding project. I completely understand where those people are coming from, as it is not easy to endure the “storm,”–I am well aware of this, as every team I consider myself a serious fan of is currently in rebuilding mode. Sure, I could find another hobby while these teams are down in the doldrums, but I’m too loyal, and it will also make the good times that will eventually come even more special.
1. It’s usually the only baseball-watching option.
Even with all of these reasons, I still might not watch the Braves as often as I do if there were other baseball viewing options. It’s the summer, and when I have spare time I want to watch baseball, period. Yet most nights, the only option for someone like me who can’t afford the MLB.TV online streaming service is the Braves’ local broadcast. Baseball on TV is not like other pro sports, or college sports, when there are typically multiple viewing options besides just the local teams on any given gameday. Typically, since I live in the southeast, the Braves are the only baseball on. Through most of my life, as the Braves have been competitive, that was enough, but now, I’d like to occasionally watch some games that mean something. Yes, some nights ESPN or MLB Network will broadcast a game, but their schedules aren’t overwhelmingly consistent other than the Sunday night primetime game on ESPN (which I have watched for years), and hard for me to follow. I enjoy the game of baseball, and particularly enjoy watching really good teams (i.e. the Cubs) and how they execute in a game. But until MLB televises more games, I’m stuck watching the worst team in baseball find new and innovative ways to lose nearly every night.