The growing problem of impatient Atlanta Braves fans

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Atlanta Braves fans were used to winning … every year … at one time, and now that they’ve had another taste of that nectar they’ve become increasingly impatient for more.

This isn’t an Atlanta Braves column dealing with fan grumblings that revolve around stadium deals, team moves, or absentee ownership. This is about fans who have grown tired of waiting out “the process” and want their pennants now. Right now.

Have you ever been flying somewhere and your plane arrives at the gate early? Your initial emotion is excitement. You get to board before you planned and you’re reasonably sure that you’ll arrive a little early at your destination.

So you board, and you sit on the tarmac and wait. You wait for the other passengers. You wait for the crew to arrive. You wait for refueling and maintenance. You wait wait wait wait wait … breathing recycled air and munching stale-tasting ice cubes, until finally, your plane takes off.

On time.

But now you’re pissed. Why? Because you didn’t leave early. You were forced to wait. You’ll still reach your destination when you were scheduled to be there, but yet you still gripe and moan that you had to wait.

Welcome to the world of a 2019 Atlanta Braves fan.

The National League East defending champion Atlanta Braves aren’t having a bad season. As this column is being written, they’re two games back from Philadelphia in the NL East and leading Colorado by a half game for the second Wild Card spot. Playoffs are definitely in the cards for this team.

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That’s not good enough for Atlanta fans, apparently. There’s a growing impatience among Braves fans, and it’s getting a little ugly.

The team who couldn’t seemingly lose (during the regular season) in the 1990s and early 2000s suffered a few down seasons. Managers and general managers were fired, front offices were shaken up, and fan-favorite players were sent packing for various destinations.

Then the minor leagues were restocked. Player development again became a priority. A few veteran pieces were acquired to help the young players along (sound familiar in a 1991 kind of way Braves fans?).

Then it happened. The Braves — from outta nowhere like a Randy Orton RKO — won the NL East in 2018. The newest batch of Baby Braves became household names, and the name Ronald Acuña Jr. was being whispered in the same breath as Braves greats like Dale Murphy and Chipper Jones.

The problem is, it wasn’t supposed to happen that quickly.

The Braves success arrived early thanks to some luck on the field and some down seasons by other teams in the division. In 2019, reality caught up with the Braves.

The holes that were iron-on patch fixed in the bullpen last season have come unraveled, exposing even more raw flesh. Starting pitchers who were figured to be sure-fire15-20 game winners (hello, Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb) have crumbled. Injuries have taken a huge toll in the first half of the season.

In short, the Braves have taken a step back. But it’s a short step back and it’s a step back to where they probably should be at this point in the rebuilding and development process.

Yet, you wouldn’t know that if you talked to your average Braves fan. The fuses are short and grow even shorter every time the bullpen blows a lead, or a starting pitcher can’t seem to get out of the 3rd inning, or Liberty Media doesn’t do their best impersonation of Ted Turner to offer whatever money is needed to secure a desirable free agent (and for the record, Chicago overpaid for Craig Kimbrel).

Braves fans who were spoiled by winning consistently for nearly two decades now want to gather in mobs with pitchforks and torches when the record hovers close to the .500 mark.

SunTrust Park patrons, be patient. The Atlanta Braves are fine. They’ll develop more pitchers, they’ll bolster the bullpen and they’ll be the team to beat in the NL East for a while. Maybe not for 15 years straight, but it’ll be a stretch.

Yes, the Braves payroll needs a bump. Yes, there are some lineup issues to be addressed. No, passing Philadelphia this season may not happen. But it will be fine. The championship that arrived probably two years early will only serve as a nudge to the upcoming young players as to what can be done.

For now, watch in awe the exploits of Acuña and fellow phenom Austin Riley. Revel in the fact that you get to see Freddie Freeman play in a Braves uniform during the prime of his career. Cheer for the continued growth and patience shown for Dansby Swanson. Enjoy the ride, Braves fans.

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In short, the Atlanta Braves championship plane will leave when it was scheduled to leave. So sit back, have a few mini-bottles, and don’t panic.