*(Hey, every high school teacher and/or college professor in the world — lose this phrase. Compare means hold two things up and talk about how they are alike and how they are not alike. It includes “contrast.” A pet peeve.)
How does it compare to today?
What’s the same?
Well, the pitching and the defense, obviously. Erick Aybar is Andres Thomas 2.0. And, well, the offense too, to mention it.
The most obvious difference to me, and one that a commenter pointed out earlier, is that we were utterly in the dark about the future. In those days, kids, there wasn’t this world wide interwebs thingy. Your sources were scouring daily boxscores and maybe the weekly Sporting News if you were a real diehard. Information about drafts and minor league systems was 1) virtually impossible to come by and 2) mostly meaningless rah-rah PR garbage from the team itself. Baseball cards (!) and their minor league stats were actually a valuable source of data nearly unobtainable for the average fan. Hell, when USA Today came out it was a jawdropping increase in the amount of information in the world — we were like the monkeys with the bone in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
So, in those bitter ’70s years, we didn’t know that Murph, Hubbard, Brett Butler, Steve Bedrosian were in the pipeline and would prove to be stalwarts of the Brief Shining Moment in 1982. And I for one certainly didn’t have any idea of how in the late 80s, Bobby Cox was assembling the best scouting organization in MLB and acquiring great players along the way like Glavine, Smoltz, Avery, Wohlers, or Justice, and invaluable role players like Klesko, Stanton, or Mercker.
What we did know was that we were terrible, and with Ted running the show, either actively meddling or passively ignoring, it seemed a good bet we were always going to be terrible. As a result, being a Braves fan was like being a coal miner in one of those British movies from the 1940s. You went grimly to work every day, maybe there was a cave-in killing several of your friends, maybe not. Then you got up and did it again, until you died from black lung.
So I would say that today’s situation is a little better than that. We have much better intel on what is in our pipeline. So we know there are good pieces on the way.
In terms of the management-fan relationship, the current situation feels a lot closer to the late ’80s than the late ’70s. The late ’70s was incompetently trying to get better. The late ’80s was just benign neglect. This is perhaps non-benign neglect. Management clearly does not give a fig for fielding a team that is competitive or even watchable. I do not believe that there are only two options for a baseball team, the first being trying to make the playoffs and the second being playing as the Washington Generals.
(Aside: I will never be convinced about the Holy Grail of the No. 1 pick in baseball. Sure, we got Chipper at No. 1. But we wanted Todd Van Poppel. After Bryce Harper went No. 1 in 2010, the Mets got Matt Harvey at No. 7, Chris Sale went 13th, and Noah Syndergaard went 38th. Mike Trout went 25th in 2009. Wholesale tanking isn’t necessary, and it isn’t worth the costs in damage to the franchise, both in esprit de corps and reputation, and karmic damage to your loyal fans. Superior scouting and outdrafting the opposition is where the game is. Tom Glavine was a second rounder; so was Greg Maddux.)
So, in that regard, today is easily worse. The utter disregard for the fanbase is more insulting today than ever, I think. And the internet provides not only more hard data for us to digest, but ample opportunity for us to read these front office jokers’ repeated overt lies about their intentions and the “game plan.”
There are some real advantages to having a human for an owner. Even if that owner was batpoop crazy Ted Turner.
If you had asked me at the beginning of the season if this was the worst Braves team of my lifetime, I would have said no. Without hesitation. The Opening Day roster featured a legitimate star at 1B, an above average right fielder, a budding WAR star in CF, a sophomore 3B who seemed to be a real major league hitter, and a seemingly rejuvenated catcher who had put together a .300 season and good gamecalling. (Add Erick Aybar, who in 2015 was a league average SS.) Even given how suspect the rotation and bench were, that seemed to me to be the bare skeleton of a major league team. I predicted 70 wins. We may not reach 50.
Will this team top the 106 losses of 1988? We shall see. But this team is obviously in contention to be the worst Atlanta team ever, and unless something dramatically shifts, that’s likely to be so. And it’s not necessary that it be so in order to engage in active rebuilding. We seem to be not merely throwing the baby out with the bathwater, we’re throwing the tub away too.