It's kinda nice to root for a loser

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Fulton County Stadium empty.jpgI disagree with Charles Krauthammer on almost everything, but he and I are hand in hand about the pleasure of rooting for a losing team. He’s a Nats’ fan, you see, and though he’d like to see some winning baseball, he’s just fine if it takes its sweet time arriving:

I go for relief. For the fun, for the craft and for the sweet, easy cheer at Nationals
Park. You get there and the twilight’s gleaming, the popcorn’s popping, the
kids’re romping and everyone’s happy. The joy of losing consists in
this: Where there are no expectations, there is no disappointment . . . No one’s happy to lose, and the fans cheer lustily when the Nats win.
But as starters blow up and base runners get picked off, there is none
of the agitation, the angry, screaming, beer-spilling, red-faced ranting
you get at football or basketball games.

The Braves have either been a winning team or a respectable team for 19 years now, but my love affair with baseball was solidified between 1985 and 1990 when they sucked eggs night-in, night-out. I didn’t go to Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and take it in like Krauthammer does the Nats, but I got something close to the low-leverage, amiable experience watching on TBS each night. Even the sound production on those broadcasts seemed designed to be low key and to lower expectations.

Krauthammer’s best line in the piece is “you root, root, root for the home team, but if they don’t win ‘it’s a
shame’ — not a calamity.”  I totally dig that. Don’t get me wrong: I want my team to win. But unlike the way I get during Ohio State’s football season, I can enjoy baseball even if they don’t, because it truly is a pastime more than it is a sport as that term has come to be thought of. There are winners and losers, but all the fans win for having been able to take in the ballgame.

It’s a great show. It’s a great experience. And in some weird way, it’s almost more enjoyable when the expectations are at their lowest.  If I lived in D.C. or Pittsburgh or Kansas City I’d probably buy Nats’ season tickets to get a taste of that.

Braves’ prospect Ronald Acuna wins AFL MVP, helps clinch AFL Championship Game

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The Arizona Fall League competition came to a close on Saturday, concluding with the Peoria Javelinas’ 8-2 win over the Mesa Solar Sox for the championship title. No one stood out more than Braves’ no. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna, who took home honors as the AFL MVP after slashing .325/.414/.639 with a league-leading seven home runs and second-best 1.053 OPS in 83 at-bats.

At just 19 years old, Acuna is the youngest prospect to receive the award. He made his presence felt even before he suited up for the AFL, earning promotions to the Braves’ Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett and batting a remarkable .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs across three levels in 2017.

Acuna was also a major factor in the Javelinas’ win on Saturday, but he wasn’t the first to make some noise. The Solar Sox got to right-hander T.J. Zeuch in the first inning, leading off with three singles and a run-scoring sac fly to get a 2-0 edge over the Javelinas. It was the only lead they’d get all afternoon and it lasted just two innings. Luis Urias snapped the shutout with a sac fly in the bottom of the second inning, and the Javelinas took the lead with a game-tying RBI single from Acuna and two-run base hit from Braves’ no. 16 prospect Alex Jackson in the third.

From then on, it was smooth sailing for Peoria. Andrew Case, Andres Munoz and Art Warren combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, while the offense tacked on another handful of runs with Acuna’s fourth-inning two-RBI single and Michael Chavis’ eighth-inning triple. With runners at the corners and one out, the Solar Sox lifted right-hander Dakota Bacus for fellow righty Nolan Blackwood. Even he was flummoxed by Acuna, however, who grabbed hold of the first pitch he saw and returned another sac fly to center field for the Javelinas’ eighth and final run of the game.

Only 131 days left until Opening Day, folks.