The Creation of a Braves fan. This Braves fan.

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My post on Bryce Harper’s rooting interests caused a couple of commenters to question my Atlanta Braves bona fides. I, after all, am not from Atlanta, and the Braves, after all, had an amazing string of success starting 19 years ago. Am I not myself a front runner? At least originally?

The answer is no. I explained that answer a couple of years ago in a ShysterBall post. Because, hey, why not, I reproduce that post below. Enjoy.

I was born into a Tigers-loving family in Flint, Michigan, and grew up on the Ralph Houk-Sparky Anderson teams of the late 70s and early 80s. We moved away in January 1985, however, and I soon started to lose touch with them. I began to stray.

It started innocently enough. Random channel surfing that summer caused me to stumble upon my first WTBS broadcast, and I was curious. I was initially attracted by the NWA wrestling — the Koloffs and the Rock and Roll Express were engaged in quite a feud, if I recall — but the Braves games sucked me in, with random little things holding my interest each time as I tried in vain to maintain my fidelity to the Tigers. “Is that Rick Cerone? I wondered what happened to him.” “Len Barker? I thought he was supposed to be good. Maybe I’ll just watch a little more of this start.” Two hours later I would realize that I had watched every last Rafael Ramirez at bat, every Pascual Perez victory

I wasn’t hooked yet — hell, Pascual Perez went 1-13 in 1985, so seeing all of his wins wasn’t much a trick — but by 1986 I was past the point of no return. I was a Braves fan, even if it took me a year or so to admit it to myself. Desperately, like a man trying to save a dying marriage with purchases of jewelry, I continued to follow the Tigers via The Sporting News. But without Ernie Harwell around, it wasn’t the same. I hung around as late as the last great team of 1987 — that season-ending weekend series against the Jays was like that last ditch B&B weekend in which you fool yourself into thinking you and her still have a future together — but as soon as it was over I knew that my rooting was more about inertia than anything else.

But despite all of that — and despite the fact that I had been messing around with Atlanta for over two years by this point — I was still in Braves denial. When asked, I would say I was a Tigers fan. When pressed, I would say that I was just watching the Braves because they were on, not because I was into them or anything. This led to some embarrassing moments, of course, most notably the time in August 1987 when I stayed in our hotel room during a family trip to Myrtle Beach to watch Tom Glavine’s major league debut — shelled by the Astros, unfortunately — rather than head out to the beach. Did I say I wasn’t feeling well? Did I try to even hide it by then? I can’t recall exactly, but I know now that everybody probably knew already.

So if I was in denial, when did it end? I’ll tell you exactly: in the bottom of the third inning during the Braves-Dodgers game on the evening of Friday April 15, 1988.

Six days before that game I had been in a nasty car accident. I wasn’t hurt — not even a scratch — but given that I was in the back seat of a Chevy Chevette that had just flipped over three times and ended up on its roof, well, that was something of a miracle. The other five teenagers in the car weren’t unscathed, but no one died, and by the time of the Braves-Dodgers game, we knew that everyone would be OK.

The crash had put an abrupt end to my going away party. You see, for the second time in three years, my family was moving to another town, this time 120 miles south to Beckley, West Virginia, and my friends wanted to send me off in style, which for this crowd meant lots of underage drinking and an epic automobile accident. My parents, who thought I was at a sleepover at the time of the crash, had no idea how to punish me for a transgression so major. At times like these people tend to default to what they know, however, so they grounded me for something like three months.

Of course the grounding was kind of pointless considering that, in six days, I would be moving to a town in which I didn’t know anyone. It was especially pointless considering that, due to a screw up with the realtor and the sellers of our new house, we were going to be living indefinitely in the Beckley Ramada Inn at the expense of the United States Department of Commerce’s employee relocation division. Ground me? Where the hell was I even going to go? I was already in my own private Guantanamo.

We left Parkersburg for good on the afternoon of the 15th. Two hours later we pulled into the Ramada. After a joyless dinner at the Western Steer Steakhouse, my brother and I retired to the double room we would share for the next two months. I clicked on the TV. The Braves-Dodgers game started at around 10:30pm. Given the significance of the day in my life and in my baseball fandom, I remember the game more clearly than I remember the Indians-Red Sox game I watched last night, and what I don’t remember I’ve gotten from Sean Forman.

The Braves had dropped their first eight games of the season, all of them at home, most of them in front of pitifully small crowds. It was getting good and ugly by the 15th, and you could tell that Atlanta was tight. Tom Glavine was on the hill that night, but he wasn’t Tom Glavine yet. After an inauspicious rookie year, he had dropped his first start of 1988 on the night of my car wreck and took the mound against the Dodgers looking nervous and overmatched. The rest of the Braves looked the same, save Dale Murphy, who simply looked like he wanted to get the hell away from this crew of losers and misfits before any of what they were carrying infected him (it eventually would, however, as he went .226/.313/.421 that year).

It was tied 0-0 in the bottom of the third when Rick Dempsey reached on an infield single. Well, it was scored an infield single anyway, but that was some hometown-scorer generosity, because I distinctly remember Andres Thomas booting the sucker when he failed to charge it, failed to get his glove down, and failed to look, think, or react like a major league ballplayer. Wasn’t his fault, though, because he wasn’t really a major league ballplayer anyway. The next batter was Orel Hershiser, who squared to bunt. Gerald Perry took the ball himself at first, and ran over to the bag to force Hershiser out.

This was what led to the watershed moment. I’m not entirely sure what the argument was about, but Ozzie Virgil made a point to stand on the mound after Hershiser’s bunt and yell at everyone. Skip Caray seemed to think that the focus of his ire was second baseman Damaso Garcia, who perhaps didn’t rotate to first when Hershiser squared to bunt. Maybe Virgil thought they could have gotten two on the play if Garcia had fielded his position properly. Maybe he just missed Glenn Hubbard who had signed with the A’s that offseason. Whatever the case, he was hot, and he was yelling at everyone with the possible exception of Glavine. He was also humiliating himself and his teammates on national television, which Skip pointed out as well. If memory serves, Braves manager Chuck Tanner — a guy whose previous stint in a Braves uniform ended when he was waived during their last championship season — sat passively on the bench during this exchange, no doubt lost in reminiscence of the 1979 Pirates
or something. The game ended
up being a fairly close one, but the Braves eventually lost.

I watched all of this that night, and rather than upset me, it made me pretty damn happy. Why? Because here I was, virtually homeless, stuck in a shitty hotel room, cut off from friends in a new town, with the fact of my mortality just beginning to dawn on me after a week’s worth of post-accident denial and bravado. I was lonely, I was sad, and I was afraid of both the near and long-term future. In short, I was at a miserable low point, but the fact that my baseball team was too softened the blow.  Shared misery can be a good thing.

And you know what? Despite their unprecedented run of success between 1991 and 2005 — despite the World Series championship and the five pennants and the scads of division crowns in recent years — that 1988 team still stands as my favorite Braves team of all time. Why? Because we suffered together that summer. Because, like no other summer before or since, I lived with, breathed with, laughed with, and cried with a baseball team day-in-day-out.

To this day I remember young guys like Andres Thomas and Dion James pretending to have a clue as to what they were supposed to be doing on a baseball diamond. I remember old guys like Ken Griffey and Ted Simmons and Gary Roenicke wondering how in the hell they ended up in Atlanta. I remember developmental false starts like German Jimenez and Kevin Coffman providing a bleak view of Atlanta’s future. I remember diamonds in the rough like Glavine, John Smoltz, Ron Gant, Mark Lemke, and Jeff Blauser who one day, I thought, if everything broke just right, might form the basis of a team that could play .500 baseball (not that I dared say such a thing out loud).

The 1988 season lasted forever, but it ended far too soon. I cheered in 1991, I roared in 1995, and I’ll always hang with them no matter how spoiled, impatient, or pessimistic I get with them these days. But I’ll never love a team like I loved the 1988 Braves.

Cardinals will bring back Mike Matheny for the 2017 season

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 16:  Manager Mike Matheny #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals looks on while the umpires review a call against the San Francisco Giants in the top of the third inning at AT&T Park on September 16, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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The Cardinals went from winning 100 games last season to 82 entering Wednesday evening’s game, and they might not even make the playoffs. Still, the organization will bring back manager Mike Matheny for the 2017 season, Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Owner Bill DeWitt, Jr. said, “Mike’s done a really good job for us. There’s no thought that we’re going to go in any different direction.”

GM John Mozeliak also expressed his support, saying, “Mike takes a lot of heat, and I’ve defended him and I will continue to. I really feel like some of the things that we’re dealing with aren’t fair to put on the manager.”

Mozeliak continued, “I do feel like all of us are always held accountable for what we do here, so there’s nobody excluded from that. But having said that, I don’t look at him as someone that we are where we are because of that.”

Matheny has received criticism for his bullpen usage, but the Cardinals have only 15 blown saves as a team, the fourth-lowest total in baseball this season.

Pete Mackanin on Phillies’ bullpen: “Somebody else has to [bleeping] step up.”

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 15: Manager Pete Mackanin #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies makes a pitching change in the eighth inning during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Citizens Bank Park on June 15, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Blue Jays won 7-2. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Hunter Martin/Getty Images
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The Phillies’ bullpen led to yet another loss on Tuesday. Severino Gonzalez, Luis Garcia, Joely Rodriguez, and David Hernandez combined to allow six runs in five innings, allowing the Braves to come back and win 7-6 after falling behind 6-0 after the first two innings.

The game prior, the Phillies’ bullpen surrendered 14 runs in four innings in a 17-0 loss to the Mets. The game before that, the bullpen yielded four runs in four innings, nearly squandering the Phillies’ 10-0 lead after four innings. And last Thursday, the Phillies had taken an 8-6 lead in the top of the 11th, but Edubray Ramos served up a walk-off three-run home run to Asdrubal Cabrera. It’s been a tough month.

Manager Pete Mackanin ripped the bullpen when speaking to the media after Tuesday’s game. Via Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly:

Neris was going to close for us. I thought about using him with two outs in the eighth. But, at some point, somebody else has to do a (bleeping) job. Somebody else has to (bleeping) step up. In two games now, every reliever I brought in has given up a (bleeping) run. That’s unheard of.

The Phillies currently own the fourth-worst bullpen ERA in baseball at 4.97.  Only the Rockies (5.12), Reds (5.07), and Diamondbacks (4.98) have been worse.

In fairness to the bullpen, aside from Jeanmar Gomez (who lost his job as closer earlier this month) and free agent signee David Hernandez, the bullpen is intentionally comprised of young, inexperienced pitchers as the Phillies are still rebuilding. If the Phillies were aiming for a playoff spot, it would be one thing, but the struggles are to be expected when one throws 24-year-olds into the deep end.