Atlanta Braves' blueprint for success: A culture of excellence
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Atlanta Braves' blueprint for success: A culture of excellence

For the past three decades, no Major League Baseball team has ruled their division like the Atlanta Braves have commanded the National League East.

The Braves have captured 18 NL East titles in the past 29 years, a run that is unmatched by any team in recent history -- including the powerful New York Yankees, who have struggled just a bit in recent years.

Atlanta have now captured their division a record six straight seasons.

And the Braves are off and running this season as well as they attempt to keep that skein alive.

They are once again atop the NL East boasting the best win-loss record in all of MLB.

So, what's the secret to the Brave's success?

"It's a cultural thing," explained Atlanta third sacker Austin Riley. "It's passed on from the guys who played before you. Everyone buys into the Braves process."

"It started back with Chipper Jones and those guys [in the late 1990s and first decade of this millennium] and It's a way of going about your work."

"You learn," explained Riley, "what you've got to do as a pro athlete. They know how you have to prepare to play 162 games."

Older team leaders show the way for youngsters and then those youngsters develop and mature and in turn show their younger teammates how to go about the business of baseball, Braves style.

For example, everyday drills like infielders taking ground balls and outfielders chasing down fungos are taken very seriously by the Atlanta ballclub.

"You try to get better every day," explained Riley.

"I learned from Freddie Freeman [former longtime Braves slugger now with the Los Angeles Dodgers]," said Riley.

"And now that I've been around for a few years I try to help out the new guys myself."

Riley has learned well from his predecessors.

Last year he had a big offensive season, clouting 37 homers, driving in 97 runs and hitting a very respectable .281. He also played a solid third base for Atlanta.

At the core of the Brave's success over the years, though, has been outstanding pitching.

Atlanta built their club initially in the mid-90s around stout hurlers like Greg Maddox, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz -- Hall of Famers all.

Carrying forth that tradition are current standout pitchers Spencer Strider, a rising superstar who won 20 games in 2023 but is currently sidelined with an elbow injury to his pitching arm, Max Fried (8-1 a year ago), Bryce Elder (12-4 in '23) and proven veteran Charlie Morton.

Overseeing the whole operation is 68-year old Brian Snitker, now in his 9th year as the Braves manager.

You could describe him as a combination of old school guy and new age analytics skipper.

"I think having all that information at hand is great, it helps" reasoned Snitker, "But in situations where it comes down to one or the other, I always go with my gut feeling based on all my experience."

The Braves won a whopping 104 games and were the winningest MLB team in 2023. But the Braves were dispatched -- for the second year in a row -- by the upstart Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Division Series, 3 games to 1 both times.

Each of those seasons, the mostly right handed Braves pitchers proved vulnerable to the left-handed hitting-heavy Phils line-up.

So to help rectify such a situation in the future, the Braves acquired lefty Chris Sale, the former Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox ace.

In recent years though, Sale, now 35, has not had the success he once enjoyed. But he is seemingly healthy once more and the Braves took a flier on him.

So far, the move is paying dividends. Sale currently has a 3-1 win-loss record and a 3.69 Earned Run Average.

The Braves hope a more lefty-on-lefty approach will benefit them should they meet the Phillies yet again in the postseason.

Sale won a World Series title in 2018, pitching for the BoSox "I got one in the American League," exclaimed an eager Sale. "Now let's get one in the National League."

If he does, he'll likely do it the Braves way.

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