Monday, April 4, 2016 will mark the Atlanta Braves season opener for the last time at Turner Field. Since 1997, the Braves have played baseball at that ballpark. It has been the home of eleven National League (NL) Division Series, four NL Championship Series, one NL Wild Card Game, one Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Game, and one World Series. Will the Braves add another number to any of the totals previously stated?
Last season the Braves finished in fourth place in the NL East division with a record of 67-95. They were 23 games behind the division leading New York Mets. This was due to a lack of talent, most of which was traded away. The currently constructed roster doesn’t seem ready to challenge for the Division title. There is one main hitter in Freddie Freeman and one main pitcher in Julio Teheran. In his six years with the Braves, Freeman has batted .285 with 104 homeruns and 424 runs batted in. The first baseman was named an All-Star in 2013 and 2014. The only thing that may prevent him from achieving that this season, is a nagging right wrist injury. He claims it is fully healthy and ready to go. It will have to be because there isn’t much offensive fire power in the lineup. Nick Markakis, who plays right field, has batted .291 with 144 homeruns and 711 runs batted in during his ten year career. Left fielder Hector Olivera has only played in 30 MLB games, at the age of 31. He played most of his career in Cuba. He has shown flashes of being very good during Spring Training, but his contribution is still a mystery. Teheran is scheduled to start the season opener for the third straight year. In baseball it is typical to have your best pitcher start your first game. The last three seasons he has a record of 14-8, 14-13, and 11-8. I can imagine the blank stares as you re-read those records again. The other starting pitchers are Jhoulys Chacin, Mike Foltynewicz, Bud Norris, Williams Perez, and Matt Wisler. It seems that Wisler and Norris will be starting pitchers for days two and three. Wisler’s record last year was 8-8. Norris has been in the league seven years and only once has he had a record above .500 (15-8). Pitching is definitely a major question mark on the season. Expectations won’t be high, which means disappointment will be low. There are two games that will matter, the first and the last.
April 4th, I will fight Atlanta traffic to get down to Turner Field early. The first 1,000 fans will get a foam tomahawk. Electric Avenue will perform an hour long pregame concert. There will be a video tribute about the ballpark’s history narrated by Braves president John Schuerholz and former Braves Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine, Chipper Jones, and John Smoltz. The 1997 team will parade around the field led by former manager Cox. Then the first pitch will be made at 4:10 pm ET to start the game. I look forward to being one of the 49,586 in attendance to see the beginning of the end.