The Atlanta Braves won their first World Series in 26 years last week, but around mid-July it wasn’t the end anyone expected. Before the all-star break, they had a loss record and appeared to be heading into a less than 500 season.
But instead of trading their best players by the July 30 trade deadline, the Braves have signed four new outfielders: Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall and Jorge Soler. It’s not the move a losing team usually makes in the middle of a season.
Compare them to the Cubs, who were also sitting just below 0.500 in mid-July. They emptied the core of the 2016 Championship squad, swapping Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez within 24 hours of each other.
The Cubs finished with 91 losses – the most for them since 2013 – but the Braves continued to go 44-28 in the second half of the season. Atlanta won with a 61% rate from July to the end of the year. Over a full season, it’s a pace of 100 wins.
One of Robert Frost’s best-known poems is “The Road Not Taken”, first published in 1915. It has been called the most misread poem in America because we assume that Frost wrote in a little way. common and recalls the success that followed. . The poem is often quoted at times when we want to encourage someone to try something new or do something different. The differences in results for the Braves and Cubs would be an easy example to relate to Frost’s poem.
It would be easy to wonder if the Cubs had taken a similar route to the Braves and to lament “if only!” But that would be missing out on Frost’s famous poem.
According to David Orr, “The Road Not Taken” is not “a tribute to willful individualism; it is a commentary on the self-delusion that we practice when we are constructing the story of our own lives ”. In other words, the Braves are a bad example. They took a bet on trade deadlines and it worked, but we will only remember them that way in retrospect. There are many examples of teams that loaded up during an offseason or on a trade deadline that did not win a championship.
I respect the uncompromising attitude of the Braves and am glad it worked for them. I didn’t like seeing the Cubs trading these players, but I also respect taking a long-term view and sticking to it even when it’s difficult and unpopular.
As Orr writes of “The Road Not Taken,” we tend to build stories about our lives after the fact, and often we order those stories in a way that makes us feel better about the choices we have. facts. Frost did not write the metaphor of two roads in the woods to illustrate risk taking or creating a path with little traffic. We don’t know the outcome of the individual decisions we make, but sometimes we feel like we have to justify those decisions in hindsight.
And we don’t always have the advantage of knowing with certainty that we made the right choice. The 2021 Braves seem like a justification for going all-in, but that’s only because they won the World Series. Any other result and this decision is not considered the correct one.
Go read Frost’s poem again and think of it as a man trying to convince himself that he made the right choice, not as someone who is sure he made it. He hopes he’s on the right track, not convinced that he is.
Jared is a freelance baseball writer who lives in suburban Chicago with his wife and four young children who share his love of baseball. When he’s not doing that, he’s teaching and reading baseball history.