The Race for the NL East

Photo by Trent Legaspi | The Signal

The Braves had a tumultuous off-season after winning their first World Series since 1996. Losing franchise legend Freddie Freeman to free agency, many around the baseball world felt that even with the acquisition of all-star first basemen Matt Olson, the Braves would struggle without Freeman in the locker room.

The 2022 Braves did not allow the noise to infiltrate the clubhouse. Alex Anthopoulos has locked up almost all the young talent on the roster for the next decade. When a clubhouse has a true leader at the helm that shows infinite trust in the young core by investing time and money into each one of them, it creates a winning formula.

The Braves had multiple rookies playing key roles this season. Michael Harris II, Spencer Strider and Vaugh Grissom all showed that they are elite-level MLB talent. Most rosters with any post-season hopes do not have rookies playing in key roles because of how hard it is for them to acclimate to the speed of the major league.

The Braves had two rookies leading the NL in rookie of the year, voting in Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider. They were so prolific throughout the 2022 season that they inked big-money deals in the middle of their first season in the majors.

Veteran Players like Dansby Swanson, Austin Riley and Ronald Acuña Jr. stepped up in the absence of Freeman. All are taking on a more prominent role as leaders within the clubhouse and upping their play on the field. 

The team’s core is young, ranging from 22 to 28 years old; the Braves will have control of most of them throughout their prime. It is difficult in the modern era to keep a core together with the number of money teams can throw at players during free agency.

The Braves were humming from the opening day of the 2022 season. The most games all season, the Braves were under .500 was four, which was in late May. They held a winning record for most of the season and ended 41 games above .500. The NL east was one of the most competitive divisions in baseball. 

The Braves and the Mets finished the season with a staggering 101 wins, while the Phillies were highly competitive, winning 87 games and obtaining a wild card spot. 

Most pundits around the league had the Mets running away with the NL east halfway through the season, but after a back-half run by the Braves, the division came down to the last series of the regular season between the Mets and Braves.

A three-game series at Truist Park with the division on the line. The regular season was so balanced that even after 160-plus games, it all came down to the last minute. After trailing the Mets all season long in the standings, the Braves won the series in a three-game sweep that put them atop the NL East standings.

“If the Mets win all three games, they will clinch the NL East title,” MLB Beat Writer Anthony Dicomo said. If they win two of three, they will have an effective magic number of one, making them prohibitive favorites to win the division. Even if the Mets win only one of three, they’ll remain in control of their destiny.” 

 They are back-to-back NL east champs and staring down another trip to the NLDS. The Braves needed a sweep to control their destiny and found a way to do just that. Escaping the Wild card and getting rest time is a massive win for any team. After the rigors of a 165-game season, any time to reset and relax is appreciated by every team member. The Braves showed they are here to stay and that last season was not a flash in the pan.