The importance of the Braves' series vs. the Nationals, Evan Gattis' stunning rise and more.
By CHIP CARAYFS South
FOX Sports South caught up with play-by-play announcer Chip Caray to discuss all things Braves.
FOX Sports South: The Braves swept the Cubs and swept the Marlins but it’s the Nationals that are their real measuring stick. What do you expect to see this weekend?
Chip Caray: Everyone’s going to assign an awful lot of importance to this series but this is the first three of 19 times that they play these guys. It is an early-season measuring stick and a barometer for both of these teams and both have played very, very well.
Yes, the Braves have had a very favorable schedule in six of their last nine games but to their credit those are games that they should have won and they did so in pretty good fashion. To be able to do that with Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman, I think that is a testament to the depth and the talent on this ball club.
But make no mistake about it: Washington is as deep and as good and as talented and they are the team to knock off in the division. I assign this series like boxers going through the first couple of rounds, sort of probing for weaknesses and trying to get a feel for what each other can and can’t do and what they’re doing well at this point in the season.
But if the Braves sweep all three of these games, for anybody to say they’re going to win this division running away is silly and if the Braves get swept, to say they have no chance in the division is equally silly.
So let’s assign the importance to it that it deserves: it’s a big series with a very good team but it’s one-sixth of what we’re going to see against Washington all year long, so let’s just see how both teams are doing right now and see where it takes us.
FSS: You mentioned not having Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman. The guy who has been steeping into both of their roles – catcher and cleanup hitter – is Evan Gattis. He’s kind of taken on a folk-hero status. When was the last time you remember everyone get caught up in a player like this?
CC: I think with the Baby Braves when Jeff Francoeur was on the cover of Sports Illustrated early in his career. There’s that kind of mythical folk worship because he was an
Atlanta kid and everybody knew his story.
I think Gattis has much more of an everyman kind feel to him. He wasn’t a No. 1 pick. He was a guy who stumbled and failed in just about every way you could, not just in sports but perhaps in life and was somehow able to drag himself out of those horrible situations. Baseball gave him a second chance and he’s cashed it in.
People always love the movie-star hero and they certainly respect and admire him but there’s always a special place in peoples’ hearts for someone who has had to overcome a whole lot more than a No. 1 pick has.
That’s not a knock on anybody, but if you think about what Evan Gattis has been through and what he’s doing now, it’s really remarkable.
Yes, he’s a rookie but -- and we’ve said this on the broadcast -- he does not approach this as some wide-eyed guy in the big leagues for the very first time. He’s 26 years old. He’s older than Freddie Freeman. He’s older than Jason Heyward. He’s older than Andrelton Simmons. But he’s also older in the game of life than just about everybody on this team.
He’s been in the lowest of lows in life and this doesn’t faze him in any way, shape or form and all of us have just been amazed by it.
FSS: Gattis early on was a key guy in the bottom of the order performing so well. He’s moved up since but even without him that part of the order keeps coming through time and time again. Are you surprised by what we’re seeing?
CC: No, because this is a good, deep lineup. It’s an American League lineup and when healthy and fully in place, this is a lineup that’s just relentless.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez can go left, right all the way down; he can lead off with Simmons, he can lead off with B.J. Upton. You could lead off with Heyward if he wanted to.
No, I’m not surprised. I think the depth of this ball club is as good as it’s ever been. It’s certainly better than it was last year and guys are getting an opportunity to play because of injury.
When the regulars come back and get into the lineup, that’s just going to give Fredi more options to use and for a manager I’m sure is a very good thing.