Caray: Braves control fate despite skid; Heyward emerging as leader

Jason Heyward is 9-for-17 with two doubles and a triple since his return to the lineup.

Jake Roth/Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports checks in with play-by-play announcer Chip Caray to discuss the latest surrounding the Braves.

FOXSPORTSSOUTH.COM: The Braves come on after a forgettable road trip of eight straight losses. Down in the division, they get the Nationals at home this weekend. After winning 20 of 29 in the series and four of 13 at Turner Field, Atlanta is at least a position to make up some ground on their rival, isn’t it?

CHIP CARAY: It’s really remarkable when they went through this past week, and really what they’ve gone through since their blistering start, and still control their own fate.

Yes, they’ve played well against the Nationals in the past and they’re going to have to play that way again in this series. This is an opportunity for the Braves to get within a game and a half in the division if they sweep them at home.

However, if things go poorly and their struggles continue, they could be buried pretty quickly. That’s the good thing about playing the team that is directly ahead of you. You control your own fate. Play well and beat them, you can make up ground. If you don’t, you dig a very deep hole and you need help from other people.

Unfortunately, the Braves find themselves in the position of looking up instead of looking down at Washington. But they always feel confident playing them. They always feel confident playing in their ballpark, and hopefully the day off and knowing that they just ended what was arguably the worst week in the history of the Atlanta version franchise, that is all behind them and they can get going here with a sense of urgency and play well.

FSS.COM: Amid that skid, Jason Heyward returned and he’s played some of his best baseball of the season. Are we seeing a guy step up and assume more of a lead-by-example role amid trouble?

CC: Leaders are forged. Sometimes they’re born, but usually they’re forged by being good players, playing the game the right way, taking young guys under their wing and showing them how to do it.

Talking to other people about our team, this so-called "absence of leadership" isn’t because there aren’t guys that aren’t capable of being leaders — it’s that they don’t know how. They are still very young players; this is still a very young team and we’re all guilty of forgetting that.

They’re learning how to handle success and how to handle failures still on a day-to-day basis even though they’ve been in the big leagues a long time, or seemingly a long time.

Can Jason Heyward lead? You bet he can. Ideally your best players are your best leaders and Jason, in my opinion, if he’s going to be a leader on the club he has to stay on the field.

For the most part this year he’s been able to do that except for a few nagging things. If he can do that consistently for the rest of this year, play at a high level, play great defense, play with a fire that he sometimes displays … that’s a quality this team has been searching for from anybody, especially some of the young guys, who will hopefully be core guys of the franchise for the next 10 years.

FSS.COM: To switch gears, the Braves will honor their past with Alumni Weekend. A number of huge names are expected to be in attendance. What do you get excited about when it comes to having all those legends back?

CC: This is my favorite weekend of the year. I think the last five years, with Braves president John Schuerholz’s input and Greg McMichael running the alumni program — of course the late, great Pete Van Wieren was involved in that too — I think the Braves have done a great job of remembering their past.

Not just remembering the guys who played during the glory years, when the bandwagon was full, but let’s not forget that the guys that aren’t household names that got things started here in Atlanta.

I really believe that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it and I think the Braves have done a great job of re-welcoming those guys and re-energizing the fanbase. Because let’s face it, the kids who were 11, 12 when the Braves started their glory run in 1991, those guys are 30 and 35 now and they have kids of their own now.

As successful as this franchise was with 14 straight division championships, that’s yesterday’s news. It’s a great achievement and a totally incredible accomplishment, but for us to forge these new bonds and create new memories and new championships and new dynasties, I think we have to remember those guys who did it before because they are the lessons on how it was done.

I salute the Braves for doing it. I love seeing the guys. I love the excitement on their faces and the old stories. It’s a wonderful way of linking the present with the past, which we could all use more of.