The Atlanta Braves extended their new first baseman for eight years, but it’s unfair to ask him to fill the leadership role of his predecessor immediately.
Atlanta Braves‘ addition of Matt Olson replaced and arguably improved from the first base slot in the order. Today’s extension of Olson guarantees the club won’t face this kind of decision for a while.
Since the departure of Chipper Jones, the club has belonged to Freddie Freeman. He was Mister Consistent: in the lineup every day, steady no matter what the team’s situation, and a role model for all who played with the Braves. Freeman’s departure creates a leadership vacuum on and off the field.
Freeman set the tone for the club; older players arriving knew recognized him as leader of the team, and young players saw their superstar first baseman working hard every day and knew they couldn’t do otherwise. Who takes that role now?
I’ve seen a lot of folks saying this is Ronald Acuna’s team. Acuna’s talent is off the charts, but he’s just 24-years-old, and injuries limited him to one full season. He’s the exciting face of the team, but not the guy who’s going to pull a player aside and tell him to get his head out of dark places… at least not yet. The same is true for Riley and Albies.
Olson isn’t a rookie and possesses the same play every day, work hard every day, do-things-right attributes as Freeman. He could assume the off-field rolewhile becoming the anchor for the lineup, but that doesn’t happen on day one.
The player who comes to mind is Dansby Swanson, and the role is one he assumed at every level in the game. As much as some like to deny his impact, Swanson’s now the longest-serving active player. Teammates have spoken of his off-field leadership in the past and see him as a guy they can turn to at any time.
That’s a wrap
Repeating a championship is tough. Repeating after a team watched its de facto captain leave is exponentially harder. Atlanta Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos did his job by paying a hefty price to replace Freeman’s production.
While he focuses on the other pieces needed, it becomes Brian Snitker’s task to ensure the players remain on an even keel. I’m glad we have an old-head like Snitker at the helm to ease the shock.
Snitker understands the ins and outs of clubhouse life and has probably spoken to Swanson or whomever he sees as heir-apparent. He’ll do what he’s done since he started as a manager, guide the players to find their level, and attempt to help them win.
Just read that the Atlanta Braves signed Collin McHugh too! Go Braves!