It only took 44 days on the Atlanta Braves' active roster, but Charlie Culberson finally got into a game. In his first AB of the season, the fan-favorite legged out an infield single. It was the first time he's appeared in a game with the Braves since October 12, 2020, in the NLCS, when he entered as a pinch hitter.
1,007 days later, Culberson got another shot at pinch-hitting. A lot has happened with the Braves since his last game, let's take a look at a few key moments.
Key Braves moments since Charlie Culberson last appeared in a Braves game
1. Braves blow a 3-1 NLCS lead to the Dodgers
This one hurts, but in a little over a month, after Culberson appeared as a pinch-runner, the Braves took a 3-1 series lead against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS. It looked like the Braves were a lock to go to their first WS since 1999.
Unfortunately, the Braves starting rotation didn't have the depth and the Dodgers roared back to win the series and their first World Series since 1988.
2. Ronald Acuña Jr. tears his ACL, returns, struggles an entire season, and is now the best player in the NL
This is starting out as another bummer, but we'll eventually get to the good part. In the Braves' first season without Culberson, Ronald Acuña Jr. started the year by carrying the team. Even though they wouldn't get above .500 until August, the Braves RF's efforts get them treading water.
On July 10, 2021, Acuña Jr. had a 158 wRC+ and a 4.4 fWAR, a clear favorite for the NL MVP. Unfortunately, he wouldn't play another game in 2021 after this date. He tore his ACL jumping for a fly ball and would miss the Braves' incredible postseason run (spoiler) and the first few weeks of the 2022 season.
Acuña Jr. came back faster than expected in 2022, but struggled, at least by his standards, finishing the year with a career-low 2.1 fWAR and 114 wRC+.
This year has been a different story, however. Not only has he returned to his 2021 form, he's surpassed it. The Braves superstar is the clear favorite for NL MVP, as he's created a record, becoming the first player with 20 homers and 35 steals before the All-Star Break (and he had 40 steals!).
It was a long road to recovery for Ronnie, but not as long as it took in between Culberson's final game with the Braves in his first stint and first game back in his second stint.
The Braves win the World Series
After struggling throughout most of the year, the Braves rebuilt their outfield... Blah blah blah... You guys have heard it all before. I'm not going to waste my time writing it out.
Enjoy some 2021 Braves playoff homers from some guys who don't play with the Braves anymore (and Eddie).
The Braves, with an empty farm system, have the Rookie of the Year and the Rookie of the Year runner-up. Both get extensions
After entering 2022 with one prospect on MLB Pipeline's top 100, the Braves not only had the Rookie of the Year on their team, but they also had the runner-up, and those two spots weren't even close.
Spencer Strider had gotten a cup of coffee with the big league team in 2021 but only pitched 2.1 innings. He started the year in the bullpen, but by the end of the season, he was one of the best pitchers in baseball. Michael Harris II came up in late May, caught fire, and never looked back. By season's end, the question was which one of the two rookies would win ROY. And, in a very Alex Anthopoulos Way, he signed both to long-term deals.
Oh, yeah, speaking of which...
You get an extension, you get an extension, and you get an extension
Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies signed their extensions during Culberson's first stint with the team, but there have been many more since.
Since 2022, Alex Anthopoulos signed five core members to long-term deals. Austin Riley got the biggest contract in Braves' history at 10 years, $212 million, which surpassed Matt Olson's eight-year, $168 million.
Spencer Strider, Sean Murphy, and Michael Harris all signed six-year deals with team options.
He spent four weeks on the active roster before being designated for assignment
This is technically Culberson's second stint with the Braves this season. Charlie Clutch spent 28 days with the Braves, from May 19 until June 17, before being designated for assignment on June 18.
Culberson somehow never appeared in a game during this time, and he was sent down at a rather inopportune time. After spending some time in DFA limbo, Culberson opted for free agency and then returned to the club on a minor league deal. He played zero games with Gwinnett before being called up three days later.
The Braves don't lose
Since the beginning of the 2021 season, the Braves have gone 250-164. Good for a .604 winning percentage. Since June 1, 2022, the Braves have gone 162-91, which comes out to an improbable .640 winning percentage.
Charlie Clutch finally gets a chance
After 44 days of waiting, Braves fans finally got what they wanted: a Charlie Culberson at-bat. It didn't disappoint. After receiving a standing ovation, Culby got down in the count 1-2, before hitting this grounder to second that the fielder had no chance on.
Culberson is currently slashing 1.000/1.000/1.000, good for a 474 wRC+. I'm sure that's sustainable.