Kevin Pillar's heartbreaking comments on Braves tenure speak to clubhouse culture

A beloved piece of last year's Braves squad had glowing things to say about his time with the team.
Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game One
Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game One / Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves/GettyImages

The Atlanta Braves have long been one of Major League Baseball's model franchises since the team moved from Milwaukee. Atlanta has long been seen as a place that features some of baseball's best talent and an exceptional clubhouse culture.

That hasn't changed over the years but has been amplified more after Alex Anthopoulos took the helm as General Manager and President of Baseball Operations. He's emphasized many times that when making decisions for on-field talent, he not only values performance but also who the person is.

This is mentioned every time Atlanta signs or trades for a player and it shows. Players inside and outside the organization speak highly about the culture created by the Braves. That is even more evident after a recent appearance on the Foul Territory podcast by former outfielder Kevin Pillar.

Kevin Pillar's heartbreaking comments speak to Braves' clubhouse culture

Pillar was a nice surprise for the Braves in 2023 and fans seemed to enjoy having him. He platooned with Eddie Rosario in left field and while his bat isn't what it used to be, he had some nice offensive moments. His glove was extremely valuable in left field as well.

He ended last season with a line of .228/.248/.416 with 45 hits including nine home runs, 10 doubles, 32 RBI, 50 strikeouts, and a .664 OPS. Pillar even hit his 100th career home run during his time in Atlanta and the team's 300th home run for a historic offense. So, it's safe to say that Kevin's time with the Braves was special.

Kevin admitted as much after the Braves season ended disappointingly with a NLDS loss to the Phillies. He tweeted out a message to fans speaking about what an honor it was to have the Braves logo across his chest.

It seems he enjoyed playing for a contending team and the fan base as well. More importantly, he enjoyed the culture surrounding the team and It's hard to blame him. Joining an organization that values not only winning but also a quality clubhouse experience is rare. There is just something about the "Braves Way" that appeals to MLB players.

It's something often overlooked and it shouldn't be. Bad clubhouse culture can sink even the most talented of teams. Remember the clubhouse cancer that was Yunel Escobar? There's a reason the team moved on. Atlanta understands the value of culture and how it can work to their benefit when free agency rolls around.

Kevin Pillar touched on that briefly during his podcast appearance and spoke on how he would have done anything to return to Atlanta in 2024. However, Atlanta ended up trading for Jarred Kelenic and planned on letting him man left field for the current season. This made the need for Pillar much lower especially with other internal options available as a backup since the plan early on was for Kelenic to be the everyday left fielder.

He explained, "I would've done anything to go back there. I've never been happier playing baseball in my life. It was the most fun I ever had. The group of guys, the culture, the winning, the city, it checked all of the boxes. That option wasn't there for me, so it was time for me to move on."

It's heartbreaking to hear Kevin say these things and not return the next year. Finding a team to play for is easy but finding a place where you feel 100% appreciated can be hard to come by. However, baseball is a business and the team has to consider every option available and Pillar didn't fit into the plans for 2024.

He signed with the Chicago White Sox on a minor league deal to start 2024, but after batting .250 with six doubles, five RBI, and two walks versus 12 strikeouts, he was released. Chicago re-signed him two days after releasing him and he turned in a line of .160/.290/.360 over 32 trips to the plate before the team cut ties with him last week when they signed Tommy Pham.

He would have been affordable for the Braves but for whatever reason, they moved on from the veteran. Pillar mentioned taking what he loved about Atlanta and carrying it to wherever he landed. That tells you everything you need to know about how important creating a great clubhouse culture is for success. He ended up having to do so as any chance of returning to Atlanta was squashed with the signing of Adam Duvall.

He finds himself with a familiar face as the Los Angeles Angels signed him after tragically losing Mike Trout to a knee injury. He is reunited with Braves legend Ron Washington who took over as skipper for the Angels in 2024. That tells fans how Wash believes in the same principles that Atlanta carries. Clubhouse culture is everything and Pillar is a perfect addition to an Angels organization that entered their post-Shohei era.

Hopefully, Pillar can find the same satisfaction he had during his time in Atlanta. He's an easy guy to root for and deserves to play somewhere that values a good clubhouse guy. His comments are just a reminder of how lucky Braves fans are to have an organization valued so highly by those who are lucky enough to join it.

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