Mulder states that “nothing pops out at you” with the Braves, citing this as a weighty enough fault to drop the team with the best record in baseball from the top spot all the way down to No. 5.
To put it quite bluntly, Mulder is an idiot.
Pop, pizzazz, flair, style, showmanship, bravado or anything else you may choose to call that implacable quality that makes a team “worth watching” – it matters so very little when it comes to creating a championship team.
I’m not suggesting that World Champions don’t have a certain amount of swagger, a bounce in their step indicative of two things contingent upon one another: success and confidence. What I’m saying is that what Mulder puts so much stock in is a highly-overrated way of gauging how successful a team actually is and will be.
No one can argue that over the course of the last two months, the Dodgers have been the “best” team in baseball. And certainly it shows in the way they carry themselves (think of Yasiel Puig and all of his on-field antics). Hubris is a sign of success and sometimes unparalleled skill, but there is a reason the epic poets used it time and again as a protagonists fatal flaw – arrogance makes us careless, feel we’re impenetrable and prods our opponent to stick it to us when we least expect it.
The Dodgers are different than the Braves in this respect; Mulder is right, the Braves don’t have any thing, any player, any particular quality that “pops.” And it is exactly this that has made them the best team in baseball.
No one player is carrying the team in Atlanta. Instead, they have a roster that looks something like this: eight players with 10-plus home runs, but no player with more than 25; five players with 50-plus RBIs, but none with over 100 (Freddie Freeman will crack 100 by season’s end, but he will be alone in this feat); six players with 45-plus runs, but none with more than 85; four pitchers with double-digit wins, but none with more than 13; 15 pitchers on staff with sub-4.00 ERAs, and only one regular out of the bullpen who even cracks 3.00 (Anthony Varvaro currently sits at a gaudy 3.03 ERA).
The above, quite clearly, is a recipe for success. You don’t build championship teams around the staggering achievements or unwarranted confidence of a few players; you win World Series through grit, perseverance, consistency and by filling a roster with players committed to doing whatever it takes to get the win.
All season long, the Braves have seen players go into slumps, spend extended time on the DL and even go down with season-ending injuries. Atlanta has no business holding the best record in baseball, but they do. And it’s because when one player struggled, another got hot; when one man went down, his replacement upped his game and proved more than capable.
So you can keep your pop, Mulder, and you can keep doubting the Braves. Don’t expect them to care much – they’ll just keep on winning.