tremendously idiotic move. Not only did they not get equal value, but they divested the team of its last truly compelling player. (This with all due respect to Freddie Freeman, whose on-field exploits and magical dugout hug rituals are things of beauty.) What happened today just flat killed my already-tattered baseball soul.
Look, I was a kid in the '80s, when the Braves were a garbage pile of a team. You could go to Fulton County Stadium with tickets in the cheap seats and wind up six rows deep on one of the baselines by the fourth inning because what did the ushers and security care? The joint was an empty tomb anyway. The PA announcer would come on in the seventh to give us the attendance for the game, and the figure would be something like 1,639. On a good night. Awful baseball I can live with. But even in those dark days of my childhood, at least we had Dale Murphy. Murph gave you a reason to be one of those sorry few at the ballpark on any given night, because there was always the chance he was going to to something spectacular. The fact that he now has to rely on the Veterans' Committee to hopefully make Cooperstown someday enrages me beyond belief. Part of this is admittedly biased, nostalgic drivel, but gawd, I loved watching Dale Murphy play baseball. Simmons was the closest I've come since to having that feeling again.
This is not to say he was a more iconic Brave than the list of spectacular names that dotted those '90s rosters. (Though if the front office had the basic, fundamental sense to keep him around, he would have been.) What I mean is that rebuilding is a tough, grueling process. The writing's been on the wall for quite a few seasons now. Braves fans are experiencing the inevitable bottoming out which is ultimately fine and in the natural order of sports fandom. Stuff happens, and after that incredible stretch in the '90s, we can live with it. But that pain can be considerably lessened by the presence of a singular player whose very existence is reason enough to keep going to the yard game after meaningless game. Not too long ago, we had a few of those guys. The reasons we loved them varied wildly, but we adored the ramshackle cast of misfits that made the Braves fun during this nadir. Then, in the name of whatever bizarre long-term "plan" is unfolding, we traded them. ALL of them.
Evan Gattis, El Oso Blanco, not bothering with batting gloves or any other nonsense. He had one of the great stories in recent sports history, and just hit the bejesus out of the ball. Gone.
Alex Wood was a homegrown Dawg, the promising young arm that might have been our redemption for trading away Adam Wainwright, another belvoed UGA alum. Gone.
Craig Kimbrell, a monster whose bullpen intro sequence was almost as galvanizing as the pure flame-emoji gas he mowed people down with. Oh, and that weird full-hunch posture he had when looking in for the next sign. I always worried he was going to screw his back up doing that, but it was unique and I loved him for it along with everything else. Gone.
Those guys I loved, who kept me riveted even as the win-loss column skewed ever more precipitously, kept disappearing. If the front office is after something larger here, it's hard to see it clearly through the haze of anguish. Sometime late this summer, when both of our teams had become a true chore to watch, Aggie asked me how I felt about the Braves. My response: "I'll be fine as long as we don't trade Simmons."
And today we did. Already the best defensive player of his generation, already projecting as maybe the best shortstop who ever lived, and we let him go. This was more than jettisoning a franchise player for a batch of prospects that might ultimately secure the team's future down the road. This was trading outright greatness, rare and unattainable by anyone else, for pennies on the dollar. Simmons did things on the field every night that defied logic and physics and just made you gasp with delight. There are a small handful of people capable of that sort of brilliance playing sports at any level at any given time, and losing one at any price just isn't worth it.