History tells us the last home run hit by the Braves occurred in the fourth inning of an April 10 game against St. Louis. The mighty clout was struck by Drew Stubbs. Although beyond that the details get a little fuzzy. It has been so long.
Of all the things the Braves aren’t doing now, by far the most fascinating failure is this: They have forgotten how to hit a home run.
It has been 13 games and close to 500 at-bats since Stubbs went yard, leaving the Braves with a grand total of three homers through their first 18 games. Apparently in getting ready for the Braves move to Cobb County, someone cut off the power a wee bit early.
There are 49 Major League players who so far have out-homered all the Braves combined. The number jumps to 85 of those with as many home runs as this team. Bryce Harper alone already has lapped them three times over.
Freddie Freeman’s atypical and abysmally slow start is certainly one reason for a drought that may take historic proportions – the fewest home runs by the Atlanta Braves in a season is 80 in 1968, and at this very early stage, they are on pace to hit 27 in 2016.
They have no boppers in the outfield – Nick Markakis in left has three in 678 Braves at-bats and young Mallex Smith in center needs to be thinking line drives and ground balls to best use his gift of speed. Meanwhile, in the minors, there are arms aplenty, but they are all designed to pitch. None have the box-of-baking-soda look that belong to prodigious hitters.
Remember the good ol’ days when we said the Braves were too reliant on sitting around, waiting for the three-run homer – they were fifth in the majors in home runs as recently as 2013? Now, a fly ball that travels to the warning track seems like a Kennedy space shot.
There currently is not a park that can’t contain the Braves hitters, and that includes any number of intimate, two-swings-and-a-slide playgrounds.
The 1908 Chicago White Sox hit only three home runs for a season, back when they were using leaden baseballs. I’m fairly certain the Braves will eclipse that total, eventually, though it would be nice to get that fourth one out of the way before the dog days of summer.
There are some prime home run opportunities upcoming. They travel to Boston Wednesday and Thursday, and perhaps someone can sneak a pop-up around the Pesky Pole, just 310 feet down the rightfield line. Then it’s on to Wrigley Field, where, if the wind is blowing out at 40 or 50 mph, the Braves just might get one into the jetstream and over the ivy.
In the meantime, what about the local chain that offers $144 off a set of four tires every time a Brave hits a fourth-inning home run? Think of all those poor mechanics sitting around, waiting for business growing pale and gaunt, and all those thousands of sad, stranded motorists, clogging our roads while changing out their own flats. The consequences of this Braves blackout are far-reaching.