The Atlanta Braves made a fool of SNY’s Sal Licata and his “The NL East is over!’ hot take by sweeping the New York Mets over the weekend to go up two games with three left to play.
“The NL East is over!”, but not in the manner that Sal Licata proclaimed it to be back on May 31.
The SNY studio host dubbed his New York Mets to be NL East champions right after Memorial Day Weekend. They had a double-digit lead over the arch rival and defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves through two months. Then, Atlanta called up NL Rookie of the Year frontrunner Michael Harris II and played the best baseball of any team not named the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Atlanta completed a three-game sweep of New York over the weekend. The Braves now have a two-game lead over the Mets in the NL East race with three games left. They have the head-to-head tiebreaker now. Most importantly, the series finale in which the Braves won 5-3 dropped Atlanta’s magic number to clinch the division down from four to only one. “The NL East is over!”
Unless the Braves get swept by the Miami Marlins and the Mets sweep the Washington Nationals, Atlanta will win its fifth straight NL East crown. While these are two of the best teams in baseball this year, only one can win the division. With Atlanta almost certainly locking up the No. 2 seed, New York will have to host presumably the San Diego Padres in the NL Wild Card Series on Friday.
“The NL East is over!” – Sal Licata
Sal Licata getting burnt to a crisp over his “The NL East is over!” take from May
Should Atlanta fail to beat the Marlins even once, the Braves will deserve Atlanta Falcons 28-3 ridicule. The problem with that is Don Mattingly is a lame duck manager, and he is not even going to start NL Cy Young favorite Sandy Alcantara during the Fish’s final series of the season. Atlanta has not had many issues with the Fish this season. A Braves win or a Mets loss will win them the NL East.
Look. For as much fun as it is to bury Licata and the Mets this morning, they are one of roughly four teams who can win the World Series. The other three are the Braves, the Dodgers and the AL juggernaut Houston Astros. Yes, there is a possibility teams like the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals could get it done, but the smart money is on one of those top four to win it all now.
What hurt the Mets over the final two-thirds of the regular season was three-fold. The first is the offense cannot regularly get to the level of teams like the Braves or the Dodgers. They are about a year away, but New York was too pitching reliant to outperform a more complete team like the Braves over the course of 162. For them, the Mets know where the bar is, and they are so close.
The second is they did not make enough smart moves at the trade deadline. Atlanta’s deadline deals may not go down in history as the ones Alex Anthopoulos made two Julys ago to transform the Braves outfield, but Robbie Grossman and Jake Odorizzi have had their moments. However, the big one the Braves picked up was setup man and future closer Raisel Iglesias. He’s been elite.
And the third is the most damning of the three. New York did not take care of business vs. inferior teams. It is not the end of the world to lose to excellent teams like the Braves, but you cannot drop dumb ones down the stretch to the Nationals, the Oakland Athletics and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Little becomes big over time, as the Mets saw their massive lead evaporate during the dog days.
As far as the Braves are concerned, they have every reason to believe they can repeat. Although few outside of Braves Country will pick them over the Astros and the Dodgers because that is just how the world works, if you count this team out, you do so at your own peril. This team is arguably better than the one that won it all a year ago. The best part is they are playing with house money.
Licata is one more Braves win or one more Mets defeat from having one of the worst takes ever.