Column: Time to credit Braves GM Anthopoulos for team's recent surge

Associated PressAtlanta Braves’ Josh Donaldson greets fans before the team’s baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday in Toronto. Donaldson played for the Blue Jays for several seasons. 

Atlanta Braves General Manager Alex Anthopoulos received his share of criticism this past offseason when he did little to improve a division champ. Yes, the signing of Josh Donaldson to play third base was a great way to spend $23 million this season, as evidence by his two solo home runs he slugged against the New York Mets on Sunday. He’s shown a fire and intensity that the Braves have lacked.

But for the most part, the same team that won 90 games and its first National League East title since 2013 returned pretty much the same. So Braves fans, even this one writing to you now, believed more should have been done and more could have been done.

Well, what Anthopoulos didn’t do during the winter, he more than made up for this summer. The trades for Chris Martin, Shane Greene and Mark Melancon beefed up a very weak bullpen. Yes, the early returns for this trio were not promising.

Before the Braves’ relief staff was wheelin’ and dealin’, they were groovin’ and losin’ a lot.

It had gotten to the point, for me at least, if the relief staff didn’t allow a hit or issue a walk in an inning, it should have been considered a minor miracle. But the staff has rebounded and some credit should be given to manager Brian Snitker. He’s figured out a winning formula of Martin, Greene and Melancon in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

Suddenly, what looked like a liability to the Braves’ run at repeating as division champs just might be a strength –– especially with injuries diminishing the team’s impact at the plate. The Braves are going to need pitching to win in September and October. Before losing to Colorado on Monday, the Braves’ eight-game winning streak suggested the Braves were primed for postseason baseball and a serious challenger to the Dodgers’ claim as the National League team to beat.

So kudos to the team’s decision-maker. He stayed smart and silent when making personnel decisions last offseason. He didn’t give away the farm when he made those shrewd trades at the end of July. He’s put the Braves in position to repeat. There’s no reason to think that’s not what the Braves are going to do with five weeks left to play.

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