First Pitch: Where should the Atlanta Braves go from here?

A disastrous opening weekend for the Atlanta Braves has fans looking for answers, both on the field and off of it.

On Opening Day, Rob Manfred was asked straight up if there had been any conversations about moving the 2021 All-Star Game away from Cobb County’s Truist Park as a result of Georgia’s controversial new voting laws. At the time, Manfred stated that was something he and Tony Clark had conversations about, but nothing conclusive had come from those talks. Less than a few days later, the Braves were stripped of the midsummer classic, which has since been moved to Coors Field in Colorado.

Georgia’s voting laws, which you can read more about in the Associated Press and Washington Post, allows the state to intervene in county elections, makes it a misdemeanor to hand out snacks or water to voters in line and restricts mail-in voting and early ballot boxes while implementing further voter identification laws. Democratic lawmakers believe the law further targets urban communities – often heavily blue-leaning – in a swing state which just helped cost incumbent President Donald J. Trump the 2020 election. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp disagrees with that assumption, and is quick to point out that the bill expands voting rights in rural areas.

While that explanation is just the tip of the iceberg, it’s easy to see why the law has been met with strong opinions from both sides of the aisle. The Braves have been caught in the middle.

In the midst of a very public controversy, the Braves started their season 0-3, getting swept by division rival Philadelphia. While it’s far too early to overreact, we are talking about baseball fans. More specifically, we are talking about Braves fans, fresh off a trip to the NLCS in which they were one measly win away from taking out the eventual World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

Atlanta scored three runs in just as many games over the weekend, with Ronald Acuña, Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna combining for one hit.

That all changed on Tuesday thanks to early solo shots by Acuña (who went deep twice on the day) and Freeman off Max Scherzer, but the point remains the Braves were not themselves in Philadelphia. Atlanta took the loss on Tuesday, as well, in walkoff fashion at the hands of the Nationals.

Atlanta Braves trying to regroup after exhausting opening weekend of MLB season

Odds are, the Braves will be fine, despite the off-field drama and very brief on-field struggles. Thankfully, Tomahawk Take site expert Jake Mastroianni is here to calm us all down.

1. MLB moved the All-Star Game and Draft last week. Is there anything the Braves could’ve done to avoid such a decision?

Jake Mastroianni: There is absolutely nothing the Braves could have done in this situation, which is why this is such a terrible decision by MLB. The Braves are essentially being punished by something they can’t control and losing out on a ton of potential revenue (not to mention the money already spent in preparation)…It’s frustrating.

2. The Braves had the All-Star Game and Draft stripped of them, their series against the Nationals postponed a day, and started the season 0-3. That’s…a lot of distractions. How confident are you that this won’t turn into prolonged struggles?

JM: I’m not worried at all because of the experience and leadership on this team. They were swept by the Phillies in Philly to start the 2019 season and bounced back just fine. I’m not worried at all about this team’s ability to push through these distractions/troubles and be a winning team in 2021.

3. One series isn’t reason to overreact, but what, if anything, can Braves fans take from their sweep at the hands of the Phillies?

JM: My only real takeaway from this series is something we already know about this offense — and that’s that they’ll go in cold spells. They’re an explosive offense that relies on the home run ball, but when those aren’t coming, this can be a very frustrating offense to watch. And typically pitchers are ahead of the hitters early in the year. Once the weather warms up this offense will be just as explosive as we saw in 2020.

4. Shane Greene is still sitting in free agency, though his asking price remains too high for the Braves liking. Does it feel inevitable he’ll end up back in Atlanta, or have the Braves moved on?

JM: I don’t think it’s inevitable. I think the Braves really like their bullpen arms — and for good reason — and don’t really have much of a desire to have Greene. The way they’ve used him — or rather not used him — in big spots the past two years kind of tells you what that they think about him. He outperforms his peripherals and is not a backend reliever, but I can’t fault him for trying to get paid like one with the success he’s had. Plus, I just don’t think the Braves have a ton of money left to spend — and losing the All-Star doesn’t help that situation. If Greene’s price feel to a couple million a year, or an injury happens, then maybe. But I don’t think it’s even on the Braves’ radar right now, which means it will happen tomorrow.

There are conflicting reports as to how much moving the All-Star Game will impact the Atlanta community financially, but if you’d like to make an impact, below are several organizations to help inner city areas.

Atlanta Braves Foundation: The “non-profit arm of the Atlanta Braves that actively supports community organizations and their programs within the metro Atlanta area.”

Atlanta Downtown lays out several homeless shelters to volunteer if you live in the area.

Thrillist outlines numerous ways to support Black-owned businesses and organizations in need.

First Pitch is a weekly MLB feature in coordination with the FanSided network.