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Holloman: Braves' attitude a big change in 2015

This season, the Atlanta Braves roster has been a proverbial rotating door of players. It’s honestly hard to keep up with the latest roster moves and free agent signings.
    Braves country got a bit of a shock before the start of the season when Atlanta parted ways with hometown favorites Jason Heyward, Kris Medlen and Craig Kimbrel, to name a few. The departure of the Upton brothers added to the sting, though those moves were to be expected.
    However, one thing's for certain about this year’s squad. They may not be as talented as the team a year prior, but they’re more fun to watch.
    My first real gig as a sports journalist fresh out of college was covering the Braves for the Atlanta Daily World. During the 2014 season, I was assigned to cover all the home games in the regular season. I’d come to the ballpark at around 1:30 p.m., write a pre-game story, interview players in the clubhouse, write a feature story then stay for the game and get post-game interviews.
    Being around a certain team for an extended period of time you begin to notice things. One thing that became abundantly clear was the Braves’ star players were toxic to the locker room chemistry.
    Amongst reporters, the Braves had developed the reputation of being one of the meanest locker rooms in the majors. Melvin Upton Jr., Justin Upton and Heyward were probably known for being the main culprits.
    After Bobby Cox and Chipper Jones retired many thought Heyward was the “it” guy in the Atlanta clubhouse — and so did he.
    The Upton brothers and Heyward began to create a divide in the locker room. Cox had a big issue with anyone playing music in the clubhouse, but since the hall-of-fame manager was gone, Heyward took full advantage.
    His music could be heard as soon as you walked in, complete with expletives, and of course, the “n-word.” It was so loud you could barely hear yourself think. Despite many attempts to ask him to turn it down, he rarely obliged.
    I can recall working on a story about the Braves’ farm system and the number of stars the team helped produce in recent years, with Heyward being a shining example I thought it would be an easy day — I was wrong.
    Not only did Heyward refuse to give me an interview — he never told me why — to add insult to injury he threw a batting glove towards my head for even having the gall to ask such a question.
    On a whim, I decided to text a few former colleagues and ask how the clubhouse was doing since some of its more notable stars left.
    Despite different answers, everyone came up with the same conclusion. The Braves clubhouse was “looser” and the team was better for it. The result of better clubhouse chemistry is starting to show.
    In 2014 before the all-star break, the Braves were ranked No. 21 in team batting average. Compared to this year, the Braves are No.9 with a team batting average of .256. This year’s team also keeps its strikeout numbers low.
    Before the all-star break in 2014, the Braves struck out 807 times. This year that number is down to 610, tied for third best in the league.
    With the demise of the Frank Wren era, general manager Tom Hart has come in and held no qualms about getting rid of some of the Braves exorbitant contracts.
    The Braves are rebuilding and Hart has a vision in mind. That vision has seen early success. The team acquired Shelby Miller from St. Louis in the Heyward deal, with Miller making his first appearance in the midsummer classic this year. Atlanta also landed a couple of top prospects from the Padres along with two starters.
    The Braves were the biggest sellers in the offseason, but the upside is bright for this team. I know, this team doesn’t have as much “swag” or charisma as the Braves of recent years, but they know how to play the game of baseball.
    They don’t strike out often, they put the ball in play and manufacture runs. The team also has a plethora of young arms with more to come.
    There’s no question more trades will come for this team, and no, they probably won’t make the playoffs this year. However, expect the Braves to be more fun to watch—not because of the long ball, because the Braves still lack power at the plate— but because they’re putting out a better product.

    Horace Holloman may be reached at (912) 489-9408.