That's what Crash told Nuke you needed to play this game with. In recent days as a collective fan base we've practically wallowed in the former: Can we get by anybody in the playoffs with this rotation? Is Heilman out of his rut yet? Is Pedro healthy? What's wrong with Glavine? What's happened to our starting pitching in general? Are we going to trade Lastings? Are we not going to trade Lastings? And so on and so on, until sometimes you're left thinking, Jeez, this is sure one messed-up .594 team.
Well, Crash was right: You've got to have fear. A certain measure of fear is a good thing, both on the diamond and in the big, less-well-defined place around it in which the rest of us stumble through our days. The fearless get complacent, stop seeking opportunities, stop enforcing high standards for themselves, and never see what's coming until it knocks them flat. So OK, let's face our fears: Even when firing on all cylinders, our starting pitching isn't the kind of thing to stop anybody's heart once the stands are hung with bunting. And the starters aren't firing on even most cylinders right now — going down the line, they look hurt and out of sync and like Trachsel and too old and too young. Another starter would make us feel a lot better — but it has to be the right starter and we can't give up a big piece of the future and if we pull the trigger we better win. Which is a lot of tumblers to try and line up just so.
But in worrying about all these bogeymen, we've forgotten that other thing Crash told Ebby Calvin to bring to the table. How about a little arrogance?
After all, we've got no shortage of material: We've got the best record in the National League. We've scored the most runs in the National League. We've given up the fewest. Our run differential is +77 — the next-best mark in the NL is +25. We're 10 games over .500 on the road. We lead the majors in steals and are within six of leading the NL in home runs. We lead the league in ERA. We're second in the league in Ks. If it's close, we'll beat you — we're 22-10 in one-run games. Extra-innings? We're 8-5. Walk-offs? Ten in the books, with more heroics to come.
In short, we're a monster, a terrifying orange-and-blue beast with power and speed, stingy pitching and a flare for the dramatic. Playing us is like getting in the ring against a 25-armed hydra of a boxer. We've got supercharged kids who'll beat you and wily old men who'll do the same. Fourth outfielders and Hall of Famers and reclamation projects and budding superstars, speedballers and dead-fishmongers. Get through one terrifying Carlos and we'll come right back at you with another one. Escape Young Jose and we'll do you in with Old Jose. When we're going good we're unstoppable and when we're going bad we're still a handful.
And so now we head down south to face the Braves. They've looked better of late, give them that. They've looked dead before, that should be remembered. But put yourself in the other guy's shoes: Get swept and the flickering pilot light of their division hopes goes out. Lose two out of three and they've just wasted three days. Take two out of three, they gain one lousy game. If everything breaks right for them and they sweep us? They're two games under .500, nine games out of first and it's August. Not exactly the kind of thing to make you feel, um, chipper.
The Braves have gone 14-7 over the last three weeks — and for their troubles they've gained 1 1/2 games on us. At that rate, they'll catch us in mid-January. Sure, they've put themselves back in the wild-card picture. But they're five out and need to jump over three teams — and six more teams are within 2 1/2 of them. We've tried to solve that math problem before and know it's tear-your-hair-out stuff. The Braves, for all their good recent play, are a bad weekend away from last place. We're a bad weekend away from…from what, exactly? A stern talking-to from the manager? We can put their season on life support this weekend. All they can get is our attention.
Fear and arrogance. Let's not get so preoccupied with the one that we forget the other. We've got October problems. Fine. It's not October. While we're working on those, let's enjoy the heck out of July and August and September.
The Braves? Bring on the Braves.