Atlanta Braves: Nick Markakis falls short once again

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JULY 15: Nick Markakis #22 of the Atlanta Braves warms up before the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on July 15, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JULY 15: Nick Markakis #22 of the Atlanta Braves warms up before the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on July 15, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Nick Markakis came close to finally reaching the World Series, but it was just another year where the Atlanta Braves outfielder came up short.

After 15 seasons in the major leagues, 2020 looked like it could finally bring a trip to the promised land of the World Series for Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis.

At first, the veteran outfielder had elected to opt out of the 2020 MLB season. Markakis had talked with teammate Freddie Freeman and initially declined participation in the abbreviated season due to COVID-19 concerns – Freeman tested positive and documented in depth just how terrified he was as his symptoms took a turn for the worse.

Markakis eventually reversed his decision, became activated on August 5 and played the rest of the season, outside of an injured list appearance due to possible exposure to the virus.

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The outfielder went over his thought process in a July press conference, less than a week before he returned to the field.

“At the time, I thought it was the right decision,” he said of his initial opt-out in the presser. “It still could be the right decision…[but] I’d like to come back. Sitting at home, watching these guys compete the last couple days and all the risks that they’re taking going out there – in a way, deep down in the pit of my stomach, I felt like I needed to be out there.”

“I had the opportunity to be welcomed back,” he added, “and here I am. I’m going to do my best to get back as quick as I can and help these guys out.”

Over the course of 15 seasons in the majors, Markakis sits just south of 2,500 hits and 200 home runs, has just over 1,000 runs batted in, and holds a career .288 batting average.

Additionally, he currently possesses the major league record for the most consecutive games played by an outfielder without committing an error with 398.

The three-time Gold Glove Award winner also received votes in both the 2006 AL Rookie of the Year voting and 2018 NL MVP voting. That 2018 season also featured Markakis receiving one of those Gold Gloves, along with a Silver Slugger and All-Star honors – the first of his career.

A decade earlier, Markakis hit 20 homers alongside recording other career highs in doubles, runs scored, and walks. That 2008 season was also a marker for career numbers in batting average (.306), on-base percentage (.406), and slugging (.491).

Markakis hails from New York and played baseball for Young Harris College, spending time both in the outfield and on the mound. He compiled a 12-0 record as a pitcher and was eventually drafted in the first round of the 2003 draft by the Baltimore Orioles, but the team saw him more as a hitter.

The Orioles failed to make the postseason in his first six seasons, despite a solid pitching staff and a strong core that featured the likes of Markakis, Brian Roberts, and Adam Jones. All three finally saw some playoff action in 2012, when the team made its first postseason appearance since 1997. Baltimore won the wild card game and took the Yankees to the brink in the ALDS, but fell in the fifth and deciding game.

Baltimore also fell short of the postseason in 2013, despite the power of Chris Davis‘ 53 home runs, but bounced back in 2014 to sweep Detroit in the divisional round. In turn, though, the Orioles were swept by Kansas City in the American League Championship Series; a team that was en route to their first World Series appearance since 1985.

Markakis’ final year in Baltimore was that 2014 run, which fittingly marked the closest he’d ever come to an appearance in the Fall Classic. After that playoff campaign, Markakis traveled south to join the Atlanta Braves for 2015 and beyond.

After three losing seasons, the Braves reversed their 2017 record (72-90) for 2018 (90-72), securing a postseason berth – only to lose to the Dodgers in four divisional series games.

Atlanta took the St. Louis Cardinals the distance in the 2019 NLCS but fell in the fifth game in a 13-1 thrashing; Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz managed to get just one out while allowing 10 runs in the top of the first inning.

For 2020’s abbreviated season, the Braves won the NL East for the third year straight and swept the Reds wild-card competition and the Marlins in the divisional set. The NLCS saw Atlanta take the first two games at “home” in the neutral stadium; despite suffering a 15-3 massacre in the third game (starter Kyle Wright lasted two-thirds of an inning, slightly more than Foltynewicz), the Braves appeared on track to make it to the World Series for the first time since 1999.

Atlanta recorded a blowout of their own with a 10-2 hammering of the Dodgers in Game 4, and then subsequently lost three straight, relatively close games in a season-ending collapse, missng out on the Fall Classic yet again – and as Atlanta did, so did Markakis, who was on the brink of his first career World Series for three straight games.

Despite just playing in 37 of the Braves’ 60 regular-season contests, Markakis recorded 33 hits and drove in 15 runs.

Markakis isn’t a flashy player or large presence on the field, and flies under the radar as compared to teammates like Ronald Acuna Jr., Dansby Swanson, and Ozzie Albies; but his solid play and consistency on the diamond speak for themselves.

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The Atlanta Braves look well set to go on another playoff run in 2021, though, and – barring any trades or retirement – Markakis should be along for the ride.