The Braves could have been one of those teams Tony Clark was alluding to when the players union chief lashed out against major-league owners allegedly competing in a "race to the bottom."
After all, there was no evidence the Braves would not tank again in 2018.
This is a franchise that has been in rebuilding mode for three years, with a new general manager and a general reputation for being frugal.
But as they begin a homestand Tuesday night with a three-game series against the Cubs, the Braves surprisingly have the best record in the National League at 25-15 and a growing confidence they have turned the corner.
So who saw this coming?
"I don't think anybody did," starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy said. "We've probably been pretty big surprises this year inside and outside of the clubhouse. It doesn't mean it's impossible. I just don't think a lot of people were seeing it come together this quick."
The Braves' success should provide inspiration to the rest of the rebuilding teams, including the White Sox, especially on the heels of the Cubs and Astros winning the World Series after much-publicized teardowns.
It's too early, of course, to say for sure the Baby Bravos aren't just a mirage. Remember, the Brewers were last year's uber-rebuild, zooming to first place in the NL Central in the first half before the Cubs took control again after the All-Star break.
The Nationals still have the best lineup and pitching in the NL East, and the rebuilding Phillies are riding the Jake Arrieta wave to instant respectability. But this Braves bunch looks like the real thing.
"Contributions from everyone," catcher Tyler Flowers said. "It's not just one or two guys doing the bulk of the lifting. So that makes you think it's sustainable throughout the whole season."
Still, a market correction remains a distinct possibility, making this four-game stretch against the Cubs — including Monday's 6-5 Braves victory in a makeup game at Wrigley Field — a barometer of sorts.
"It's the second week of May; there's a lot of lying in the numbers and standings right now," McCarthy said. "You just kind of let things keep playing out. More respect doesn't do us any good.
"We have an idea of how we are, but it's a six-month season. This is just four games in the beginning of May. If it's September and you're getting ready for a playoff run and see another playoff team, it's like, all right, this is how we stack up against them. Worrying about a series like this? It's just too early for that."
The Braves have been a franchise with no real direction to speak of in recent years.
They shocked the league at the trade deadline in 2016, acquiring aging outfielder Matt Kemp from the Padres, a move that made little sense for a team 31 games below .500 and on its way to a 93-loss season.
Before the 2017 season, the Braves signed free-agent pitchers R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon, the kind of 40-something starters most rebuilding teams tend to dump instead of pay. They released Colon by July. Dickey is now out of baseball.
And it only got worse. After a 90-loss season in '17, GM John Coppolella was forced to resign in October — and later banned for life by MLB — for circumventing international signing rules.
Former Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos was brought in to continue the rebuild, and his biggest offseason move was dumping Kemp on the Dodgers for a group of players, including McCarthy, to give the Braves more payroll flexibility.
Before the season, the Braves were 100-1 shots at the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas to win the NL pennant, well behind the Dodgers (9-4), Nationals (7-2) and Cubs (3-1).
But they enter Tuesday's game with 11 victories in 15 games and aren't backing down. Veterans Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis are still the straws stirring the drink, but a young, talented bunch of crazy straws are currently moving the arrow.
Left-hander Sean Newcomb, 24, has a 20-inning scoreless streak and became the only Braves pitcher in 110 years to allow two hits or fewer and no runs in three consecutive starts. Not even Hall of Famers Warren Spahn, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine or John Smoltz could say they did that.
Shortstop Dansby Swanson, 24, finally started coming around before a stint on the disabled list. Second baseman Ozzie Albies, 21, is tied for the NL lead with 13 home runs and leads in doubles (14) and total bases (104). And outfielder Ronald Acuna, 20, the top-ranked prospect in baseball, already is establishing himself after being called up three weeks ago.
Acuna and Albies have energized the Braves lineup the same way call-ups Kris Bryant and Addison Russell did with the Cubs in 2015. Flowers said their skill sets are easily recognizable during batting and infield practice, when one can observe the "special sound and way they move and throw."
So far, Acuna and Albies are exceeding the hype.
"I think that (talent) allowed them to handle it a little better than the rest of us humans might handle it," Flowers said. "But there are a lot of good people around them also that have helped them transition and not put too much pressure on themselves."
If the Braves can sustain their early success and make the postseason in 2018, they're financially set up to take a big step in free agency in the offseason.
The team's organist raised some eyebrows last month by playing "Go, Cubs, Go" before a Bryce Harper at-bat, a nod to speculation the Nationals star will sign with the Cubs this winter. But now there's hope the Braves could enter the Harper sweepstakes.
Either way, the future looks exceedingly bright in Atlanta.
Perhaps the Braves are the latest example of baseball's new motto: "Tanking Pays." Despite the cries of the players union, tanking isn't always the wrong route to travel, is it?
"Only one team is going to get a World Series ring this year," McCarthy said in a warning to prospective tankers. "You see teams tank and do something and fall short, and then you've subjected your fans to a few years of tanking.
"We've seen there is going to be copycatting and people doing it, and there are times it makes sense. But you're also seeing too many full teardowns for the sake of ... it's somewhat of an easy lie, an easy situation to pass off to fans.
"We've seen it a ton. Like, if five years in a row you nail your top draft pick inside the top 10 picks, then you're probably going to be better. But it took five years in a row of your fans trudging out to games pretty much just to watch the other team play."