Adam\’s Stream of Consciousness

If you blog it, they will come

All Good Things Come to an End

Posted by Adam on July 20, 2006

With the Cubs already deciding that next year is the year my baseball attention has been partially diverted to the rest of the league.  Living in Atlanta a lot of this attention has been on the Braves, who after one of the worst months ever in June have decided that it was time to heat up along with the weather in July.  With the Mets looking like the only National League team with a chance of winning the World Series this year, the Braves are all but certain to snap their unbelievable streak of 14 straight division titles.  A funny thing is happening with the rest of the league though.  Call it parity or call it an amazing lack of talent, but there are ten teams competiting for the wild card spot.  Leading the pack are the Cincinnati Reds, a mere five games over .500.

For teams like Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Colorado this is good news.  These are eager, young squads who could bring post-season  baseball to their cities for the first time in a decade.  This is not the case down south though, where it seems that Atlanta might be clinging onto their last hope of keeping a playoff streak alive whose time has passed.

The Braves shouldn’t have won the NL East last season.  Chalk it up to luck and lack of competition,  but the team didn’t have the talent to dominate like a division champ should.  Not much has changed between last year’s dream season and the current one.  Edgar Renteria replaced Rafael Furcal at shortstop, Chuck James has been the only rookie to make any impact with the club, and the team still has no true closer on its staff.  Not to take anything away from their dramatic run to the playoffs, but last seasons miracle run has clouded this season’s expectations.

Despite being only five games behind the Reds for the league’s wild card spot, the Braves sit behind six other teams.  In most cases seventh place isn’t very promising, but for the Braves it could prove to be disasterous.  The time has come for Atlanta to look towards the future and prepare themselves for another potential division title winning streak.  And by sacrificing playoff aspirations for this season, and probably next, they should be able to retool and avoid a fall from grace.

Atlanta has three young building blocks in James, outfielder Jeff Franceur, and all-star catcher Brian McCann (the latter two live together in a house in the suburbs with matching fru-fru dogs, not that there’s anything wrong with that).  They also have three players with substantial trade value in pitcher John Smoltz, outfielder Andruw Jones, and his illegitimate brother Larry “Chipper” Jones.  The Youth movement needs to continue in Atlanta.  With so many teams trying to reach the playoffs, the time is ripe for exchanging the aging veterans of playoffs past for a vast crop of young prospects who could join James, Franceur, and McCann in forming the nucleus of the next wave of success for the Braves.  Just keep this in mind when the Braves are in last place in the NL East in three years, with Andruw Jones batting seventh and Chipper pinch hitting and platooning at first base.

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