For the last decade and a half, the Atlanta Braves have owned their division. Not counting the strike shortened season of 1994, when both the playoffs and World Series
were cancelled, the Braves have won 14 consecutive division titles. The streak began in 1991 when they reached the World Series just one year after finishing with the worst record in all of baseball. To put the length of this streak in perspective, it began five years before Tiger Woods
became a professional golfer. Current Braves star Jeff Francoeur
was only seven years old and playing pee wee baseball when this streak started. During this amazing streak, the Braves have made it to the World Series five times, but only walked away with one World Series title.
Now, with more than half the season over, the Braves find themselves in unfamiliar territory. As of July 13th, they were thirteen games out of first place and letting the season slip away. With a record of 40-49, the Braves are playing well below .500 baseball. While it is not impossible for the Braves to mount a miraculous comeback, it looks highly unlikely. To make matters worse, the Braves are chasing the New York Mets who are firing on all cylinders and have the best record in the National League. Ironically, pitcher Tom Glavine, who helped lead the Braves throughout the 90’s, now plays for the Mets and could end the same streak that he helped begin.
After a good start to the season, the Braves had a terrible month in June, going 6-21 to compile their worst one month record in over 70 years. With an inexperienced bullpen, it will be difficult for the Braves to close out games even if they can get back into contention. However, veteran All-Stars Chipper Jones, John Smoltz, and Andrew Jones will not let the younger Braves give up on the season. Not to mention manager Bobby Cox, who has led the Braves every step of the way throughout the entire streak. Their experience, veteran leadership, and will to win may be the Braves only hope.
During the 1990’s, the Braves had a nucleus of three Cy Young award winning pitchers. Greg Maddux won three Cy Youngs, Tom Glavine won two, and John Smoltz won one as the Braves dominated the National League. But with Glavine and Maddux on different teams and Smoltz at 39 years old, dominant pitching is no longer the Braves calling card. Veterans Chipper and Andruw Jones, along with new stars Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann will have to lead the way. Smoltz and pitcher Troy Hudson will also have to be near perfect down the stretch for the Braves to stand a chance.
Barring a Mets collapse down the stretch or a sudden unforeseen resurgence for the Braves, this appears to be the end of an era in Atlanta. Rather than mourn the defeat, this is a good time to pay tribute to a Braves organization that has accomplished something amazing in modern day sports. With free agency and players changing teams constantly, to stay at the top for such an extended period of time is truly special. So, congratulations Atlanta and best of luck in the future. For more information on the Atlanta Braves, you can check them out online at: www.atlantabraves.com