Friday, July 28, 2006

Five Reasons the Atlanta Braves Will Make the Playoffs, Won't Win the Division, and Why That's All Good in the End

Let's face it folks, this is the year that the Atlanta Braves record run of 14 straight division titles comes to an end. And that's OK, in fact it may be REALLY OK:

5. Pennant Races Are Good
The Pennant Race to win the wild, wild card this year will keep the Braves competing all the way until the end. With so many teams within just a few games of each other, only the strong survive.

4. There's Nothing Wrong with Being the Wild Card Team
Florida, Boston, and many other recent World Series champions have won after sneaking into the last wild card spot. The Wild Card team tends to be the hottest team with the most momentum. The Braves should use that to their advantage here if they can pull ahead of others in the Wild Card spot.

3. Pitching
Yeah, easy one here, the pitching is better with Bob Wickman in the bullpen, Ken Ray as the set-up guy and Chris Reitsma NOT pitching, but the reality is that if they can only get a little bit better pitching, they'll be fine here.

If you look at past performances in the playoffs, yes, the pitching has always been strong but it's the hitting and offensive production that has disappeared. This year feels different - with Jeff Francouer, Adam LaRoche and Brian McCann just one year older, the offensive wealth is spread around much more evenly and should prove to be an advantage come playoff time. McCann and LaRoche still remain the best kept secrets in the N.L. behind Francouer's flashier good looks and power strokes.

Note to Bobby Cox: Trade Giles and start Wilson Betimet at 2nd base. Then let him lead off. Please?

2. Mets in the Pressure Cooker
Seen how the press has treated A-ROD lately? Go ahead Mets, win the division. I don't care how much you win the division by and how good your hitting is, your starting pitching is suspect and Billy Wagner has yet to earn his full paycheck.

1. Underdog is Here
The Atlanta Braves as the underdog. We haven't heard that since that first 'worst to first' playoff run way back when. Redefine the team as the underdogs, the comeback kids.

I for one can't wait, go Braves!

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