Archive for September, 2006
Long live the streak!
Most of you who know me, know I am an Atlanta Braves fan, and have been since I was a little kid and went to games at FulCo watching Dale Murphy, Bob Horner, Bruce Benedict, Glen Hubbard and Phil Neikro play. I don’t follow other sports, there was a brief period of a few years in the late 80s, early 90s when I followed basketball, but otherwise MLB has been the only sport I keep up with (162+ games a year is more than enough). Being a baseball fan in Atlanta wasn’t a source of pride as a kid, but once highschool hit and we started winning the division I’ve gotten to enjoy an unprecedented streak of winning seasons with my team. That all ended this year when the Mets took the NL East Division and the Braves are posting a sub .500 season for the first time since before I had a driver’s license. There have been amazing runs over that stretch and I’ve enjoyed it greatly. Do I wish the streak could’ve gone on for a few more years? of course! But I realize that it had to end somewhere, and the Mets put together a great run this season and you have to tip your hat to them.
The flaws in the team this year were obvious, a weak bullpen early on in the season made for tired starters later on in the season so we couldn’t hold a lead before the all-star break, and aside from that nice stretch in July we started not being able to get the lead in the second half of the season. The plague of injuries to pitchers this year cost us a ton, and the payroll constraints kept Schearholz from making the moves he needed to (though obviously in retrospect there are moves that could’ve been made or made better, but hindsight is 20-20 and overall everybody did as good a job in that regard as can be expected).
Next year I hope we take it all, but I also realize that we’ve got a much tougher division this year than it was for a lot of those streak years. We’re not the biggest market team in the division, and we don’t have an owner like Ted Turner who will spend that little extra to make it easier on the manager. Next year we’ll have the NL Champ Mets to contend with (and their owners and GM have done a spectacular job this year in making the right moves at the right time), they’ve got depth and power. Their weakness will be aging starters and young guns without a good mid-career guy to stabilize things (obviously not lacking in the batting realm with some good home grown guys led by some nice trades the last couple years). The Phils can make any game tough with just Ryan Howard, but have a reasonable team behind him to make a legit run at things next year. The Marlins are going to be a gamble. Their GM took the most ridiculous budget constraints and put together so much young talent they HAVE to be considered a threat. But their owners are apparently not bright enough to keep around the manager that got them there because he had some squabbles with them. Girardi deserves manager of the year for taking a 15 million dollar payroll for the whole team and making them contenders down the line (they were expected to lose over 100 games this year and have a shot at ending above .500). The Nats probably won’t compete next year, but with Soriano around they’ve got a shot in just about any game they play (and will be a growing market that can start putting money into the players within the next few years). The NL East of 2007 is going to be, IMHO, the best in all of baseball.
For now, I hope the Braves get a chance to relax and enjoy their extra month without baseball this year. Hopefully all those injuries will be helped by the extra rest, and they’ll come back full force next spring. In the mean time I’m hoping the Mets can take it all and get the WS back from the AL teams (I think the Mets have the best shot of any NL team right now of doing so, tired Pedro, Glavine aside… if those two can keep the energy and health up through the WS I think the Mets should have their first ring in 20 years). I’m not a fan who holds great animosity for our rivals (and I still like Glavine and Julio Franco).
My sister shared what is, around my animal loving house, pretty sad news today. Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, was killed by a stingray barb to the heart Monday. Jake’s always been fond of Steve, and was lamenting the loss of one of his heros.