Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Worry About the Braves?

Lang may be letting those chilly outfield bleachers at Shea effect his brain. He may have worn his Braves cap too tight Monday night.

Everyone gets a pass in April, as far as I’m concerned. The Mets have spent money for the past several years and stumbled, though this could be the year they win the division. As usual, the press is on their bandwagon. Seems like Pedro always has the Braves number. They should win.

The Braves weren’t supposed to win the division the last two years. Last year they won even after scrapping two-thirds of their outfield, in addition to reworking their bullpen in midseason. They won even though many spent time on the shelf with injuries…Hampton, Smoltz, Hudson, Thompson, Ramirez, Furcal, Chipper, Francoeur, Perez, Reitsma, Boyer, Jordan, Mondesi, and others.

This year some people picked Atlanta because the Phillies, Nats, and Marlins are still down, but just as many picked the Mets. Everyone has to deal with injuries. The bug has already begun…Chipper will ache throughout the season, as will Horacio, Boyer, Kelly Johnson, and Renteria. There are plenty of other questions…will Smoltz’s arm hold up the entire year? Will Sosa repeat his 2005 year? Will there be a sophomore jinx? (I think not, particularly for Langerhans, Betimit, McCann, and Francoeur).

The offense has been doing fine so far. Francoeur is starting to come around. Betimit is no slouch, and hopefully this is the year LaRoche puts it all together. Andruw seems to be picking up where he left off last year (enough clich├ęs yet?)…and the second home run he hit last night was on a tough pitch to hit…low.

Even with the trouble the starting pitching has had, they still have made most of the games close. At the end of the year hopefully we won’t be regretting that one or two hits didn’t fall in. Smoltz and Hudson should be ok, and Thompson and Davies have had good outings. I hear that if Sosa will just back off the heat just a little, that his stuff will still be good enough to win. The bullpen is better than last year and could improve, when Boyer comes back and Devine gets some experience. Ray is a nice addition, but no Mariano.

The Braves should be in the thick of things, which may be as good as we can hope for, given their salary structure, injury situation, and high-paid competition (the Mets and Cards). For the money, the Braves are one of the best teams in baseball. I can’t argue with the organizational philosophy. Spending money is always nice, but you can’t blame them for having a budget. No telling what a new owner will do, or who will replace Schuerholz and Cox when they retire. There’s a good chance things won’t get better. Is that what we should “worry” about?

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