Well, as I'm sure you heard long ago, the Braves missed the playoffs last year for the first time since the Land Grab of 1889. Surely the fans in Atlanta were devastated. Oh wait, maybe not. Rooting for a the Reds who haven't had a playoff game to speak of since 1995, there's nothing quite like watching a camera pan over the stadium and seeing empty seats in the crowd. Sadly, one year of missing the playoffs is hardly retribution for years of fan apathy. So, that begs the question: what would be an adequate penance for such a poor fan support? Well, I've come up with a few options.
1) Move the team to Montreal for five years, and make them play in an outdoor stadium. That's right. If you want to see fans not show up for a baseball game in October, try scheduling it in the Great White North. Plus, I think the French Canadians would strike a nice contrast to the southern roots folks from Georgia.
2) John Smoltz: not allowed to grow a beard, ever again. Every year come playoff time some media outlet subjects us to a fluff piece about how long he's been growing it and how it's a good luck charm for the Nth consecutive season. I think we're all over it.
3) All fans are now subject to random strip-searches at the gate of the stadium. Talk about making somebody's life harder. I complain every time I have to take my shoes off at an airport. Good luck sneaking that flask into the game this year.
4) New promotional day "Ted Turner as the Mascot" is instituted. This will consist of Turner in a mascot's outfit performing the Tomahawk Chop while pummeled by any Native American fans in the crowd. Honestly, this would probably bring in more fans, but I'd like to see it anyway.
So eat it Braves fans. Of course, this post isn't entirely about me and my 12 year grudge with the Braves (1995 NLCS I shall avenge yee!). I guess I could take a look at, you know, the actual team. The thing about this team is that they really didn't make many changes for a team that finished third in their division last year. The "big" move was getting rid of Adam LaRoche in order to get the Pirates' closer, then they back filled LaRoche with Craig Wilson (also of the Pirates). A net gain, I guess, but what kind of confidence do a couple of Pittsburgh cast-offs instill? Not much in my book.
The lineup is still about the same as it has been for years now with the Jones brothers in the middle. It has some big holes, but writing these previews has showed me that every team in the National League has some serious gaps to fill (we'll see if that's true when I get to the Mets). The rotation is Smoltz, Tim Hudson and a bunch of prayers. Nothing is exciting me here.
Yes, the Braves will be competitive again. But, no they won't make the playoffs again. I just don't see the firepower on this team that they've had in the past. Maybe they'll win a few more games that last year, but not many. The NL East is just too tough. See ya in '08 Atlanta!