Until opening day, in celebration of the coming 2009 baseball season, we will be previewing all 30 teams over the next few weeks.
With team-by-team divisional breakdowns, season projections, and playoff predictions, come October we'll are look back fondly and laugh wholeheartedly how wrong and how off base our prognostications. To see all of our team previews, please click here. Bottoms up...
National League East— Atlanta Braves
Your 2009 Atlanta Braves will be much like the same team we've seen over the past seasons. Divisional titles, and decade-long playoff runs now a distant memory.
Hot'Lanta chicks dig the long ball, but unless a smoltz-ering fast-balls pitcher with a closers' mentality or one hurling deceptiveve change-ups with maddox-merising corner strike-zone precision oils up a glove, the Braves' sketchy starting pitching rotation and bullshit bullpen won't save the Braves' lineup from spiking the steroid-flavored Kool-Aid and deceiving hopeless Braves' fans in believing their team can go from one of the worst to the one first teams playing playoff spoiler. Braves fans' never dream't a season so bad.
Last year, the Braves' bullpen led the league in most one-run losses. That's not really stat you boost about, yet delusional Brave fans like ourselves contend the Braves' playoffs chances remain a lofty goal.
For that goal to become reality, the Braves must overtake the reigning World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies, the free-falling New York Mets, the fire-sale no-spending Florida Marlins, and the Jim Bowden-fleecing, basement-dwelling, Quebec-hating Washington Nationals. Okay...well...maybe...not...the Expos.
Off-Season Moves and Pitching
Long-time Atlanta Brave John Smotlz opts for bloody Sox money, he just wants his Curt Schilling World Series moment. An aging pitcher in the twilight of a Coopertown career, Smotlz holds MLB records for most post-season wins with a 15-4 mark, and will pitch masterfully for Boston come playoff time.
The Braves' forced to overpay for ground-ball pitcher and former Red Sox Idiot castaway, Derek Lowe. With Tim Hudson now shelved-thru the dog days—a 20 plus game winner out of picture.
Off-season blunders continued when Rafeal "Ralphie" Furcal burned the Braves again and returned to the Dodgers. Then the Jake Peavy trade never materialized, and then 300-game winner Tom Glavine, looking for steroids in a bottle and a return to his Braves' heyday, signs with Hot'Lanta.
When Hudson finally heals in August, the Braves' pitching staff may look completely different and it wil show in the Braves disappointing NL East standing, among other dishonorable mentions like most runs-allowed, most blown saves, and most errors.
Despite the Lowe' signing, the Braves certified pitching staff ace looks like the promising Jair Jurrgens. His constant game-by-game improvement surprises Braves fans and will serve as a welcome relief from the questionable semi-pro pieces surrounding him—journeyman Javier Vasquez, and Japanese import Kenshin Kawakami who won't adapt his game to the American style.
Toss Tommy G.. in a funk with conventional starters Jorge Campilio and overweight southpaws Jo Jo Reyes, and the Braves' pitching scouts need scouts. The 2009 rotation rests on the shoulders unproven major leaguers and muppet-baby stud farm pitchers.
Pair a healthy Hudson with Jurrgens, possibly a slimmer Sabathian version of Ho-Hos or more homegrown pitching prospects, and the Braves' solve the dreary pitching woes of seasons' past— a return to the 1990s dominance
To make matters more worse, the Braves injury-prone yet resourceful relief corps relies too heavily on closer Mike Gonzalez and relievers Rafael Soriano and Manny Acosta to secure this shipwrecked fools bullpen.
Come mid-season, when Acosta costs them games in his new closers' role, Gonzalez eats up middle innings, and Soriano sets up potential blown blown saves from pitchers the dislikes of Blaine Boyer and Buddy Carlyle, Cox rolls off his hard rocker chair.
These guys will have the Braves' shopping for more groceries next off season, leading to an unlikely firing of the Lou Brown of National League managers.
Harold Reynolds' sexual harassment ESPN suit stands to reason. But Reynolds' remarks the Braves sign a past-his-prime 40-year-old player, warrants no merit. Reynolds heralds the only kid who grows up steroid-free to become a Hall-of-Fame lock Reynolds persuades the coveted free agent center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. to return to his Seattle Mariner roots, amid rumors Junior'd brave the injuries, which keeps "the kid" from G.O.A.T. status, and ends his storied career in Atlanta.
We further blame Reynolds for any poor lower offensive output and defensive low-lights we see from the Braves' platoon-ing center field crew consisting of Josh Garett Anderson and Brandon Larmon Larry Jones.
All-Star catcher Brian "BigMac" McCann works harder then most both behind the plate blocking wild-pitches and contesting catcher-inference calls. At the plate, McCann hits over .300, jacks 20 plus homers, and plates 90 rib-eyes.
Fellow All-Star right fielder Jeff "the Natural" Franceour shows good defensive range and deadly arm accuracy to out runners at home, but his minor-league career progression in fantasy stat cats—hits, homers, runs-scored—has Braves' fans questioning President John Schuerholz's every move.
Third basemen Chipper Wayne Jones hit .400 for the first few months last season, but his brittle bones and careening season stats will reserve a warm bench for him on the disabled-list. [Ed...note: Hey Wayne, you haven't played more than 134 games in any of the last your four seasons, now you're missing meaningless games in the subjective World Baseball Classic. When will the misery end...]
Keeping up with the Jones' and Anderson' boys in center and the blah-blah pitch-hitting prospects Gregor House Blanco and Matt "Dice" Diaz will need to second basemen Kelly Johnson and shortstop Yunel "Yuri" Escobar and Casey "strikes out at-bat" Kochman to elevate their games on both sides of playing field.
Garrett Anderson will both out perform Griffey Jr. offensively, and out hustle him defensively this season, but both aging all stars remain regulated to every other day status for Anderson and a designated-hitter bench role for Griffey.
Fortunately, the rest of the Braves' bunch runs-scoring options not so rosey, but the free-swingers parading through this lineup is enough for Bobby Cox's outright refusal to autograph any Braves' baseball propaganda this year, unless the team wins more games and asterisks bestow records.
Cox, whose tireless and meddlesome umpire antics upset frantic fans each of his 23 years as Braves' manager, returns for one more merry go round. Will Cox ever coach a winning team in Atlanta again? Shakes...eight ball, outlook, not so good.
Hometown heros and free agent discounts have been slowly steering Schuerhotz' decision sprees for years, winning him an unbreakable record of 14 straight division crowns and five fancy pennants; kindly killing Braves fans' loyality for only one lowly World Series Championship.
With Mets—Phillies rivalry now a television ratings monster, the Braves will be lucky be nationally broadcast 20 games fewer the Mets and 30 for Philly phans. TBS blackouts Braves' games for Nats and Phish noshows. Very funny Frank Wren, very funny. Yes... even the Expos.