Being 20-years-old, my knowledge of sports extends back...well, not very far in comparison to others.
I grew up in Alabama, and, clearly, we don't have a pro baseball team. So the closest thing is the Atlanta Braves. For some reason, Alabama has adopted the Braves as its team. And why not?
Who else are the fine Alabamians going to cheer for? The Florida Marlins? The Tampa Bay Devil Rays? I think not.
In the '90s, when my childhood was in full swing, it was a great time to be a Braves fan. With more than a decade of consecutive NL East titles, the Braves were always fun to watch. It never failed. No matter how bad the team was out of the gate, all you would have to do was wait for the heat of the summer, and the Braves would get hot and win the division.
For me, these Braves were heroes. Of course, the team always changed from year to year. I remember when Terry Pendleton was swinging a bat and not serving as a coach.
I remember chanting "Javy" at the television as catcher Javy Lopez would never fail to disappoint. I remember Sid Bream, David Justice, Steve Avery, John Rocker, the beginning of Rafael Furcal's career, the emergence of Chipper and Andruw Jones, and a host of others.
However, the most vivid memories of those great Braves teams was the pitching.
Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux. The big three.
No matter who else was on the team, these three were the constants. You could count on these three to be there and be solid every year.
Sure, Chipper now trumps all but Smoltz with his tenure as a Brave, but these three pitchers were such an oddity.
Even now, how rare is it to have three dominant pitchers on a team for the better part of a decade. The closest thing to the Braves' big three was the A's (Hudson, Zito, and Mulder), and they couldn't keep those three together for more than a few years.
However, as I learned in my childhood, all good things come to an end. As the 2003 season rolled around, I saw Glavine get shipped out to New York. I couldn't believe that my team would let this talent walk as they would do soon with Maddux, as well. That's baseball, I thought. And that was the end of an era.
Though it seemed like the end of the world at the time, the departure of Glavine wasn't a death sentence for the Braves.
Since 2003, the Braves haven't exactly tanked. They have been to the playoffs all but '06 and '07 since Glavine left for the Mets. They have only missed out on their division twice in that same time frame.
Though the Braves haven't gotten out of the first round since 2001, the team hasn't been doing half bad without him. However, the last two years have been rough for Braves fans all over.
We have watched Philadelphia emerge and Glavine and the Mets dominate. For a Braves fan, two years without a playoff appearance is criminal. We need someone to help and we need it fast or else it will be a third straight year without the postseason in Georgia.
Where did this team of my childhood go? Where is Maddux? Where is the crime dog Fred McGriff? Where are the Atlanta Braves?
Luckily, this year's offseason held some answers.
Let's go back a few weeks to the offseason.
This winter, I turned on ESPN, as is customary with me and saw that one of my childhood heroes was headed back to the ATL. I couldn't believe my eyes. Glavine? Back in Atlanta? I was ecstatic.
I know this guy only has one to two years left at the most, but just to see this guy charge on to the mound at Turner Field one last time in the right uniform and the same hat he will surely wear the day he goes into the HOF will be priceless.
What a dream come true.
Finally, I'll be able to watch the Braves with 2/3 of that same 1-2-3 punch that was so strong in the '90s.
Now obviously, I am not a disillusioned fan with visions of Glavine taking home the Cy Young and Chipper Jones the MVP, though, that would be a perfect world. I know that Glavine is not getting any younger at the ripe age of 42.
The man is slowing down. I know that. This isn't like Johan Santana coming into a rotation, but it is a spark of veteran leadership that the Braves so desperately need. The more people in that rotation that have won before, the better.
As for the statistical side of things, Glavine couldn't hurt.
Only three times in his career has he failed to get 10 wins, the last of which coming in '03. His ERA has been constant since he left Atlanta, so we can expect something in the 3.50 range, which is solid.
Also, when you take a gander at the other starting pitchers on this staff, Glavine looks like a viable option.
Hampton is always hurt, so forget him. I doubt he will make it this whole year without a surgery. Hudson and Smoltz are dependable, but outside of those two, not many of them are A. experienced or B. proven winners. I have all the faith in the world in Jurrjens, but who wouldn't love to have Glavine in their rotation even though he's 42.
Glavine might not be the dominant pitcher he once was, but he provides stability and depth to a Braves staff that has tried more options than Ray King at a buffet.
I am overjoyed that Glavine is back where he belongs. An Atlanta Brave.
Is Glavine going to propel this team to an NL East title? Not by himself he won't and not without the development of some of their young guns.
However, he will provide a gilmmer of hope to us youngsters who grew up with the '90s Braves.
I believe that the next generation of ballplayers is emerging, and Glavine is one of the great ones about to exit from my generation. Unfortunately, the generation I grew up with will forever be remembered as the "steroid era."
Isn't this all the more reason to back guys like Glavine who have never been suspected of doing steroids?
Glavine is one of the true heroes my generation should have looked up to instead of cheats like McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Tejada, Clemens, Canseco, and a host of others.
Anyway, whether he is an asset this year, Glavine will be someone I will enjoy watching.
It's so good to welcome back a true Atlanta Brave, and I, for one, will be hoping for success for good ole Tom.
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