While the Braves will walk away from their first-ever trip to Anaheim winning two of three, any Braves fan has to look at the past couple of weeks and wonder...
Is this team cursed?
In order for a curse to be validated, you have to look back at a certain event in franchise history. Like the Red Sox with trading Babe Ruth. And the Cubs...just for being the Cubs.
What is the Braves' point of cursedom?
It could be a number of things. A colleague of mine recently suggested it's simply bad karma for all the years they were so good. It could be the curse of John Rocker. Even though they won for a few years with and after Rocker, they still never won a World Series. And they played in a relatively bad division.
Me? I think it's simple.
It's the curse of Mike Hampton's contract.
Even having Hampton around your team seems to be a curse in and of itself. But the contract is just egregious. Outside of Barry Zito's, I think it's the worst in baseball history.
This season, a big reason so many were picking the Braves to do so well (like Ken Rosenthal and Peter Gammons, who each picked them to win the National League) was because of their depth of starting pitching.
That's their biggest flaw right now.
Hampton was the first to go down, to no one's surprise. He hasn't pitched in three seasons now. But he's still one of the highest paid players on the team.
Then it was Smoltz. Then Glavine a couple of times. Jurrjens, their biggest surprise in the rotation, also missed his last start. Buddy Carlyle had to go on the DL. Add to this the fact that Chuck James remembered he was Chuck James, and it's pretty clear why they've been so mediocre.
Pitching depth, what was supposed to be their strength, has been their biggest problem.
A Braves fan could blame management. He could blame Cox for perhaps losing his touch. Or it could just be the jaded nature of Atlanta fans. Perhaps it's the seemingly apathetic clubhouse and lack of leadership (Chipper is fantastic at the plate, but never has been a quality clubhouse leader).
I just like to blame Hampton. It lets me sleep at night.
May the Curse of Hampton die with his contract at the end of this season. Go Braves.
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