Since May 31st, the Atlanta Braves have been all alone in first place atop the NL East.
With that said, who is really the team to beat in the National League East?
Is it Bobby Cox's Braves in the legendary manager's final season or the reigning champions of the National League?
I’m a man of faith and I know that, anytime you lack faith or doubt something great and powerful, you are sorely mistaken. The Philadelphia Phillies are powerful, on the road to great. Even if greatness does fail, it still doesn’t justify your reasoning as to why you doubted most of the time.
If you doubted the New England Patriots would win the Super Bowl in their infamous 18-1 season, you were unjustified in your doubts—period.
A great team overcomes adversity, does the unexpected, even beating the teams they are not supposed to beat—that’s greatness.
The Phillies are special in that they got their stardom as a humble, underdog, wild card team. They know how to win against hearsay—they’ve done it before.
They have since, proved, that they have risen to “powerhouse” status, considered by most to be on the brink of greatness.
The Phils' mission hasn’t changed at all: Win another World Series.
The road, however, has definitely changed. This year, the charming Atlanta Braves stand in the path of a team who has always been determined to win and have always succeeded to a degree.
We all know the Braves can’t meet the Phillies in the World Series, so, something's gotta give.
We know the firepower that the Phillies contain, there’s no need for me to run down statistics. You know Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, and Carlos Ruiz.
Those men speak for themselves.
Those aren’t the men, on Monday the 20th through Wednesday the 22nd, that the Braves should be concerned with. It’s these men:
Monday: Cole Hamels
Tuesday: Roy Halladay
Wednesday: Roy Oswalt
The Atlanta Braves, a superb team, a relentless team, a talented team, have to contend with an offense known to put up nine run comebacks a couple times each season. And bat against three bona fide aces.
Now, as I said before, I am a man of faith, but men of faith don’t choose who they put their faith in frivolously. No—if you’re going to put faith in something, make sure it’s proven and tested.
That my friends is the Philadelphia Phillies, who have the same core from 2008 and 2009, with upgrades.
I like the Braves, but the truth is, their best chance in beating Philadelphia is as a wild card. Then, possibly, they may catch the Phillies "smelling themselves" too much.
But if the Braves win the division, there is no doubt in my mind the Phillies will take it to them in the NLCS.
Because a great team overcomes adversity, does the unexpected, and beats the teams they are not supposed to beat—the Phils are “not,” necessarily supposed to beat the New York Yankees—I’m not quite sure I’m ready to throw the Braves in that discussion yet.
The Philadelphia Phillies are a good team.
Last year, they were great. The year before, they were great, but I am not convinced that the Phillies are the same team from 2008 and 2009. They'll need to be that team and more to avoid the tomahawk in 2010.
As we all know, this year will be the last year of the Bobby Cox dynasty and if their anchor Chipper Jones departs, it will be the end of the "Team of the 90s."
Welcome to the team of the 2010s.
Only one word can describe the most walk-off wins in baseball, the transformation of a talented rookie into a keeper of the flame that ignited baseball's postseason for 15 seasons, and incredible pitching in a year certain to be remembered for incredible pitching
The Braves need no superstars. They have no Howards and they have no Utleys.
Instead of a team full of Subway commercials stars, the Braves have a team of 40 different baseball players, any of whom can don the hero's cape on any given night.
The big three pitchers in Philly are dangerous, but three pitchers do not make a pitching staff.
You need at least four pitchers to be successful in the playoffs.
Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick both have ERA around five, so although Hamels, Halladay, and Oswalt are almost guaranteed great performances, Kendrick (4.72 ERA) and Blanton (5.25 ERA) make the rotation questionable with a 3.70 combined ERA.
Cy Young candidate, Tim Hudson anchors the Braves rotation along with Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurjens, Derek Lowe, and Mike Minor. All of them combined have a 3.53 ERA and none of them have an ERA above 4.50.
The Braves are statistically the better team in just about every category, but the reason that they have been in front of Philadelphia for the majority of this season is not about statistics.
This season is about giving a legendary manager a deserving high note to end his Hall of Fame career.
This season is about the stewardship of a baseball legacy and the beginning of a new baseball dynasty.
No matter who wins the division or who wins the wild card, the Braves and Phillies will meet in the postseason and it won't be pretty. But it will be great baseball.