Atlanta Braves: Just Survive, Don't Worry About The Phillies And First Place
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Sure, it's huge series, but only because every series from here out is important. I'm sure the Braves would love to win the division, but more than anything else they just need to make the playoffs.
Five years ago, I'd be right there with all the fans, chanting, "We have to defend the division" above all else.
But that was during a time when the Braves had reeled off 14 consecutive division titles.
Now, the Braves are staring a profound playoff drought in the face and risk sending Bobby Cox out as just the manager of one of the 28 teams that didn't make the playoffs.
In Major League Baseball, there are really only three levels of achievement that matter for a team.
World Series Champ, League Champ, and making the playoffs.
Nobody really cares if you won the division but lost in the first round of the playoffs, or even the second round.
All those teams are just lumped in as "playoff teams." The Braves and their fans should know this better than anybody, as much flack as they take for only winning one World Series.
There is the thought of "don't give up on the division" and that's a nice sentiment; however, the real worry is what happens to the team and its fans if this team gets swept by the Phillies and is all but out of the division race?
The team and the fans that show up at Turner Field cannot let that deflate the balloon and cause the team to mail in a few games in the middle of a playoff spot race.
Even if the Braves do get swept by the Phillies in Philadelphia, they're still probably the favorite to win the Wild Card.
However, you're already seeing some Atlanta fans with a "sky is falling" mentality start to step out of the woodwork.
Is there any fan who wouldn't have gladly taken a 2-game lead in the Wild Card with 11 to play?
So the Braves should play loose, knowing that they are in the driver's seat.
The fans should come out and support a team that will most likely be in the playoffs. This thought of "division or bust" is actually detrimental to the team.
It's even possible that the Braves could get swept by the Phillies twice and still make the playoffs. Obviously it wouldn't be advisable, but it's not totally far-fetched either.
Win as many games as you can in Philly, not because it's against the Phillies, but because if the team wins seven more games, it WILL make the playoffs and if it wins six more, it will most likely make the playoffs.
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