|The Atlanta Braves: Lucky 13|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on September 29, 2004
Everyone knows the story of the Braves’ off-season. They lost Javy Lopez, Gary Sheffield, Greg Maddux, and Vinny Castilla in the past off-season while only adding a couple of bullpen arms and Paul Byrd to this year’s team. Every single media outlet was predicting the end of the Braves’ dominance - the end of a dynasty.
Well, they were wrong. Absolutely wrong. The dynasty of winning either the Western division or Eastern in Hotlanta continues.
Things were quite bleak in late-June for the Braves, as they were six games under .500 and they were 6.5 games out of first on June 23. This was supposed to be the year for the retooled Phillies or the “can’t-do-worse-than-last-year” Mets. Heck, even the World Champion Marlins should have beaten the Braves in the NL East. But since Chipper Jones moved back to third base in the middle of the year, the Braves have caught fire.
“I was very, very skeptical,” said team leader Chipper Jones.
The clinching game was the Braves season in a microcosm. They started out slowly, but they came from behind and won it.
So what keeps this team ticking? They don’t have an outrageous budget like the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox. They don’t have a tremendous farm system like the Minnesota Twins. What do they have in their favor?
John Schuerholz, Bobby Cox, and Leo Mazzone. Never before have a combination of three been so perfectly apt for each other.
What person in their right mind would want a right handed pitcher with a career 5.11 ERA and an ERA of nearly nine from the bullpen over the span of 2003? John Schuerholz did. With tutelage from pitching coach Leo Mazzone, this fellow, aka Jaret Wright, has become a Cy Young candidate with fifteen wins and a 3.33 ERA over 184 IP. What person in their right mind would want a left handed hitter who just can’t stay healthy? John Schuerholz did. Under the leadership of Bobby Cox, this right fielder named JD Drew has been on the field nearly everyday and has been playing outstanding on both sides of the field.
"The challenges that we faced this winter were not just another year," he said. "This was a dramatic challenge, to lose the All-Star caliber players -- Sheffield, Maddux, Lopez, Castilla -- and [we] had [the] payroll reduced by over $15 million. That's a pretty daunting challenge, and we regarded it as such."
And now we’ve seen that the Braves have risen to this challenge and defeated it. Congrats on number thirteen; hopefully fourteen will be just as easy.