CD's Connect the Dots...A New Beast In The East?
phans, its true… our often woebegone Phillies are the choice of baseball seers
from across the nation to finally end the stranglehold that has seem the Atlanta Braves win 12 straight East titles. With a strong cast of returning characters,
plus bookend additions like relievers Billy Wagner, Tim Worrell and Roberto Hernandez, and starter Eric Milton, the Phils, indeed, do seem
be told, the loss of 104 home runs, 317 RBI and 16 pitching victories is a major
blow to the Brave's lineup.
Furthermore, ace reliever John Smoltz has had more elbow operations than
he has elbows andis always one slider away from the disabled list. But the Braves have always been greater
than the individual parts to the machine and it says here that they will give
the Phils all they can handle this summer.
some proof? Just what kind of
lineup will the Braves field when it seems half the club was not whistling
"Dixie" as they bolted the South for greener pastures elsewhere? It is always best to start at the
beginning and there is no finer combination of manager/general manager than
Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz.
These two are certainly one of the top combos in all of baseball and
remind one of the famous adage, "they can take their team and beat your team,
then they can take your team, and give you their team… and still beat you!"
is, there is much truth to that tale.
It is my contention [admittedly only a theory] than Cox is worth 5 games
over our manager, Larry Bowa, simply on how well he handles his club. There are only a handful of managers
better suited to run a ball club over a 162 game marathon than Cox. Trust me, the Hall of Fame awaits this
man when he finally retires.
it was Reitsma, Chris Reitsma to be precise. He of the 9-5 record last season on a
team that won less than 70 games.
He of the 12 saves and 3 spot starts in 57 very effective
appearances. Yes, Phillie fans, the
Braves just upgraded their bullpen by as much as 25% with these two trades. Oh, the Braves gave up talent; they
always have young talent to spare.
to the aforementioned hurlers such solid pitchers as Mike Hampton and Jaret Wright and the cupboard in Atlanta hardly seems empty. Yet, for all the seeming pitching
talent, the Braves are still an offensive club, and 2004 promises to be no
different. Out with the old, as in
Sheffield, Lopez and Castillo and in with the new, as in JD Drew, Johnny Estrada
and Adam LoRoche.
the names Drew and Estrada seem faintly familiar, they should! Drew, which rythmes with boo, is the
former Phillie #1 draft pick and ex-Cardinal right fielder. Although it is the trendy thing to
discount the addition of JD to the Braves lineup, a word of caution is
advised. For one thing, no one has
ever questioned his talent, merely his ability to stay healthy. For another, he is in his free agency
year, and wonderful thing seem to happen to hitters in Atlanta during their walk
years. Witness Sheffield and
had an All-Star season at Richmond last year, hitting a cool .328, and Brave
fans are expecting not a skipped beat this year as Lopez gives way to Johnny
E! Placed in a lineup with the
Jones boys, Drew, Rafael Furcal and Marcus Giles, watch for Estrada to become a
fixture behind the plate with the Braves.
of Furcal and Giles, they return to form a great double play combination in
Atlanta and can be counted on to at least match last year's totals of 36 home
runs and 39 stolen bases. In fact,
Furcal could steal that many bases all by himself if Cox gives him the green
light. They will form with Andruw Jones a very solid middle of the diamond defense on a nightly basis.
challenge for the Phillies is a simple one. They must take away what the Braves have
dominated since 1991. They must establish that the years of futility, the years
of struggle, the endless seasons of defeat are finally at an end. Abreu-Burrell-Thome needs to become what
Jones-Sheffield-Jones have been.
of these possibilities become realities, and if a tiny bit of good health and
good luck are thrown in for good measure, then the baseball world may finally
see fit to crown a new champion, a new NL Beast of the East… our very own
welcome suggestions, questions and comments. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and
I will respond! CD from the Left Coast
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