Run up the white flag, fellow Braves fans. We are doomed to third place again.
Yeah, bringing back Tom Glavine was nice, but he's past 40. And after him, Smoltz, and Hudson is the same uninspring 4-5 that's been known to collapse somewhere in the vicinity of the fifth inning twice a week, and that's assuming that Mike Hampton is actually healthy this year and remembers his way to the mound.
The middle of the order looks strong again, with 3-4-5-6 all capable of 100 RBI seasons, but the top is still young (though good) and the back has a couple of journeyman outfielders. We here at the Spot were none too pleased with the trade of Renteria, who had been the most consistent guy in the lineup the last two years, though we understood the reasons.
And then there's the bullpen, the sore spot that's been dragging the team down for most of the last 15 years and comically so for the last two third-place debacles. Atlanta's bullpen is the Bermuda Triangle of Relief Pitchers: They go in, but they don't come out. No matter who they've brought in (and there have been some good players brought in) they never seem to get the job done. Sadly, last year's pen was comparatively good, but injuries and overuse-thanks to a bad 3-4-5 spot in the rotation-caused them to break down late in the year. When Pete Moylan (who we at the Spot like) is your best reliever, and you happened upon him through the World Baseball Classic, you might have a problem.
Sadly, we here at the Spot miss the days when Ted Turner was spending a boatload of money to bring guys in, and the scouting department was second to none. The front office is to blame for a lot of the results of the past few seasons, as they stood pat while the Phillies and Mets made moves to get better. I understand that AOL Time Warner put them on a strict budget, but I've got two words for the folks that use that as a crutch: Oakland A's. If they had the Atlanta budget...
But I digress. The Metropolitans have put themselves in position to challenge for the NL this year. Yeah, the rotation behind Santana is either aged or young, but they've got 18 games against the Nationals (how I despise that name. Just call 'em the Senators!) and the comically-poor Marlins, not to mention the games where Chuck James or Buddy Carlyle will be pitching for the Bravos (I'm still not counting on Mike Hampton. Sorry). Then there's the Mets lineup, which is pretty good up and down the order.
But I'll be tuned in whenever the Braves are on TV (thanks for ruining things, TBS) and listening on the radio before dark. I just can't quit them, even though the reality of third place has sunk in.