Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hall of the Braves?

An interesting conversation was taking place a few weeks ago on the "Third Shift" on Fox Radio and I thought it was worth taking another look at here. As Atlanta sits 1.5 games back of the upstart and underpaid Marlins and the Mets will forever be spending the big bucks to compete for headlines with the Yanks, the era of a guaranteed playoff spot for the Braves seems to have come to an end. On a ball club that played into October a staggering 14 times in a row, who are the future Hall of Famers on this team? With only one World Series ring in those 14 years, does anybody qualify? Are they the Buffalo Bills of baseball? Getting to the post season regularly and coming up short.

The first thing that came to my mind as I started to ponder the one World Series victory was that we are coming out of a very dark and dirty period of drugs and who knows what in baseball. Obviously the World Series is incredibly difficult to win, ask the Cubs. But could the Braves be one of the teams that stayed clean and paid the price for it? We'll never really know who was on what and I can't claim the Braves were clean or their opponents were juiced but if they ran into Barry Bonds in a NLCS or the Cardinals with Big Mac they'd be behind before the series even began.
An NBA referee has admitted in court documents he played a part in fixing 14 games last year alone, so we can't really dismiss conspiracy theories like we used to...

My next thought brought me back home to Montreal. Major League Baseball realigned the divisions and dropped Atlanta into our laps. Could the Braves 14 post season trips have more to do with the division they were in? Once 1994's lockout came and went, the Expos were in permanent sales mode, sending All Stars around the league in exchange for minor leaguers. Walker, Grissom, Pedro Martinez and anyone else that got too pricey was sent packing. Speaking of too pricey, the man who eventually killed baseball in Montreal, was awarded ownership of the Marlins. They've had some surprising Series victories but they too are usually in sell and rebuild mode. Then there's the Phillies. Last year Philadelphia was the first major league franchise in any sport to lose 10 thousand games - enough said. The Braves certainly have had some stellar teams but there were a few years when the competition in the East division was more like AAA baseball not the majors.

There will be more Braves enter the Hall of Fame, as the players from those winning years retire from the game and follow Hank Aaron and Phil Niekro into those hallowed halls. I believe Tom Glavine is headed in when he retires. A 2 time Cy Young winner, he's one of only five lefties to win at least 300 games. Greg Maddux has been a model of consistency throughout his career. He's the only pitcher to win 4 Cy Young's in a row and has 350 wins. With over 3000 k's he'll definitely be voted in but will he be wearing a Cubs hat? He might have a spot in his heart for the Cubs after playing there twice in his career but his major accomplishments have come as a Brave and I think he'd recognize that. Jon Smoltz however might run into a little trouble getting votes after spending part of his career in the bullpen. However, he is the only pitcher to have over 200 wins and 150 saves, is a Cy Young winner and has 3000 k's. One or two more rings would help his cause but I think he'll garner enough votes. If Chipper Jones can stay consistent and healthy, his numbers should help him avoid the same fate as Dale Murphy. Murphy played on as his skills faded and struck out a lot to end his career and many believe that has cost him. Jones though is behind only Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray on the career home run list for switch hitters and his .309 career batting average makes him a safe bet for induction.

Is that it though? Are there really only 4 Hall of Famers on a team that went to the post season 14 years in a row? Manager Bobby Cox will certainly be in the Hall when he steps down. No matter the reasons why or how they won 14 pennants in a row, Bobby Cox was the captain that guided the ship and deserves to be honoured.

Will the Braves ever see this kind of streak again? I really don't see how as the East division goes from being one of the worst to a division where 4 out of the 5 teams could compete every year. The Nationals, as were the Expos, are cursed to the cellar. The Phillies have the strength of Ryan Howard to power them along. As I mentioned before, the Mets will always be competing with the Yankees for headlines if not fans so they'll always be the biggest spenders in the division. With a new stadium the Marlins should finally have the revenue to secure their star players to long term contracts, if Jeff Loria the owner wants to share.

So Braves fans, what do you think? Will only one World Series win in 14 years hurt the chances of any of these players getting in to the Hall? Will the Hall of Fame someday be the Hall of the Braves?

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