As of today, the Braves sit 3 games ahead of the Mets and 5.5 games ahead of the Phillies. This weekend, the Braves trot out Hanson, Hudson and Lowe, so the prospect of coming out of the Big Apple with another series win is very good! This could also give the Braves the opportunity to have the largest division lead in baseball.
The Braves are well represented in the 2010 Midsummer Classic. 5 All Star selections is the most for the Braves since 2003, when 7 good guys were chosen. Jason Heyward (who will more than likely not play), Brain McCann, Tim Hudson, Martin Prado and Omar Infante have all had tremendous seasons and will represent Atlanta well.
All the selections have good stories. For McCann, the home town boy who will undoubtedly take over as the Clubhouse leader when Chipper retires, it is his 5th selection in 5 major league seasons. Hudson makes his 3rd career appearance, but first since 2004 with Oakland. He has been a great story for Atlanta. A local guy also, Tim and his wife Kim have undertaken many charities in Atlanta and have done a great job of giving back to the community. He is having a tremendous come back season from his Tommy John surgery, ranking 6th in the NL in ERA, posting a 2.44 ERA.
We all know about the man child Jason Heyward and his stellar rookie year. When he gets healthy, he will provide a jolt to the Braves offense that has slowed down the last couple weeks of June. He leads all Rookies in HR and RBI.
Martin Prado has had an outstanding year. He leads the NL in batting average. He has also shown his power stroke, hitting 10 HRs. This has been a pleasant boost. I heard Don Sutton interview him Wednesday during 680 The Fan Braves’ Clubhouse report, and to hear a humble young guy who is close to his momma makes you want to root for him even more. He is the epitome of a team player, waiting his turn last year behind Kelly Johnson. Once he got his opportunity when Kelly went down with injury, he has definitely made the most of his chance to shine.
Omar Infante was chosen with some controversy, but if Charlie Manuel was tasked with picking a “Utility” player, Infante is as good as any. He can play practically anywhere on the field, and bats .300. Players like Infante are an invaluable resource.
The most remarkable thing about this ballclub is their DESIRE to win. This team, around this same time two years ago, was staggeringly bad in one run games and had its worst season since 1990 and when they started the unprecedented run of Division Championships. The Braves were 5-21 in one run games!
This year, there is a desire to win. The Braves are second in the NL with 156 runs after the 7th inning, and are tied with the Reds for 15 last at bat wins. This ballclub is finding ways to win the close games, something that has plagued the franchise since its last postseason appearance in 2005.
I thought the Braves would get into the postseason and make some noise, but do so via a Wild Card Berth. They seemed poised to not only win the NL East, but could also have the best record in all baseball.
Mea Culpa, Frank Wren*
I have had some not nice things to say about Braves General Manager Frank Wren early this season and during spring training. Last December, dishing away one of the best pitchers in baseball and signing a slugger who may or may not have been on the juice and was coming off a second injury ridden season in three years did not sit well with me.
Well, I was incorrect about my above criticisms. Wren has made shrewd moves to assemble a talented team. Though there are still some moves that could be made, notably getting another bat, the team assembled now seems good enough to win all the marbles.
Though I am still not real sure about Frank Wren, and I stand by my earlier criticisms, he has proven why he is the General Manager of a professional baseball team and why I write a blog as a hobby.
*That was for you, Reptillicide