Atlanta Braves rookies, Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur, really are living the dream. The Athens, Ga. natives and current roommates can say that they not only got a chance to play for their childhood favorites, but they both had an immediate impact on the team. Francoeur took all of the regular season spotlight with a Rookie of the Year worthy debut, and McCann with playoff magic and milestones of his own.
These rookies got the full Atlanta Braves experience indeed. All the way from showing off in front of the giant crowds of Turner Field to playing with some of the best in the sport, to the regular season dominance in the National League East division, to flopping in the playoffs.
Why is it that the former baseball dynasty that used to be synonymous with excellence is now known for its impeccable ability to be excellent all the way up until the moment it is needed?
It has become a sad reality that the “Team of the 90s,” who used to breeze through the National League to the pennant before being beaten in the World Series, just can’t cut it anymore. True, to win 90 games in a season (the Braves finished with an overall regular season record of 90-72) is quite impressive, and to win an unprecedented 14th consecutive division title in Major League Baseball’s toughest division is unthinkable. But what’s the point if you can’t string together three of five games from the wildcard entry in the opening round of the playoffs?
Maybe this year’s Braves were comprised of young players who lack the playoff experience and savvy to perform the necessary magic needed to succeed in the month of Oct. The team did employ the services of 18 rookies this season. Maybe the Jones’ (Chipper and Andruw) don’t provide enough star power or presence to carry this good team to become a championship team. Although both enjoyed spectacular seasons, Chipper making his triumphant return to the infield and Andruw providing his usual Sportcenter Top 10 plays in the field while hitting a career and major league best 51 homeruns this season.
It’s to the point now where it feels like they do it on purpose. To watch Game four of this year’s series against the Houston Astros was just painful. To blow a 6-1 lead in the eighth inning , followed by another solo shot with two outs in the ninth inning, is like something from a movie, except the Astros are the underdog heroes and the Braves are the big bullies who get sent home in tears again.
If postseason experience is missing from the Braves’ puzzle, looking into the future of it’s young stars, McCann and Francoeur, who knows what may come.