Poll time: Which Atlanta team is closest to a title?

Who is more likely to win a championship this season: Matt Ryan or Chipper Jones? (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Who is more likely to win a title this year: Matt Ryan or Chipper Jones? (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The NBA championship will be decided tonight between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics. This comes a day after the New Orleans Saints received their $30,000 Super Bowl rings Wednesday and a week after the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup.

Feeling a little left out of title celebration nirvana?

Which Atlanta sports team is closest to a championship?

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I do this every once in a while — seemingly every time somebody wins a championship — but here we go again. If you had to pick the next Atlanta pro sports team to win a title, who would it be? (I could’ve thrown college teams into this debate, but I figured we have plenty of time to have every blog devolve into a you stink/no you stink drunk argument between drunk frat boys from Georgia and Tech, and I mean disrespect to drunk frat boys, especially the ones on game days who offer me a beer when I walk by their house.)

Anyway, we’re in baseball season now and there has been this general feel-good atmosphere around the Braves in the past six weeks. It would be one of the greatest stories in Atlanta sports history if the Braves could somehow win their second World Series in probably the final season for both Chipper Jones and manager Bobby Cox.

But if I’m ranking the four teams right now, the Braves’ title chances are No. 2. Here goes:

♦ 1.) Falcons: They’re coming off a season during which almost everything went wrong, including injuries, and they still won nine games. They’ve improved their defense this offseason (signed cornerback Dunta Robinson; drafted  linebacker Sean Weatherspoon) and bounce back seasons are expected for quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner. One NFL expert already has picked them to win the NFC South, ahead of the Saints. Ryan obviously is the biggest key.

♦ 2.) Braves: They’ve managed to take over and hang onto first place in the National League East despite slow starts from several key players. Starting pitching (on non-Kenshin Kawakami nights) will keep them in the race this season, regardless of how the offense goes. If  improbable success stories like Troy Glaus and Eric Hinske keep hitting like this, they could win the division. If Jones, Yunel Escobar and Brian McCann come around, they have a real chance to win it all. But I still see the Philadelphia Phillies as the best team in the league, notwithstanding their problems over the past month.

♦ 3.) Hawks: They’ve made the playoffs the last three years, which puts them ahead of the other three franchises. But there are too many uncertainties right now: Joe Johnson’s impending free agency; the development of point guard Jeff Teague; the lack of a legitimate NBA center; and the transition of new head coach Larry Drew.

♦ 4.) Thrashers: General manager Rick Dudley still hasn’t hired a head coach, the roster needs proven scorers and ownership is expected to provide him with a Walmart budget to work with (again). Dudley’s eye for personnel will help, but there are limits to what the team can do in the short term.

So, what do you think? Agree with the rankings, or do you think the Braves (or another team) are closer than the Falcons?

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

Recent posts:

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298 comments Add your comment

Sarah

June 17th, 2010
5:28 am

Good article but I don’t see a title in the future for any ATL team. Sad but true.

Reality

June 17th, 2010
5:34 am

Good matter to think about, Jeff. I really don’t know what I would say to that. I feel like this is a city where anything could happen in a given year. For example, in ‘98, when the Braves won their 7th division title in a row, and then the Falcons went to the Super Bowl. Nobody could’ve picked that….

But I know you want that beer on game days.

lanier

June 17th, 2010
6:05 am

I think the Braves because the Falcons have a harder road. In football one bad game or call and you are out

JSS

June 17th, 2010
6:09 am

None of the male teams, they all have such massive flaws in either team chemistry or personnel (the Hawks). The Falcons lack both personnel, talent depth, or the drive to outclass their conference rivals. Someone will always be better than them. The Braves will always be exposed in a best of seven series. By the time you get to the playoffs, player overuse, Bobby Cox, and lack of the will to win (doing that one little thing) which has limited their championships. The Thrashers need to take baby steps, signing Pettersen is a good start. Get a solid coach and bench assistant’ and protect Evander and Zach from becoming basket cases like Dany and Ilya became…

Now for the caveat, there is one team that is darn close to being a champion due to the nature of their league. They have a owner that cares, is smart, and has in one off season put together the best organization in this City. No overstretching like the ASG. She has not alienated 65% of the populous like Arthur Blank. She has supported her Coach/GM in getting rid of a flawed player (Holdsclaw). The team has a legitimate superstar in the making in Angel McCoughtry (wait till London 2012). Her sidekick, the Brazilian DeSouza is a workhouse. The Hawks would drool to have that consistency. Oh yeah, they have a freakin’ bench! It is just too bad that this town won’t get behind the one team that might win their league title. That team is the Atlanta Dream… Bash away, but you know it is true too!

Gordon

June 17th, 2010
6:16 am

In my opinion, the team that has the best management is closest to a title. That would be the Falcons. I see a sense of purpose with Blank, Dimitroff, and Smith. They have a process and are sticking with it. The results are aready evident.

Dreamland

June 17th, 2010
6:25 am

The Atlanta Dream is the closest followed by the Falcons and Braves.

The Realist

June 17th, 2010
6:35 am

The Braves will never win a championship with Bobby Cox. Quite simply, he is and has always been only as good as the pitchers afforded him by the GM and player development. He has no other managing skills as his 1-14 record in the last game (a series deciding game, that is) of the postseason exemplifies.

With great amusement I watched and read about the great celebration of Bobby calling a squeeze play in Minnesota to win a game. My thought? How hard is that decision with Conrad at the plate and a fast runner at third? My other thought? That’s the only game winning decision I can remember Bobby ever making!

Go with the Falcons!

Rich

June 17th, 2010
6:40 am

Women’s basketball doesn’t count.

My list would resemble yours Mark. I think the Falcons are probably only two years away from being good enough to bring the Lombardi trophy to Atlanta.

JSS

June 17th, 2010
6:52 am

You mean “already” evident that they have no playoff wins or division championships?

@Rich…
Ha ha ha ha… Yeah, whatever!

Carl

June 17th, 2010
6:54 am

The Falcons are the closest to bringing a title to the city. They are finally a well run organization. A good, young, talented team that will be very competitive for years to come.

Rich

June 17th, 2010
6:57 am

Sorry, Jeff. Called you Mark for some reason.

JSS – What’s so funny?

JSS

June 17th, 2010
7:15 am

They get a paycheck, they are professionals… If you have a “problem” with women professional sports, so be it… Too funny, but that is the nature of the culture around this region…

JSS

June 17th, 2010
7:26 am

Blogslexia
When one web blogs so much that they begin to reference the moderator of another blog in the wrong blog.

rekingball

June 17th, 2010
7:26 am

Do they still have a pro-women basketball league?

JSS

June 17th, 2010
7:29 am

@ rekingball
Why yes they do, in Israel, Spain, Russia, Brazil. and even in the United States of America too! Oh my, the sky must be falling!

Chike

June 17th, 2010
7:36 am

ATLANTA DREAM GETTIN THAT RING!!!!!!!!!!!!

JSS

June 17th, 2010
7:36 am

@ Jeff Schultz…
Who is going to be the Falcons place kicker? Really think you’re going to win with your kicking game in flux for the 3rd time in the 4 years?

Chike

June 17th, 2010
7:37 am

Enter your comments here

DREAM TEAM

June 17th, 2010
7:38 am

ATLANTA DREAM GETTIN THAT RING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JSS

June 17th, 2010
7:39 am

Dang, I’m just testy this morning!!!

Dawg Days

June 17th, 2010
7:39 am

Sarah – kiss my grits!

V

June 17th, 2010
7:40 am

aw women’s basketball, I rather have a pro midget team.

ebanks

June 17th, 2010
7:40 am

JSS- matt bryant will be the place kicker and hes done a great job last season. so the place kicker is not an issue.

rekingball

June 17th, 2010
7:46 am

Why do they still have a pro-womens basketball league?

Mitchell

June 17th, 2010
7:52 am

Anyway, we’re in baseball season now and there has been this general feel-good atmosphere around the Braves in the past six weeks. It would be one of the greatest stories in Atlanta sports history if the Braves could somehow win their second World Series in probably the final season for both Chipper Jones and manager Bobby Cox.

Jeff, what part of four World Series defeats do you not understand?

There’s absolutely nothing stopping the Braves whatsoever from winning the World Series, from handily beating if not sweeping the likes of the Twins, Yankees, Rays, Red Sox this year except for… well let me stop before I say something unkind about our Hall of Fame manager.

Not saying it would be easy to beat those teams but based on the way Tommy pitched last night for example, well, we have certain things in our favor.

But it’s not going to happen. You should know as much.

hiramsaint

June 17th, 2010
7:53 am

i like that DREAM THE RING thing. do your dreams bring you anywhere… say like denver? anyway, keep dreamin!

M. D. Cain

June 17th, 2010
7:54 am

The Realist: “The Braves will never win a championship with Bobby Cox”. I Didn’t realize someone else was managing the team in 1995. Please give us some more of your great insights.

hiramsaint

June 17th, 2010
7:55 am

more ancient history- at least the atl. public school system teaches something

Mitchell

June 17th, 2010
7:57 am

Dear God. I must have skipped over this:

But I still see the Philadelphia Phillies as the best team in the league, notwithstanding their problems over the past month.

You cannot be serious. Even if the Phillies came back to full strength are started playing like they’re capable of again, I’d still say we’re the better all around team and I feel confident we could beat them again not unlike the way we swept them out of town two weeks ago.

We will beat the Phillies, just not, you know, in the playoffs.

bat hunter

June 17th, 2010
7:59 am

Coons and Braves both get it done this year…BEER! HOLLER!

rekingball

June 17th, 2010
8:00 am

It’ll be the Falcons. The Braves have the pitching to do it.

Braves #1

June 17th, 2010
8:05 am

All it takes is the Braves to be hot in august and sept………….they have the pitching for a seven game series and all is needed is for things to fall in place….like hot summer hitting and red hot relief pitching….also good starts of 3 or less runs allowed…alot less than the Falcons need and especially less than the Hawks….now if the Hawks sign Wade and Johnson….things could be different….but that is 1000 to 1 longshot….The Thrashers…….Good luck or as one says…not a chance in Hell.

Mitchell

June 17th, 2010
8:09 am

The Realist

June 17th, 2010
6:35 am

The Braves will never win a championship with Bobby Cox. Quite simply, he is and has always been only as good as the pitchers afforded him by the GM and player development. He has no other managing skills as his 1-14 record in the last game (a series deciding game, that is) of the postseason exemplifies.

With great amusement I watched and read about the great celebration of Bobby calling a squeeze play in Minnesota to win a game. My thought? How hard is that decision with Conrad at the plate and a fast runner at third? My other thought? That’s the only game winning decision I can remember Bobby ever making!

Go with the Falcons!

Yep. The Braves will probably make the playoffs this year and that’s great but truly, it will be in spite of Bobby’s efforts to cost us as many games as possible with his horrible decision making, his inability to judge talent (KK, McLouth, Chavez) and his misuse of the bullpen.

We’ll just end up losing in the first round again. I’m smart enough to finally know that beforehand. I always tried to convince myself that, “no way man, this time it will be different… that was the past, we’re so good this year.”

They got me in 2009 for the last time. I really thought they were going to find a way to win the wild card last year in the last week of the season, I was really caught up in it. And what did they do? Freakin’ threw in the towel at the first sign of adversity. They lost six in a row to end the season? I mean, if anything made you not want to believe in this team ever again, that did it.

That was the last time. I will not get fooled again. I refuse. We should win the World Series this year, there’s nothing stopping them from getting there but it’s just not going to happen. That’s all there is to it.

Next year. And the year after that. Our chances only improve following this season.

Herschel Talker

June 17th, 2010
8:15 am

Schultzie:

I concur in that order. Also I’d stick Tech below all of them.

HT

rekingball

June 17th, 2010
8:17 am

If the saints can win a SB, almost any other team can, especially the Falcons.

Stockdog

June 17th, 2010
8:18 am

5:00am Jeff, Really, 0500. Anyway, I agree wholeheartedly that the Falcons are much closer than the other franchises. The defense will be better with the two draft picks from 2009 being healthy and adding Robinson and the ‘Spoon. Falcons, could win it this year if they catch some breaks, which is what happens for every Super Bowl champion.

The Braves are next. I think that they are two years away from being consistently great. They have great pitching in the minors. They have holes in the hitting in the minors.

The Hawks are still improving. The question is, can they find that missing piece? If Teague improves under Larry Drew they can compete with the elites. They lack speed at point guard and a solid scorer at the small forward position. They can address the small forward position with very little money.

hiramsaint

June 17th, 2010
8:19 am

thats right rekingball– go get a coach, a qb, and a non-meddling owner and y’all have just as much a shot as anyone else.

UGA frat guy

June 17th, 2010
8:23 am

I will keep my beer for myself Jeff from now on!

rekingball

June 17th, 2010
8:29 am

Maybe the men in black(with white stripes) will help the Falcons out, as much as they helped the saints win last year.
They gave the saints their NFL mandated, feelgood championship, so the saints won’t be the favored sons like they were last season.

rekingball

June 17th, 2010
8:30 am

But the Falcons won’t need any help from the zebras.

rekingball

June 17th, 2010
8:31 am

Like the saints did all season long last year.

Pepe Le Pew

June 17th, 2010
8:31 am

The Atlanta Dream….oh and “hiramsaint” have you checked out the Ain’ts silly used car salesman owner lately.

F-105 Thunderchief

June 17th, 2010
8:33 am

1.) Falcons
2.) Braves
3.) Hawks, because Larry Drew = punt
4.) Thrashers (yawn)

Mark

June 17th, 2010
8:33 am

What about the chick bball team. They are closest.

Lowell

June 17th, 2010
8:34 am

The braves are in first place. You have to be in first place to make the playoffs. Therefore I select them.

JSS

June 17th, 2010
8:35 am

You only won one with Maddox, Glavine, Smoltz, Avery, Mercker…. etc… etc…
Good luck with that Hudson, Juirgens, Medlen, KK, Lowe, and Hanson rotation and riding that to a Series championship!

WonderDawg

June 17th, 2010
8:37 am

You’re right, Schultzie, Ryan is the key to the Falcons’ season. He played really below average last year, after a stellar rookie season. It makes you wonder if the league DCs now have his number. I hope not.

I think the Braves will have a shot at a title this season. They are deep enough (the regulars and the bench) and have enough good hitters that they will have several hot batters at any one time. In the past, if Chipper, Mac and Escobar were slumping, they lost. This season, they’re in first with little help from those guys. The Braves have excellent starting pitching. Who woulda thought they’d be 10 games over .500 with no wins from JJ and KK? Better than average bullpen, they just need to make room for Mike Dunn, who is way to good for AAA.

The Braves will have the first shot this year, but if Ryan has another season like his 1st (not his 2nd), the Falcons will have the next shot.

The Hawks need another piece or two and they will be right there, if the new coach can actually COACH them over the hump in the playoffs, instead of glaring at them with his arms folded. I’ve watched every Celtic playoff game, and Doc never, ever embarrasses or browbeats his players during games. Woodie did it every night.

JSS

June 17th, 2010
8:39 am

You’ll ruin Bryant like you ruined future Hall of Famer Jason Elam…

Barnacle Bill Bavasi

June 17th, 2010
8:39 am

I guess someone should tell Hall of Fame voters that those 2,451 wins, five pennants and one World Series title were earned despite Bobby Cox, that his managing played no role whatsoever. Call him the Accidental Manager.

Or, you could just tell the truth and call half the posters on AJC blogs clueless.

JSS

June 17th, 2010
8:43 am

@ V…
Call 4 of your cousins and put it on Public access and let me know what time you’re going to tip it off!