How they really stand, from Braves (1) to Weasels (12)

Hey look, the Braves have new uniforms. So how about a new finish? (AP photo)

Hey look, the Braves have new uniforms. So how about a new finish? (AP photo)

Welcome to this year’s edition of “How They Really Stand,” my ranking of all area sports teams, taking into account wins, losses, direction, potential, coaches, general managers, owners, recruiting coordinators and whether anybody provides us with more civic pride than, say, The Big Chicken (the bar is low).

I’m unveiling this a month earlier than usual because it seemed like a natural break in the sports schedule with the Braves getting ready to start spring training and the Hawks taking an off day between personalities. Two tweaks this year: I’m adding Georgia State football and basketball and replacing the Thrashers with a new entry. (Last year’s ranking in parenthesis.)

1. Braves (1): The best team in town lost 20 of its last 30 games. How about a nice embalming smoothie to go with those chicken fingers? But the Braves looked like a potential World Series team on paper last season until the paper caught fire, and they still seem closer to a title run than anybody else. Then again, that assumes everything that went wrong last season goes right this year.

If you're wondering what the faces of a franchise that is 0-3 in the playoffs look like, well, here you go. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

If you're wondering what the faces of a franchise that is 0-3 in the playoffs look like, well, here you go. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

2. Falcons (2): We know the good (three playoff appearances). We know the bad (three playoff losses). Here’s what I don’t want to hear: “But they’re so much better than they used to be!” The Falcons’ measuring stick should be the rest of the NFL, not franchise history. The heat has been turned up on Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith.

3. Dream (8): I still have not been to an Atlanta Dream game. I’ve either had something else to do that day or I didn’t want mess up my perfect nothing-to-do-today day by watching women’s basketball, or stabbing myself with a fork. But I can’t ignore a franchise that has been to the WNBA finals two straight seasons, which I again must note is a long way from getting displaced from Philips Arena because Sesame Street Live was already booked.

4. Hawks (3): Al Horford’s injury should’ve doubled them over, but coach Larry Drew has done a nice job holding things together (save the occasional bizarre out-of-body experience like the Miami game). The biggest problem: duh. Joe Johnson’s contract means little roster flexibility. On a related note: Johnson, the All-Star, scored six points at Phoenix. Josh Smith, the non-All-Star, went for 30 points and 17 rebounds. What’s wrong with this picture?

Mark Richt has been a popular guy on national signing day, but now he needs to carry that over through the season. (AP photo)

Mark Richt has been a popular guy on national signing day. Now it's about carrying that through the season. (AP photo)

5. Georgia football (6): Mark Richt will go two straight years without having to face Alabama, LSU or Arkansas in the regular season. Nice lottery hit. Last year’s 10-4 season was a nice bounce-back from 6-7. But losing to Michigan State in the Outback Bowl after getting slammed 42-10 in the SEC title game wasn’t easily digested by BowWow Nation. Celebrations need to extend from signing day to January.

6. Georgia Tech football (7): The Jackets started 7-2 and upset No. 5 Clemson. Then they dropped three of their last four, including blowing a two-touchdown lead to Utah in the last seven minutes of the Sun Bowl. Next season will be an interesting tipping point for Paul Johnson, who went 20-7 in his first two seasons, 14-12 in the next two. And then there’s the matter of trying to win with his recruits.

7. This Space For Lease (5): Our annual dividing line between the general population and ICU.

8. Georgia basketball (4): The Dogs drop four spots from last year. But that’s less about coach Mark Fox as a coach than it is how this season has exposed just how weak the talent base was after the departures of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie. Fox needs a gravity-defying, 360-slam in recruiting.

9. Georgia Tech basketball (10): The Jackets won in Athens early this season. They probably should’ve stopped the season then. Brian Gregory is ahead of Paul Hewitt in that people like him, but he’s behind Hewitt in that he needs to prove he can recruit in the ACC. It’s not easy selling kids on “potential,” especially when your arena site is a construction zone.

It all seemed so promising back then -- and then Don Waddell started picking players. (AJC photo)

It all seemed so promising back then for the Thrashers-- and then Don Waddell started picking players. (AJC photo)

10. Georgia State basketball (new): The early euphoria of an 11-game winning streak has faded (the Panthers are 7-6 since), but State could make things interesting in the CAA tournament. Worth noting: Rod Barnes did a nice job cleaning up a mess before getting fired, prior to Ron Hunter’s hiring.

11. Georgia State football (new): It’s impossible not to like Bill Curry. But he took on a difficult job, and going from 6-5 to 3-8 in Year 2 with a slight step up in competition speaks volumes. Next season the Panthers start playing conference games. Buckle up.

12. Team Weasel (surrogate): This entry replaces the Thrashers, now of Winnipeg, or some place on the dark side of the moon, and the three people primarily responsible for the franchise’s floundering and eventual move: Gary Bettman, Bruce Levenson and Don Waddell. If you golf and all of your associates consider you spineless, devious and a general tool, the three will be looking to round out their foursome at the Eternal Damnation Country Club.

By Jeff Schultz

250 comments Add your comment

Sonny Clusters

February 16th, 2012
1:23 pm

Wow! Jeff is on a roll. Think we’ll buy him a Deer Dog.

Sonny Clusters

February 16th, 2012
1:23 pm

Wow! Jeff is on a roll. Think we’ll buy him a Deer Dog.

Sonny Clusters

February 16th, 2012
1:23 pm

Two deer dogs, we guess. :-)

DePort

February 16th, 2012
1:27 pm

Honestly at this point I would put the Dream and number 1 for making the finals and the Hawks as number 2… simply because the Hawks have made it farther in the playoffs than any of the other teams in Atlanta in basically the last ten years! The braves one a championship but it was all the way back in 95. We cant live off that anymore!

DePort

February 16th, 2012
1:28 pm

(Braves “WON” a Championship)

Joey

February 16th, 2012
1:32 pm

The Hawks are the best team in the ATL.

At least they can win a series . . .

Sonny Clusters

February 16th, 2012
1:35 pm

The Braves will tell you they won 14 consecutive championships. If you believe that, then you may have put the EPIC Collapse behind you like Fredi and the players say they have. We sincerely believe that the Braves organization needs to come clean with the fans and acknowledge that 14 little signs in the outfield don’t mean squat. While some might say they “won” the division others might say they demonstrated incompetence in the playoffs. That little sign for a 2010 wild card is silliest of all. “Wild Card Champions” – give us a break. And then, there was the EPIC Collapse. Let’s hope Fredi got things figured out in the off season and we will see some good baseball right out of the chute. We was thinking Pastornicky might want to buy some insurance having to play between uh Chipper and Uggla. We heard a rumor Uggla might be wearing high-heels in the field this season in keeping with his new pornindustry image. Shouldn’t hurt him any.

Najeh Davenpoop

February 16th, 2012
1:37 pm

Until this incarnation of the Braves or Falcons do anything in the playoffs, they don’t have anything on the Hawks.

Hawks = best men’s pro team in Atlanta.

1. Dream
2. Hawks
3. Falcons
4. Braves

GTBob

February 16th, 2012
1:42 pm

but he’s behind Hewitt in that he needs to prove he can recruit in the ACC. It’s not easy selling kids on “potential,” especially when your arena site is a construction zone.

Huh? He has the #17 recruiting class in the country coming in next year and that doesn’t include a solid player transferring from Kentucky. I would say he is selling it fine right now.

Snake

February 16th, 2012
1:43 pm

Just so you know Jeff, GT has the number 15 recruiting class coming in next season according to Rivals. The class is highlighted by Robert Carter, the number 28 player in the nation. Also, Stacey Poole from Kentucky is transferring in. He was the number 33 player in the nation last year. Calipari on Poole: “Stacey has the skill set and the work ethic to play well in our system. He’s a slasher who can play multiple positions and a defender that is capable of shutting down people. He should earn more playing time as the season progresses.”

Rothschild

February 16th, 2012
1:44 pm

Love the last sentence.

Sonny’s changed. Used to be clever and funny, but now tedious and annoyingly so.

Jeff Schultz

February 16th, 2012
1:47 pm

GTBob and Snake — I look forward to seeing those recruits and the players’ impact will be factored in next season and beyond. But it’s premature to base anything on a team recruiting “ranking.”

stizz

February 16th, 2012
1:48 pm

Najeh has been beating this thing home for a while now, but he’s right. Come on Jeff. The Braves haven’t advanced past the first round in a decade.

Jeff Schultz

February 16th, 2012
1:48 pm

Sonny Clusters — Can’t say that I’ve ever had a deer dog. And I’m afraid I’d have visions of Bambi while puttin’ on the mustard.

Finchdawg

February 16th, 2012
1:49 pm

You’ve got to be kidding me, Jeff. SEC East Champs below the Hawks?!? Plus the Braves didn’t even make the playoffs? No way, no how.

Formul8or

February 16th, 2012
1:49 pm

1. Braves
2. Georgia Southern football
3. Falcons
4. Heat
5. Georgia football

Jeff Schultz

February 16th, 2012
1:50 pm

Najeh — Well, if you go strictly by playoff wins you would be correct (although the Braves beat the Giants one game in their playoff series so maybe they should be ahead of the Falcons, based on that).

Ima Hogge

February 16th, 2012
1:50 pm

What mess did Rod Barnes clean up at Georgia State?

Sonny Clusters

February 16th, 2012
1:51 pm

Agreed with Davenpoop. The Braves organization can talk about tradition all they want but they need to recognize their tradition right now is EPIC Collapse. That’s the most recent result and that’s the one we remember clearly. Those little division signs just remind us of early exits in the playoffs. The Hawks may be in disarray but they know how to advance past the first round. Somebody started calling him “Mr. Schuerholz” and he started telling us how good we’ve got it. Smoltz called him something else . . .Homeboy Upstairs. Well, Homeboy is president now and it has been a long time since the Braves won a pennant. We say back up a bus and load up the entire front office. Hire some folks who will deliver a championship. We was once state championship so we know what we are talking about.

Steve

February 16th, 2012
1:53 pm

The Braves will be fine this season and probably even better in the years to come. They will have a ton to spend this off season, especially of Chipper retires. Once this young pitching gets more experience, the Braves could easily go on another run. The Phillies are old.

Najeh Davenpoop

February 16th, 2012
2:01 pm

“Well, if you go strictly by playoff wins you would be correct (although the Braves beat the Giants one game in their playoff series so maybe they should be ahead of the Falcons, based on that).”

A playoff series win in MLB or NBA is equivalent to a playoff game win in the NFL. I’m talking about knocking a team out of the playoffs and advancing. The Hawks have done that. The Braves and Falcons have not.

rollo lawson

February 16th, 2012
2:02 pm

This Atlanta Braves lust is sickening. I know the AJC hates to admit it, but the Atlanta Hawks are the best team in Atlanta and with a healthy Al Horford can compete with the top teams in the NBA. It’s already been proven. Keep hanging your hats on Chipper the Gimp i you want too. I’d rather ride with J-Smoove and the boys at Phillips Arena. At least they know how to win in the playoffs. Take notes Matty Ice Cream.

UGA 11

February 16th, 2012
2:03 pm

1. Dream (weird, but can’t argue w/ success)
2. Hawks
3. Braves
4. UGA Football
4. Falcons

Matt from MN

February 16th, 2012
2:03 pm

I miss NHL hockey and the Thrashers who, rarely, if ever played at an NHL level due to management and ownership incompetence.

Hoopster

February 16th, 2012
2:05 pm

“………but he’s behind Hewitt in that he needs to prove he can recruit in the ACC It’s not easy selling kids on ‘potential,’ especially when your arena site is a construction zone.” I would say hauling in the #15 class not counting the #33 recruit in the nationcoming in (Poole) equates to proving he can recruit. And you last sentence makes it more telling. They don’t have a home floor to boot! Coaching AND recruiting. That’s one more thing than Fox does and merits a higher standing than that guy for certain. And where is a picture of a “countess?” If you have a numbered list, we want a picture!!

Steve

February 16th, 2012
2:07 pm

Rollo, the Braves have won plenty in the playoffs. It’s like you expect the Braves to go to the playoffs EVERY year and constantly win it all. Yes, they struggled for a few years before 2011 and 2010 but that happens with any team. Look at the Yankees. They have MLB’s highest payroll and they have one championship over the last 11 years.

rollo lawson

February 16th, 2012
2:07 pm

Najeh, the Braves and Falcons just get knocked out. But seriously, I have more faith in the Falcons than the Braves simply because of Arthur Blank. The Braves have no sizzle at all (straight vanilla). They’re ready, as we speak, to run Jason Heyward out of town, lol!!!!

Steve

February 16th, 2012
2:08 pm

Rollo don’t bring that race crap up please. Uggla got plenty of grief for last year as well.

Michael Collins

February 16th, 2012
2:09 pm

I’m just amazed that anyone is actually arguing the positions here.

LawDawg

February 16th, 2012
2:11 pm

UGA below the Hawks and Dream? Really? This is not going to help with those readers (like me) who think you have an irrational hatred of everything Athens.

stizz

February 16th, 2012
2:11 pm

Steve, these guys were a shoe in to get to the playoffs and dropped the ball. Here’s something for you to think about: No team has ever recovered the next season from an epic collapse, especially when the manager is retained. Francona got Boston two titles in four years, yet was fired for a similar collapse. That should tell you everything about how the Braves are run.

rollo lawson

February 16th, 2012
2:11 pm

Do these AJC sportswriters think we are fools? Kinda like politicians. Keep saying stuff over and over in hopes that we will believe it and co-sign/buy into the hype!!

Larry

February 16th, 2012
2:11 pm

“Hawks = best men’s pro team in Atlanta.”

Thanks for the belly laugh!

Does anyone with more than a double-digit IQ attend Hawks Games? Does anyone even want to?

LawDawg

February 16th, 2012
2:12 pm

rollo: I missed the interview with Frank Wren where he said he was planning to trade Heyward. Do you have a link or are you just making stuff up?

Steve

February 16th, 2012
2:14 pm

Well Stizz, try to be positive and hope that is not the case. Regardless of what you think, when healthy, the Braves have a very strong team. Only real weakness when it comes to starters is SS.

Larry

February 16th, 2012
2:14 pm

Now, seriously, which team today gives us the most hope for a championship?

Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons, that’s who!

pat

February 16th, 2012
2:14 pm

I beleive the power rankings when I see people getting runners over and getting runners in. If this team relies on the long ball again, forget it, we’re done. I actually don’t want to see a homerun this year, I want to lead the league in average runs per game, playing small ball. Then I’ll beleive it. They may be over last year, but I am not.

Herschel Talker

February 16th, 2012
2:18 pm

Schultzie:

No team with Fredi Gonzalez running the show can be number one. He is public enemy number one.

FIRE FREDI GONZALEZ!!! HE IS A MORON!!!

HT

Eaassyy

February 16th, 2012
2:19 pm

It is my goal this year to not watch a single Braves game on TV.

rollo lawson

February 16th, 2012
2:19 pm

@Steve, What are you talking about? “Vanilla” means ordinary, lack of flare, or nothing to get excited about. Who said anything about race? If you recall the whole injury flap surrounding Chipper and Heyward, the fans and media were pretty hard on the guy for not being able to go. The first sign of adversity (injury or slump) this year, and the faithful fans will be blogging about potential trade partners. Just watch.

no go

February 16th, 2012
2:19 pm

drop the fantasy–the braves aren’t winning any titles—more chokes to come. ATL = loserville.

Larry

February 16th, 2012
2:20 pm

The Hawks are the same as ever…above average, feasting on the weaker teams, and routinely beaten by the better teams.

The Braves have Fruiti Gonzalez–’nuff said!

The Dream? Whw cares about a bunch of goofy looking masculine females (not ladies)?

Becasue of their new coordinators, an anxious owner, and one Matt Ryan, the Atlanta Falcons will accomplish more than all the others (that matters).

Eaassyy

February 16th, 2012
2:21 pm

Sonny, maybe they should have a 2011 Epic Collapse sign right next to their wild card champs sign from 2010

SEC Observer

February 16th, 2012
2:22 pm

Georgia should go 12-0 with that joke of a schedule.

JP

February 16th, 2012
2:28 pm

Josh should be playing at an all-star level. Let’s not forget that he makes $12 million per year.

Steve

February 16th, 2012
2:29 pm

SEC Observer, UGA has no control of the SEC part of their schedule.

rollo lawson

February 16th, 2012
2:30 pm

Larry, in describing the Hawks, you simultaneously defined what the Falcons truly are, lol!!! Take off the rose colored glasses!

Najeh Davenpoop

February 16th, 2012
2:33 pm

“Now, seriously, which team today gives us the most hope for a championship?

Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons, that’s who!”

If Hawks fans have double digit IQs, this statement puts your IQ firmly within single digits — kind of like the number of points Matt Ryan is capable of scoring in a playoff game.

Sonny Clusters

February 16th, 2012
2:35 pm

Eaassyy, that is a great idea! A little EPIC Collpase sign for the outfield. That will help them remember and not do it again. It can go next to their other “Championship” signs and especially the 2010 Wild Card Champion sign. Yes, that is a very good idea. We read where we are tedious so we’re going to clean up our act and do better. One thing we are going to do right away and that is buy Jeff a Deer Dog so he can get used to them. They say if you marinate them they are not so gamey. Chipper’s Deer Dogs could give McCann’s Burgers a run for the money. We are going to stick with going to the Dairy Queen before the game because even with a 33% discount on the Deer Dogs the prices are too high for us. If we was Homeboy Upstairs we would cut prices some more and apologize to the fans for charging so much for so long. We’d also sign a major league shortstop and a corner outfielder and add a screwdriver to the Tool Race.

DawgDad

February 16th, 2012
2:36 pm

It’s common for a team to progress to a point where the players, management, and the fans believe they are one or two minor tweaks or pieces from the promised land, or just “we expect to be better”. Quite often these teams have reached a plateau of achievement and are closer to regressing than progressing. The shame is, a lot of good organizations self-destruct when this unfolds.

The Braves and Falcons and Hawks are at this point. They are consistently winning teams who HONESTLY figure to do no better with the current cast and quite easily might backstep. Prudent management will grasp the situation, properly evaluate the potential for a rebound/rebuilding/re-arming, and NOT throw out good players and managers in the process.

For every GM-coach combination that MIGHT take the Falcons further there are infinite combinations that LIKELY will take you BACKWARDS. I’d say the same about the Braves if we didn’t get all the Wren pronouncements and Schultzie/Bradley company-line articles proving everyone is in denial. Couldn’t care less about the Hawks, really.