Braves as underdogs? They could bark their way to the top

   It’s been official for three years and counting: The Braves have gone from operating as the famously hunted in their division for 14 consecutive seasons to whatever they are now.

  What the Braves are now is just another wannabe team in the National League East not named the Philadelphia Phillies or the New York Mets.

  No worries, though. If used properly by their evolving boys of summer, this is encouraging news for the choppers and the chanters. The Braves could sneak from the shadows into brightness with their significant upgrades that include starting pitching, bullpen depth (well, potentially) and Jeff Francoeur.

  They could do all of this by feasting off that tired but occasionally effective us-against-them mentality.

  That said, before the Braves left for Philadelphia, where they are scheduled to spend Wednesday afternoon completing their season-opening series against the Phillies, Braves manager Bobby Cox shrugged off underdog talk. “It doesn’t matter,” he said, puffing away at one of his cigars at Turner Field.

  “Once the umpire says, ‘Play ball,’ everything’s out the window. Who’s picked. Who’s not. I don’t even look at it.”

  Cox shouldn’t. Among the reasons why he already has at least the bill of his cap in Cooperstown is his ability to live that old Bob Knight philosophy: You don’t play the opponent. You play the game.

  As for Braves players, they need to play the opponent and the game. They need to use everything they have physically, mentally and spiritually to battle a couple of former wannabes who suddenly are the real things as consistent forces in the NL East and beyond.

  You have the Phillies, for instance, with their wonderfully cocky attitude courtesy of that fresh World Series trophy in their possession. They return all of their primary sluggers and throwers who made that trophy possible. You also have the Mets, prolific chokers during the past two seasons. That’s because they couldn’t keep leads from vanishing late in games. Now they have the splendid likes of J.J. Putz as a setup guy and Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez as a closer, which means New York foes have little hope if they’re trailing late.

  “Who wouldn’t pick the Phillies or the Mets, especially when you look on paper at what they’ve done?” said Francoeur, whose Braves are expected to spend this season trying to swat away the rapidly improving Florida Marlins for third place.

  Even so, it doesn’t have to be that way for the Braves. Not if they have the right attitude, along with that pitching and a rejuvenated Francoeur after last year’s fiasco (.239 batting average, 11 home runs, demotion to the minor leagues). Said Francoeur, “I think the thing that I like about us this year is that we’re just kind of flying under the radar. I came to camp, and I saw a very confident team.

  “It was a little embarrassing where we finished at the end of last year (20 games behind the Phillies), so we’ve got a lot of guys who kind of have a vendetta. I think we’ll come out with a little bit different attitude this year.”

  They haven’t a choice.

28 comments Add your comment

DeanDome Dan

April 7th, 2009
1:02 pm

One game into the season and the Braves columnists/cheerleaders are coming out of the woodwork.

New Adjective

April 7th, 2009
2:47 pm

Maybe I’m not aware of a Where’s Waldo-type game you play in your articles, but you’ve used the adjective “splendid” no less than 4 times in as many posts. My 9 year old knows how to use a Thesaurus.

Tomahawkin

April 7th, 2009
2:56 pm

I love the underdog role, but It’s only the first series Bro…We gotta see how this team handles adversity (Injuries, hitting slumps, Tough Interleague schedule, etc.) before we make the assessment that the braves are underdog playoff contenders…

Schafer Came out on point Sunday Night, but we have to see how he handles the bat once the scouting reports get around and the league figures him out, Same for Kawakami and Anderson (Who is known to be a notoriously slow starter…)

And we haven’t even seen Kawakami pitch against teams in the regular season. He could be the next sensation or another version of Hideki I-Rob-U (Irabu)…We will all find out how good this team really is come June…

Still I want these braves to proves those guys at BSPN that “The Road to October” Still rolls through the “A” and not New Yawk…

Go Braves!

Tomahawk Matt

April 7th, 2009
3:59 pm

The Braves were underdogs every single year that they won the Division Championship. No one outside of Atlanta ever picked the Braves to win the Division – not once and obviously not 14 in a row.

It’s great to have another season under way.

GO BRAVES!!!

Stacie

April 7th, 2009
4:19 pm

Im really tired of the bias in baseball. I really dont care about the Mets and Phillies. They still have to play the same amount of games.

Jack

April 7th, 2009
4:20 pm

Hey Terrence, enjoy your last year as a writer for AJC.

No one reads you. No one comments. I felt like being kind this morning by giving you a comment.

Horrible piece here. No meat. Just a sloppy article.

Are you a college graduate?

chris watson

April 7th, 2009
4:20 pm

I am totally confused on why the mets & phillies are picked to win the division over the braves. The braves have a deep rotation (nine capable starting pitchers), a solid bullpen (other than a reliable lefty), and a very balanced good hitting lineup. No they don’t have a 35-40 homerun guy but who cares? They have power up and down the lineup they don’t need a one dimensional power hitter in the middle of the line-up. That style of baseball is played out anyway. Look at teams like the ays & the angels…they do it with the same exact type of team the braves have this year…only the braves are fielding a better team in my opinion….please let me know the weaknesses the braves have??

mike arnone

April 7th, 2009
4:31 pm

I like the makeup of our team. I try not to get too excited about how we did in spring training or how we spoiled the party in philly on opening night. As fans let;s lay back and see what develops for awhile. I think we will be pleasantly surprised. Our starting pitching should give
us innings this year. That is huge!

Alaska Braves Fan

April 7th, 2009
4:51 pm

Forecasting a season is pretty darn tricky, but I have a good feeling about 2009. This isn’t a superstar Braves team, it’s the working man’s Braves team. If all our guys go out, day after day, and do their jobs at the level we know they can, I like our chances. Attitude is important too, and the Braves seem to be in the groove. Vince Dooley once said something like, “The fans don’t always understand the technical parts of the game, but they always know when you’re trying hard to win.” This team will try hard, I think.

DirtyDawg

April 7th, 2009
5:18 pm

Maybe those guys at ESPN and the MLB Network know what they’re talking about – they certainly say so with certainty – when all they know what to do is to pick either the Phillies or the Mets to finish one/two or two/one with the other taking the Wild Card. These are the kinds of smugness that begs for the Braves to win it all. God it would be glorious.

Mitch

April 7th, 2009
5:55 pm

Terrance, I do agree with your assessment. The key to our team will be health.

Unless the Mets seriously falter, they should win the NL East. They have a good rotation, a solid lineup, and maybe the game’s best closer in Frod.

As for the Phillies, they are a team that had everything go right for them last year. I dont see that happening again. They have talent, but, usually after a team wins the WS in the manner that they did, there is a “hangover”.

As for the Braves: We should have a very solid rotation. Lowe, Jurrgens, Vazquez, are a good top three. I think Tom Glavine is destined to have one last decent season in the sun, before riding off to retirement, and Cooperstown.

I dont think we will bury opponents with our offense, but our lineup is solid. It would be great if Chipper could play in 130-140 games. Mccann should be very good, and hopefully Jeff will rebound from his bad 2008.

Dave O’Brien said 89 wins and the wild card for the Braves. If we stay healthy, there is no reason we cant achieve that. I expect the Mets to win the division unless they really fall apart, or unless many of their pieces are out for long periods of time.

Mitch

RickNole

April 7th, 2009
6:24 pm

Is this the same Terence Moore who just said that this team would be battling for 3rd place in the NL East??

http://www.ajc.com/video/content/video/?bcpid=1659825399&bclid=1717763724&bctid=18719349001

well

April 7th, 2009
8:34 pm

We have far too few black players for Terrence to pick us to win

Plato

April 7th, 2009
8:34 pm

Was it O’Brien or Bradley who picked the Braves to win 89 games and the wildcard? If it was Sunny Skies O’Brien, take it with a grain of salt. He previously picked the Braves to win the division every year he’s been here.

Lash La Rue

April 7th, 2009
10:21 pm

DOB pick Mets this year.Bradley picks Braves to win 85-90 games. I pick Braves to win 90 if everyone stays healthy. But in my book the Fish (is the team to watch) are something else. Braves great game tonight.

T. Moore don’t let some Bloggers get you down..I believe this is still the USA and your opinion is as good as any.

Bob

April 7th, 2009
10:29 pm

Moore, this article is poorly written. It is not that difficult to formulate and transcribe complete thoughts onto paper.

Henry

April 7th, 2009
11:16 pm

I certainly believe after we acquired Lowe and Vasquez that we would be competitive in the N.L East and make the playoffs. I am not only concerned about the Mets and Phils but also the Fish as they seem to give us problems every year. However we will be at least the Wils Card team and with some luck could go very deep. i.e WS. Terrence you are doing a good job of ignoring your critics, when last I checked we are still in the USA and you are entitled to your opinion just like everyone else.

Scottbravesfan

April 8th, 2009
1:48 am

The Braves and the Marlins have the best rotations in the NL East. The Mets have a good bullpen but their rotation is lacking after Santana. And I”m not sold on the Phillies rotation either. After Hamels it’s a huge drop off and they are expecting a lot out of 46 year old Jamie Moyer. I think it’s hilarious that the Philly fans are already booing their team after the Braves have spanked them twice.

Why wait

April 8th, 2009
8:52 am

The Braves are 2-0…have playoff tickets gone on sale yet?

Jim

April 8th, 2009
8:55 am

It’s all about the quality and depth of the starting pitching rotation. If Lowe, Jurrjens, Vasquez, and the picher from Japan (whose name escapes me right now) stay healthy for the majority of the season, the Braves will have a legitimate chance at making the playoffs. Quality, healthy, starting pitching will keep us in most games and will take pressure off the bullpen, which had to pitch WAY too many inings last year.

Remember last years’ injuries? Hampton/Hudson/Glavine/Smoltz all missed too many starts, and we ended up pitching guys who were not really front-line starters (Carlyle, Reyes,).

You know that Chipper and Glavine and Cox would really like to get another ring before they retire…..

BossLady

April 8th, 2009
10:01 am

What in the world are you doing having the mets and phillies players on the AJC lead page and calling the Braves underdogs? You are so terribly stupid and this is just like you to do this type of thing.
I hope the AJC changes that page as soon as possible. Man

steve

April 8th, 2009
10:02 am

Where are the Wren haters?!

Where are the Wren Haters!?!

Blindog

April 8th, 2009
10:05 am

I don’t always agree with every thing you say and some times you make me want to cuss, but I always find your articles informative and sometimes humorous.The earlier comment from Jack was uncalled for and shows that some people are just mean and stupid. Oh yeah, his last name is Ass!

jgon

April 8th, 2009
10:09 am

We still need andrew , don’t you think T.M. ?

jwilli120

April 8th, 2009
10:54 am

The Braves will win the division title with SMALL BALL and go deep in the playoffs,the reason we don’t get out of the 1st rd is we always wait on the THREE RUN HOMER and it never happens, the key to advancing in the playoff is get runners on, move em over and get em in, good starting pitching and good defense which i think we have, if this team excells in small ball this is a dangerous team in series play.(DON”T WAIT FOR THE THREE RUN HOMER) BRAVES WIN, BRAVES WIN , BRAVES WIN!!!!!!

Kevin

April 25th, 2009
9:25 am

Big deal 8-8 now after tryin to lose to a bad tean again like reds…and let the worst team the nats win 2 out of 3 is awful no playoffs again….Under the arms of wife beater bobby cox only mananger to choke world series wild cards games in a single blow….i see a 78-84 season and 3rd place..if we can’t beat washington n all chipper say is well we did are best…we remember that 2000 season with a lead in game 162 with a 4 run lead and are leader over threw first base n rocker lost n i said that it we gone in 3 in wildcard game with St;louis…and what bobby do say well that the breaks…what he should was have a closed door meetin n cuss chippey out for lousy throwin…But no he blames lofton for it and after that choke choke choke u see why we never sale out is that….fans were tired of chokin and bobby cox and friends are it….and frenchy needs be in gwinnwtt with that clod centerfield shafecer what is son of presidnt sherzgoats…as for glavine release him let him wesr a mets hat in hall of fame like phil niekro will a yankee’s hat maddox a cubs hat….Now as me its crap we be 8-10 after sunday to….where be the cheerleaders then….Fire cox is answer

Kevin

April 25th, 2009
9:26 am

Geez i stink in comments please discard…….ahen

Kevin

April 28th, 2009
7:31 am

I can tell u of two weakness of braves…….No1 Bobby cox n friends n No2 the new owners of the braves……..also Mike wren to but he like TM all hot air n gas….Oh and folks we lost to st.louis team with bad pitchin to…so we just dandy for bad teams with no leader in any players…U can;t bobby(i choke) cox will not allow it