Dan's Dugout: Can Atlanta Launch a New Title Streak? • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Can Atlanta Launch a New Title Streak?


In every complete season from 1991-2005, the Atlanta Braves won a baseball divisional title.

Atlanta’s 14-year title streak is the team equivalent of The Iron Man’s record for consecutive games.

The team equivalent of Cal Ripken’s consecutive games playing streak, that 14-year run is so far out there that no club seems likely to match it.

Unless, of course, the Braves do it again.

After years of paring payroll by trading veterans for prospects, the Braves are good again.

They spent much of May leading the National League East and are still there, in a virtual tie with the seasoned Washington Nationals.

They are also the youngest team in the majors and likely to get even younger as blue-chip prospects ripen on the vine in the minor leagues.

Before the Nats promoted 19-year-old Juan Soto, the Braves had all three of the youngest men in the majors: Ronald Acuna, Jr. and Mike Soroka, both 20, plus 21-year-old second baseman Ozzie Albies.

First baseman Freddie Freeman, plugging his way toward Most Valuable Player honors, is no graybeard either. Among the key players on the team, only veteran rightfielder Nick Markakis is on the wrong side of 30.

Freddie Freeman has become the best first baseman in the NL

Markakis, Freeman, and Albies are virtually certain to be All-Stars — Markakis for the first time in his long career — and could be joined by pitchers Sean Newcomb and Mike Foltyniewicz.

That’s a lot of All-Stars for a team that went only 72-90 last season and was universally picked to finish next-to-last, ahead of only the stripped-down Miami Marlins.

As the July 4 marker approaches, youthful general manager Alex Anthopoulos is scouting for pitching — one more starter and a couple of relievers — and debating for just the right moment to promote slugging third baseman Austin Riley.

With a rich farm system, the Braves could be players for Noah Syndergaard, if the Mets are willing to trade within their division; Brad Hand, the superb San Diego southpaw; and maybe even Josh Donaldson, whose righthanded power who be welcome between Freeman and Markakis, who both bat lefthanded, in the lineup. Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto wouldn’t be out of the question either.

Former MVP Josh Donaldson could be traded before July 31

Since he plays third base, Donaldson’s arrival would also allow Riley to remain in the minors until September and hone his skills longer than Acuna, who was rushed to the majors after a rapid rise through the bush leagues last year.

Acuna is due back this weekend after sitting out two weeks with a mild ACL strain suffered in Boston at the end of May. He might need some rehab games in the minors to regain his batting eye, especially since versatile Charlie Culberson has been hitting a ton as his emergency replacement in left field.

The key men behind the 14-year run are still there; John Schuerholz, general manager then, is now vice chairman of the board, while Bobby Cox, who managed the Braves throughout the streak, sits on the board of directors and appears at virtually all home games.

Brian Snitker, an organization man who’s spent more than 40 years in the system, is well-liked by his players and also by his GM — especially after embracing the Anthopulos affinity for sabermetrics.

Maybe all those computer-generated stats helped at least as much as the young-and-hungry rookies.

One thing is certain: with so many players obligated to stay at least six seasons, the Braves will be very good for a very long time. Whether they can challenge their own record for excellence, however, is anyone’s guess.


About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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