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Dave Cokinís Weekly Ramblings on the Sports Scene

Weekly Ramblings on the Sports Scene from Dave Cokin

The obituaries have already been written. The dirt is being piled on and the run is over. I would guess Iíve read about ten stories in just the past week lamenting the demise of the Atlanta Braves and the sad and ignominious end to their unparalleled 14-year run as NL Division Champions.

Thereís just one more thing that needs to be said, and I guess Iím the one to say it. Iíll agree the Braves are not going to win the NL East. But I have yet to arrive at the conclusion that Atlanta is dead in the water as far as making the playoffs is concerned. Thereís still one wild card spot thatís up for grabs, and I believe the Braves are far from being on life support as far as that chase goes.

Everything has gone wrong for the Braves during the seasonís first half. The starting pitching has been spotty and the bullpen has been a disaster. The offense has been anything but intimidating for the most part. Yet with seemingly nothing going right, the Braves are only seven games out of the wild card top spot. Thatís not good, but itís far from beyond repair. Consider all the possibilities and itís evident to me that the Atlanta Braves are only one hot streak away from establishing themselves as playoff contenders yet again.

Certainly there are plenty of ďifsĒ in this scenario. But if John Smoltz and Tim Hudson pitch at their normal career level, the Braves can win. If rookie southpaw Chuck James lives up to his promise, the Braves can win. If Jorge Sosa makes a smooth transition to late inning relief specialist, the Braves can win. If Chipper Jones has a second half thatís similar to the one he enjoyed just last year, the Braves can win.

Maybe itís true that an awful lot of things have to go right for the Braves to catch up. But considering that almost nothing has to date and Atlanta is a long way from being hopelessly out of contention, I think itís way too early to simply bury this team.

The big question I have is whether the Braves will make the push by keeping their roster intact. There is a legitimate possibility that the team could be broken up in an effort to slash payroll while improving what is presently a spotty minor league system. So disappointing Marcus Giles, who has floundered in the leadoff spot, could be moved. Heís also a free agent following this season, which adds to the possibility he gets dealt. John Smoltz is elderly in baseball years, but still remains a viable commodity that will certainly attract interest if heís on the market. In fact, Smoltz has already admitted this publicly, and seemed to express some interest in perhaps returning to the Tigers to finish his career. Chipper Jones could be a candidate to be moved, particularly since heíd be available to play either 3B or LF depending on the needs of potential suitors. CF Andruw Jones is a free agent following the í07 campaign, so even he could be monster trade bait, and the perennial Gold Glove winner would bring the most in return.

I donít see the Braves jumping the gun and doing any rash. I believe that the team will be given every opportunity to get on track before the decision to deal star veterans is made. And I know beyond any doubt that these old pros still know how to win. Stay tuned to see if the Braves suddenly get hot and put the trade talks to rest for one more season. And donít be too quick to give this team that ceremonial toll of the bells to honor their memory. The Braves are still breathing and may have plenty of life left in them yet.

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