September 30, 2005
Braves Do It Again
On the night of Tuesday, September 27th, the baseball world was reminded of its greatest current dynasty. That night, the Atlanta Braves won their 14th strait division championship. That is far and away the longest of such streaks in professional sports history. The only other franchises to even come close to the Braves current streak were the Colorado Avalanche of the NHL, and the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics of the NBA, each with a streak of 9 consecutive division championships. Despite winning only one World Series title in that span, the Braves have appeared in a total of 5 World Series and 9 National League Championship Series.
After 14 years of National League East domination, another Braves title is hardly newsworthy, but this year was different for the team. Before the start of the season, critics were skeptical of the Braves capturing yet another division title with their aging veterans and the young competition within their division coming out of Philadelphia and Florida. Division rivals the New York Mets made a lot of off season noise with a handful of big name free agent acquisitions and even the upstart Washington Nationals challenged for the top spot in the division. Then veteran pitchers Mike Hampton and John Thomson went down with injuries, along with veteran position players Brian Jordan and Raul Mondesi. Long time Braves leader, Chipper Jones was injured for a good portion of the season, and closer Danny Kolb and catcher Johnny Estrada were relative disappointments on the season.
What the Braves didn’t expect though, but what salvaged their season, was the sensational play of their rookies. In fact, the team on the field at the end of their division clinching game with the Colorado Rockies consisted of 8 rookies and one second year player. Jeff Francoeur was Atlanta’s stand-out rookie who led the group of Braves youngsters in keeping the team afloat. Francoeur didn’t join the Braves until early July, but he’s managed to post 14HR 45RBI and a .306AVG in only 248 at-bats. His impact on the team has earned him much consideration for the National League Rookie of the Year award.
Even potential National League MVP, Braves centerfielder Andruw Jones who has put together a career season with 51HR and 128RBI, had to admit the importance of the Atlanta rookies in this years success. "Sure, I've had a good season," he said. "But without them, we wouldn't be here." (Yahoo! Sports)
To put this nearly decade and a half of championship play in perspective, Atlanta has played 2268 total regular season games during this 14 year streak. Of those 2268 games, they’ve won 1379 and lost only 889. That puts the Braves at an unworldly winning percentage of about .645 over those 14 years. Never in the streak have the Braves lost more than 74 games in a season or win less than 88. No team in the majors even comes close to any of those numbers. The scariest part of all this? The Braves don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon with all the rookie talent they’ve displayed this year. More than likely, this year is only 14 and counting.