The Braves knew the odds were stacked against them in their quest to win the NL Wild Card … but, that didn’t stop them from making a valiant effort to overtake the Colorado Rockies and sneak into the playoffs.
Unfortunately, three straight losses (and four consecutive Colorado wins) with no margin for error ended their dramatic bid for the postseason.
Atlanta will now look towards 2010, but with a newfound sense of anticipation — and, hope.
Entering Tuesday night’s game against the Marlins, the Braves had won 15 of their previous 17 games and were trailing the Rockies by just two games in the Wild Card race.
The confidence the club gained in their attempt to chase down Colorado has team brass, players, and fans encouraged by the swift transformation from just a year ago when the Braves suffered a 90-loss season.
Credit the team’s quick turnaround in large part to their rebuilt and resurgent starting rotation.
The Braves are stocked with a young staff and two potential aces in Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson and with Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami, and the option to bring back Tim Hudson at a reduced rate, the team has the luxury of entertaining offers for Javier Vazquez.
Vazquez, who is coming off a career year, is also under contract for next season but may be the team’s most attractive bargaining chip.
What the Braves choose to do with Vazquez will be the most hotly contested topic of the winter, as the club looks to acquire a power hitter to solve their offensive woes.
With an underwhelming free agent class of hitters available, the club may feel their best chance to land a power bat may come via the trade market.
However, while it can be argued that it may be in the Braves’ best interest to trade Vazquez when his stock is at its highest, the team may be better off by keeping their streaking right-hander, who has arguably been the club’s ace down the stretch this season.
Regardless of what Atlanta opts to do about their crowded but overtly talented rotation, one thing is certain — The forecast for the 2010 Braves remains bright.
In what will be manager Bobby Cox’s last season at the helm, the Braves feel they have the pieces in place to be a playoff team next year with the hope of sending their skipper off into the sunset on a high note.
As I watched the 2009 Braves scratch and claw their way back into the playoff hunt when they were a sub-.500 team back in June and a lofty 8 1/2 games back of the Wild Card lead just a few weeks ago, I find myself surprisingly content with the season’s end result.
For so many years, I was spoiled, as so many Braves fans were by watching a team that was consistently playoff bound.
But yet, I always felt in my gut that something was missing.
Still, it was hard to not get excited about another playoff appearance, but it was also hard not to admit (at least to one’s self) that precipitating feeling of doom.
It got to the point that I just knew the team was going to fall short.
It didn’t matter on the surface how promising the picture looked… the talent was there, every single year, but the heart wasn’t.
It’s not like the Braves didn’t want to win, it is just they had come to expect it.
But, no longer.
Three years removed from the playoffs, the 2009 Braves played loose with a chip on their shoulder and nothing to lose.
Sure, they fell short… but, their never-say-die attitude, the fire in their bellies, and the gumption that they showed in the face of adversity, were all things this team had lacked for so many years.
It’s those characteristics that breed a champion.
And, it is those very traits that made watching Braves baseball fun again.
Disappointment can be measured in many different ways.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping against all logic and reason that this team would pull off the impossible and win the Wild Card, but am I disappointed that they didn’t?
No, not in the least.
That is because this team showed to me and to the baseball world that they are relevant again.
They showed that they are a threat — hungry, talented, and fearless.
The Braves are back… and, it is seemingly only a matter of time before they re-claim their spot back on top.