I’m not a big college basketball fan anymore. But growing up, I loved it. The Big East was so much fun to watch in the 1980’s. From St. John’s to Villanova. UConn to Georgetown (actually, I only enjoyed watching Georgetown lose). The Lou Carnesecca’s CRAZY sweater, John Thompson’s towel over the shoulder, Rollie Massimino’s messed up hair/frantic coaching style and Patrick Ewing’s t-shirt under his basketball jersey (who knew that would become such a trend setter). It was AWESOME to love college ball and to love the Big East. And there was no greater year than 1985. That’s the year when the Big East had three teams in the Final Four. Nova, G’Town and the Johnnys. Memphis State was also in the mix (Home of the GREATEST BBQ joint in the world, Rendezvous’. And the Tigers also had Baskerville Holmes on that team, possibly the GREATEST basketball name ever). But MSU was overshadowed by the power coming out of the East. All bets were on the Hoyas, as they were the ‘Beast of the East”. St. John’s has Chris Mullen…but Georgetown had Patrick Ewing. And when the championship game pitted Georgetown versus Villanova, nobody thought the Wildcats had a chance. But Rollie Massimino and Villanova beat the Hoyas and claimed the National Championship with one of the greatest shooting performances in NCAA history. They won because they stayed true to what they were good at, didn’t listen to detractors and got hot just at the right time. The same thing happened this year with UConn. Not the best team you’ll ever see, but they got hot at the RIGHT time and won 11 straight games. Timing is everything in sports. Playing your best when it matters is crucial. Getting hot when it’s crunch time is so important. Currently, the Atlanta Braves just might be feeling a bit toasty.
As of this weekend, the only team that has more wins than Atlanta is Philly (I’ll pause as you boo violently or vomit). Other stats to consider:
1.) Second highest winning % in NL
2.) Only three teams have more one run wins in MLB
3.) No team has played more extra inning games (See, there’s EXTRA value in being a Braves fan, the most free baseball in the league)
4.) Only two teams in NL have more day game wins (I guess no one has blue eyes that plays for the Braves, unlike Josh Hamilton)
5.) They would be leading all other MLB divisions except the AL East. They would be 2.5 games behind the New York Yankees (again…pause for vomit or boo break)
6.) The top two ERAs in the NL – Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson (But wait, that can’t be right? Supposedly the only entity with a better rotation than Philadelphia is the Planet Earth)
7.) First NL pitcher to 10 wins – Jurrjens (Sorry, Nurse Halladay)
8.) Craig Kimbrel’s 20 saves ranks 4th in NL. And he’s had the most save opportunities at 25
9.) And the only team to have more injuries is Custard’s 7thCalvary at the Battle of Little Big Horn
So what does all this say? The Braves have been hanging in there all year. Their pitching has been keeping them in games. They’re leading the Wildcard. And this is with everyone but Fredi Gonzalez on the DL (though I’ve heard he strained his right wrist when he tipped his cap to the Mets for the 19th time in a three game series). So now everyone is back except Martin Prado. And don’t get it twisted, he’s a HUGE part of this Atlanta Braves team. But if Uggla keeps slowly getting better and better…and the pitching stays warm to hot…and Jordan Shaffer keeps rolling along…and McLouth can keep LF warm; When Prado comes back, it will be like when the Braves got Mark Teixeira (Except Prado will actually help win games for Atlanta). He’ll be this generation’s Fred McGriff. Instead of the Crime Dog, that will be Prado’s nickname, the “Crime Hombre”. Or maybe “The Bandito”. Something cool like that.
So while Fredi doesn’t go all crazy like Rollie and Jason Heyward isn’t Ed Pinckney, maybe Braves fans can begin to get excited. Maybe the Braves are the real “Beasts of the NL East”. Just like in College basketball, the longer a team hangs around AND hangs around AND hangs around in baseball, the more likely something special might happen. So let’s petition for them to put up basketball nets at Turner Field. That way the Braves have something to cut down when they win it all this year.
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