It is not like the Atlanta Braves really needed any extra motivation headed into this offseason. They collapsed in amazing fashion and saw the team that edged them out of a playoff spot celebrate with a World Series title. Questions of ‘What if?’ and “What could have been?” were undoubtedly left in their minds.
As a team, they had all the motivation that they needed to work hard and prepare for 2012 with a chip on their shoulders. Once the offseason began, the Miami Marlins caught the spotlight by opening a seemingly bottomless pocket book to bring in Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. They went after Albert Pujols and offered between $200 to $250 million (based on reports) for his services. The Marlins were like a teenager with their parents’ credit card. Their additions have made them a stronger team, no doubt.
The Washington Nationals got into the mix by trading for Gio Gonzalez and signing Edwin Jackson. These two players made their already up and coming team stronger. With the surge of youth and their growing willingness to add payroll makes this team loom as a danger for the foreseeable future.
These two teams had to provide extra motivation for the Braves’ team. Two of their rivals got significantly better this offseason.
The Philadelphia Phillies, meanwhile, signed Jonathan Papelbon and resigned Jimmy Rollins. This was their big splashes. When they still have Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, their needs aren’t exactly enormous. They are still the team to beat in the NL East until they are dethroned by another team.
The Braves’ offseason has been quiet. They started with a boom by unloading Derek Lowe and his batting practice arm to the Cleveland Indians. They let Alex Gonzalez walk through free agency, taking his enormous bat with him. Their “big” offseason signing was Jack Wilson.
The realistic picture is that the Braves will have almost the exact same team back from 2011. This team was the same one that had the fourth best record overall in the majors as late as September 2, according to winning percentages.
If the Braves would not have had the Boston Red Sox collapsing in record fashion, this would have been the worst September collapse in baseball history. The Red Sox got most of the publicity and the Braves were able to ride into the offseason quietly and greatly disappointed.
Everything has created a perfect opportunity for the Braves. They still have their biggest rival as the team to beat. Two of their other rivals have made huge strides to make the division more competitive.
Then, there is Charlie Manuel. Here is what he said last week at CBSPhilly:
“If you look at it on paper, you have to say the Florida Marlins are the biggest threat”
He doesn’t discount the Braves in this article. He gives them respect. But, the fact that he said that the Marlins are the biggest threat only seems to add fuel to the fire.
This seems to make a perfect storm for the Braves. They had all the motivation they needed without the Marlins, Nationals and Charlie Manuel. Add this to their collapse and this team will have a lot to prove in 2012. I don’t know about you, but I am excited about the season getting underway.