Everyone knew by the time the umpires blew that terrible infield fly rule call in the MLB Wild Card playoff game, that the Atlanta Braves had played their last game with Chipper Jones. Therefore, it was no surprise as Spring Training begins today with the arrival of the pitchers, catchers and a few others that Chipper isn’t there. What is surprising is nearly everything else.
Instead of Michael Bourn and Martin Prado manning an outfield that wouldn’t carry a lot of pop, the arriving trio of B.J. Upton, Justin Upton join Jason Heyward and plan to light up the sky with twenty-five to thirty four-baggers each. Instead of Martin Prado taking the reins at third base, there are lesser experienced and lesser proven Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson to fill the massive shoes of Chipper. Instead of a constantly injured Brian McCann, the team is looking to the nearing return of a healthy McCann for the first time in years.
This team is different. They might look a bit odd on the left side of the diamond and their might be mistakes over there. The bullpen is still the best in the game however, and the starting five are top ten at least – and that is before Brandon Beachy comes back around mid-season. Fredi Gonzalez has a task ahead of him to make sure this team unites as one. If he can do that, this Braves team might be the best since before the famous streak of division titles began.