Tough Times in the South
Ok, who did it?
Which Atlanta sports fan spotted a black cat while walking under a ladder and then opened up an umbrella inside the restaurant they spilled salt in? Because I’m beginning to think that has to be the explanation for what’s been happening to sports here.
It hasn’t been this bad here since Sherman rode through.
It all started last year with Michael Vick. He had multiple off the field incidents that finally culminated in his imprisonment. Their season and clubhouse were fractured by injuries, big mouths, and overmatched coaching. Head coach Bobby Petrino resigned abruptly and in a matter of hours was in Arkansas doing the somewhat strange “Woo Pig Sooey” chant with his new employers.
The season mercifully ended a few weeks later, and the team managed to pull out another win by the end. But the overhaul of the team and franchise began shortly thereafter.
That was a rough season – probably the roughest ever seen by a sports team. But the Braves have certainly done their best to add more frustration to the Atlanta sports scene.
Coming out of Spring Training they were considered the team to beat by many analysts. Their veteran rotation was older but very strong, with 22 year old Jair Jurrjens being at least a decade younger than any of the other starters. The offense was one of the best in baseball last year, and a full year with Teixeira was expected to propel them into the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
It’s safe to say things didn’t go as planned.
4/5 of the starting rotation has spent significant time on the disabled list, with 3 of them undergoing season ending surgeries. In a matter of a few months Jurrjens went from promising rookie to staff ace. (He’s pitched like it, it’s just that no one thought he would have to fill that role) By my count, the Braves have placed 17 different players on the DL this year, with several players making a couple of trips. They’re not quite up to the Nationals level, who have DL’d 22 players, but it’s close.
Amidst the injuries, the team has been marred by inconsistent play in every area. When the bats come alive the pitching fails. When the starting pitching holds up, the offense makes the opposing pitcher look like Cy Young. Defense has hurt them from time to time as well. On paper, this should have been a great team. But between injuries and frustrating stats, they haven’t been what people thought.
Meanwhile, the Thrashers failed to build on their playoff appearance the year before, and while the Hawks made it to the postseason and played well, they still finished under .500 for the season.
It’s tough to explain how this all happened, but I’m inclined to blame it on oil prices.
Ok, maybe not, but I do think 3 of the 4 teams have struggled largely in part to ownership situation. The Atlanta Spirit has been disappointing in their handling of the Hawks and Thrashers. And while the Braves used to be one of the highest spending teams in baseball under Ted Turner, they are now considered middle of the pack. But they have some large contracts from the previous financial era and with athlete salaries skyrocketing, it’s been tough for them to go out and get the big name player they need when that player will take up 1/4 of your payroll.
So is Atlanta destined to dwell in sports mediocrity? I don’t think so.
The Hawks have a good young foundation that has improved steadily the last couple of seasons. The Braves should have a little extra cash to spend this offseason and their farm system has several potential superstars just a couple of years away. The Falcons also have some good talent, but equally as important, a solid coaching staff and front office.
And of course, the number 1 ranked Georgia Bulldogs are 8 days away from kicking off their run at the Championship, and Georgia Tech has a new coach that should help the program.
What’s the purpose of this article, you may ask? Well, there really isn’t one other than to console myself and any other Atlanta fans reading this blog. So to us I say, hang in there.