Fellow Y! Sports blogger Jay Busbee was out at Turner Field on Tuesday night for the funeral for the Braves dynasty. He shares his thoughts below. Read more of his writings on Atlanta sports at Right Down Peachtree.
Some dynasties go out with a bang, with a player like Jordan or Elway walking away from the game at the pinnacle.
Others go out with a whimper, dribbling off into irrelevance as familiar stars suffer, almost in disbelief, through ever-drearier sub-.500 seasons.
After Tuesday, we now know which route the Atlanta Braves will go. When Atlanta dealt Mark Teixeira to the Angels for Casey Kotchman and a prospect, it signaled once and for all the death of one of baseball's longest-running dynasties.*
The Braves had so often been on the winning side of these deals, picking up everyone from Fred McGriff to Marquis Grissom to Teixeira, that it was simply jarring to see them as the meek kid getting fleeced for lunch money. Even Braves players long accustomed to the business of baseball had trouble wrapping their minds around the fact that the curtain has likely come down on the team that was once one of the surest bets in baseball.
I was there late Tuesday night as Chipper Jones stood alone in the Braves locker room. He talked to a handful of media folks in a voice so low that digital recorders could hardly pick it up. He wasn't even trying to make sense of the flaming wreckage of the Braves dynasty, he was just shaking his head in disbelief. Pretty much all that was missing was the sad-walking-away music from The Hulk.
Meanwhile, a couple stalls over, Mark Teixeira's locker sat empty, only his No. 24 uniform still on a hanger. (Upstairs at souvenir stands, replicas of the jersey were already going for half-price.) A few hours earlier, Teixeira's excitement at joining a likely playoff team jockeyed with sadness at leaving Atlanta; Braves coaches had ushered several players out of the locker room as Tex gushed at the thought of playing in October for the LAAs.
But the death of the dynasty was caused by more than just the trade of Teixeira. John Smoltz is out for the year. Tom Glavine and Chipper are on the disabled list. Tim Hudson is injured and possibly lost for 2009. Brian McCann is suffering the lingering effects of a concussion. Greg Maddux and Andruw Jones are in other uniforms. David Justice, Steve Avery, Ron Gant, and all the rest are long retired.
Oh, Jeff Francoeur tried to talk a good game Tuesday night, but even he had to keep reminding himself and the media that "I'm not saying we're out of it, we're going to keep playing our asses off ... "
But everyone in the room understood the painful truth; the days of Lemke and Cabrera and Klesko are long gone. So, please join me and the Chick-fil-A cow in one last tomahawk chop for the Braves and what they accomplished.
Yes, the team and its fans will always enter spring training with postseason hopes.
But that's a hell of a long way from postseason expectation.
*Oh, and enough of this talk about the Braves not being a dynasty because they only won one World Series ring. It's tougher now than it's ever been to win a championship. Outside of the Yankees, no team in baseball has more than a one-season postseason streak right now. The Yankees will have to make the playoffs through 2010 just to match the Braves' postseason run, and the Braves never had to use either the wild card or the Boss's bottomless checking account to get there. Okay, end rant.