Dec 14, 2009, 12:54 PM EDT
David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution points out that the Braves last won a divisional title in 2005 while using 18 different rookies, yet with Kelly Johnson getting non-tendered over the weekend only one of those guys remains on the team: Brian McCann.
O’Brien notes that the “Baby Braves” were “celebrated for their energy, for the ‘fire’ they brought to a big-league team that had become viewed by some as being too button-downed and stoic for its own good.” Of course, that season marked their 14th straight division title, so it was easy to attach positive traits to the newcomers and assume that their development would allow the winning machine to keep chugging along.
In reality McCann proved to be an All-Star catcher, Johnson proved to be a solid everyday second baseman when healthy, and … well, that’s about it. Jeff Francoeuer, Joey Devine, Chuck James, and Wilson Betemit have had their moments, though not always in Atlanta, and Blaine Boyer, Frank Brooks, Matt Childers, Roman Colon, Kyle Davies, Chuck James, Ryan Langerhans, Anthony Lerew, Andy Marte, Macay McBride, Pete Orr, Brayan Pena, and Jorge Vasquez have mostly been flat-out busts. Seriously, read that list again.
While winning 14 straight division titles the Braves seemingly churned out a young player or two capable of making a long-term impact every season, so looking over that list of the 18 rookies from 2005 goes a long way toward explaining how Atlanta has gone just 321-327 while finishing no higher than third place in the four seasons since. Fortunately it looks like 2008 rookie Jair Jurrjens and 2009 rookie Tommy Hanson will be in the rotation for the long haul and uber prospect Jason Heyward is on the way for 2010.
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