At the beginning of the 2013 Major League Baseball regular season, ESPN.com had 43 baseball experts provide their predictions for the winners of all six division winners, as well as the two teams that would play in the World Series.
Only five of those 43 picked the Braves to win the National League East division — the other 38 all took the Washington Nationals.
And of those five experts, two picked the Braves to go to the World Series (and lose): Mark Mulder and Karl Ravech. Forty percent of the prognosticators that rolled with the Braves predicted them to win the pennant, and that’s not bad.
Perhaps it’s because those guys saw tremendous potential with these Braves. Maybe it’s because they figured the Braves would be well-prepared for a postseason run after being locked in a close race for the division title with the Nationals.
Of course, the Nats never put it together, and now they find themselves rushing to the deadline to sneak into the playoffs with a wild card spot. Going into Saturday’s games, the Braves’ magic number to win the NL East sits at just one. Any Braves win or Nationals loss the rest of the way means the Braves will win their first division title since 2005.
(Photos: See Atlanta as it looked in 1987)
As a young Braves fan, I grew up expecting division titles. When your favorite baseball team wins 14 of them in a row, it’s just assumed that you’ll watch your ballclub in the playoffs. But when you go eight years without seeing a division title celebration, you start to miss it.
The 2005 division title was special because that team had 18 rookies on the roster. The fact that they won the East was nothing short of a miracle. It was also Jeff Francoeur’s rookie season, which tells you how long ago that was.
The Braves have gone through ups and downs in the last eight seasons, and they’ve made the playoffs as the wild card team a couple of times in that stretch, but there’s nothing like winning a division title.
Especially when few gave your team a chance to do it.
That ’05 division title was clinched on Sept. 27 when the Braves beat the Colorado Rockies 12-3. According to Baseball-Reference.com, here was the lineup that day:
Marcus Giles homered twice in that game, and Adam LaRoche added one more. Tim Hudson got the win, and eight years later, only he and Brian McCann remain on the Braves’ roster.
The Braves have their first chance to clinch the East Saturday at 4 p.m. against the Chicago Cubs.
Here’s hoping eight years is the longest I have to go between Braves division titles in my lifetime.