Before we get too involved in you-know-what season, I'd like to give a little attention to the Atlanta Braves. For this time of year, I seem to hear more people than usual at least mentioning the Braves in casual conversation. Most of us by now are normally preoccupied with counting the days until you-know-what.
I suggest that more folks may be watching or keeping up with the Braves this year for more than just an inning or two while channel surfing. This Braves team is much like a major league team of yesteryear. Yesteryear meaning before the era of free agency. This Braves team is loaded with young homegrown talent that came up through the Braves' farm system.
As a youngster I collected baseball cards. I would keep every player matched with his team in a stack with a rubber band around it. When I had to switch a player to another stack it was a big deal and a rare occasion. Players usually stayed with their team for more than the cursory year or two. They only changed teams when they were traded for a player or players of equal value. They lacked the bargaining power of free agency.
Without free agency, the best teams in baseball were the ones with the best farm systems. They groomed hitters and pitchers in the way that best fit their system of winning games when they reached the major leagues. The Dodgers organization was a classic example of this.
This system developed longtime allegiances between players on a team and the fans. The fans heard of their favorites as minor league prospects and followed their careers all the way through. In today's world, a major leaguer is here today and gone tomorrow.
The 2005 Atlanta Braves have had to depend on a large group of rookies called up from their Richmond and Mississippi affiliates. The fans have taken a quick liking to Kelly Johnson, Wilson Betemit, and Georgians Jeff Francoeur and Macay McBride. Fans would like to envision these youngsters improving to all-star caliber over the next few years with one team, the Atlanta Braves.
It won't happen.
Do you remember Nick Green and Charles Thomas from last year's Braves? They were firecracker young rookies that helped keep the team in playoff contention while some of the veterans were injured. After the season they were promptly traded for more established players. They were given a chance to showcase their talents and were used as trade-bait. That's major league baseball.
You can bet that more than one of the 10 rookies that have played for the Braves this year will be stationed elsewhere next season. Having a super strong farm system allows the team to not only help itself directly, but by trading some of these hot, young future stars for current day all-stars. Too bad we'll have to enjoy many of the 2005 Braves maturing into great big leaguers in 2006 and beyond wearing a different uniform. It's an inevitable fact of life in the modern era.
See you at The Brickyard tomorrow night. It's time once again for you-know-what!