Jul 192010

July 19 Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Bob Ford

“The Phillies might not win the National League East for the third straight time this season. They might not even make the postseason for the fourth straight time, particularly if Sunday’s loss to the Cubs is any indication.

The 2010 season has been frustrating and puzzling, as their powerful offense has suffered through unexplained slumps and their pitching has been occasionally good but never great.

But, please. Enough with the notion that what will keep the Phils from seeking another run at the World Series is the presence of a great Atlanta Braves team.

The Braves are a nice team, really nice in some ways, but the notion that leapfrogging the Braves would require super-human effort is ridiculous. The Phillies, if they play as they can, have nothing to worry about, either from Atlanta or from their alleged co-rivals, the Mets.

For the moment, let’s take a look specifically at the Braves and figure out why they are considered such a roadblock for the Phillies.

One reason is history. The Braves were the wall the Phillies couldn’t climb for more than a decade, and that stretch of prominence is not that far removed. The manager, Bobby Cox, is the same, and he is enjoying a valedictory tour following his decision to retire after this season.

Otherwise, the Braves are nothing like the team that so recently dominated the division. Those Atlanta teams were built on great starting staffs, just enough offense and some decent power production in the launching pads of Fulton County Stadium and Turner Field.

What do the Braves have now? Well, they have a 51/2-game lead over the Phillies and they have a great player in second baseman Martin Prado and an ace starter in Tim Hudson. Beyond that, they have as many peaks and valleys as any other team.

This season, the Braves began with a 13-18 record and were six games behind the Phillies on May 9. Within the space of 15 days – which says more about the NL East than it does about the Braves – Atlanta went from fifth place to first place as part of a monthlong spurt during which the Braves were 20-5.

Now, winning 20 out of 25 games is nothing to discount, but it is the kind of run the Phillies have made themselves. Maybe not this season. But maybe just not yet.”

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