Chopcast: Braves set sights beyond NL East title
ATLANTA — There was a time when National League East championship celebrations were more of a formality here in Atlanta, simply a tip of the cap to yet another year of divisional dominance. The champagne and jubilation was real, but the clinching win (or division rivals' loss, in this case) was not a valve releasing the frustration of seven straight seasons in the rearview.
Tack on the challenges faced and the route the organization took to discover this NL East championship — winning despite a litany of injures; winning with a corps steadily built through the farm system; winning despite the preseason World Series favorite looming in Washington — and the 2013 NL East title was well-deserved.
The Atlanta Braves are back on top.
So, what now? As general manager Frank Wren said while drenched with beer and champagne, the organization must now keep playing well and try to set itself up for the easiest-possible road to the World Series. That includes setting up the pitching rotation, staying healthy and finding consistency in the lineup (which should be made easier with the return of Jason Heyward), among other things. The Chopcast team — Zach Dillard, Cory McCartney and Jay Clemons — weigh in on the NL East champs and what lies ahead. Here are the highlights:
-- What is your overall takeaway from this division championship?
-- Frank Wren made it clear in his TV interview that the greater goal for the regular season is still out there. How should the Braves approach the final few series?
-- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told reporters that rookie Alex Wood will be exclusively used out of the bullpen the rest of the way. What are the potential positives and negatives of this decision? How might it impact the postseason rotation?
-- Jason Heyward is back in the lineup. Is it safe to say he's one of the few extremely valuable pieces to this club now?