Opportunity knocks vs. bottom-feeders
No, I was not abducted by blog-censoring aliens these last few weeks. I am back, and hopefully, with nearly 10 weeks of baseball left, will check in weekly during the rest of the 2012 season.
While everyone is focusing on the Eastern Division-leading Nationals, the wild cards, and the July 31 trade deadline, there is a much bigger goal standing in line first.
Tonight begins the longest homestand of the 2012 season, and with it, incredible opportunity.
The Phillies, Marlins and Astros invade Turner Field.
Those three teams are a combined 49 games under .500.
That's right, all three of the Braves opponents here come to town with losing records and surrounded by intrigue.
One of the big stories last week was Philly extending Cole Hamel's contract another six seasons ... even though the Phils are in last place in the East and a whopping 9 1/2 games out of the wild card. This weekend presents a prime chance for the Braves to critically hamper any Philly hopes for a miracle second half comeback ... something at which Charlie Manuel's teams have excelled the last several seasons.
The Marlins, well, we've seen this movie before. Big splash. Small ripple. Housecleaning.
Hanley Ramirez, Omar Infante and Randy Choate all traded last week, and more changes possibly to follow. A bad mix in Miami has made for good TV on Showtime. But "The Franchise" is reality TV that nobody in the Miami organization ever imagined after doubling payroll after last season.
Last in town is Houston. manager Brad Mills is a terrific baseball man. He just doesn't have enough terrific baseball players. Very busy at the deadline during the last several seasons, the Astros have lost or traded Carlos Beltran, Michael Bourn, Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Lance Berkman, Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee and Brett Myers. With a very young team, the Astros are 2-23 in their last 25 games, and have been outscored by an astounding 75 runs.
So again, opportunity abounds. With one big "but."
The Braves are 54-44, but just 24-24 at home. A favorable schedule and 10 straight days at home present an amazing opportunity. When it knocks, lets hope the Braves don't just answer that door, but kick that baby in this week.
Until next time ...