Saturday, September 09, 2006

Dynasty Well Done: An Appreciation

Posted by Picasa. By Claire Smith, for The Philadelphia Inquirer

To their credit, the New York Mets came to bury the Atlanta Braves last week and did.

To their discredit, New York fans came to taunt, mocking visiting Atlanta with the Braves fans’ own signature tomahawk-chop chant during a doubleheader sweep on Wednesday.
Tom Glavine/
David L. Pokress/Newsday/MCT)
Photo via NewsCom

The two victories reemphasized the obvious. The Mets are going to win the National League East running away. The Braves won’t, ending a 14-year run as division champions.

Atlanta’s dream of a wild-card berth also likely ended that night, as the Braves fell off the pace by 6 1/2games in that race.

So Mets fans should have celebrated. But to dance on the dugout roofs at Shea and mock? The home team — arguably the best in the National League — deserved better from its fans. So, too, did the Braves.

There are classic dynasties and then there are classy dynasties. And the Atlanta Braves’ dynasty (1991-2005) had class.

The most arrogant thing about the franchise’s storied run was the chop.
That chant might have been as insufferable as it was insensitive, but not so the product on the field, for no one other than the rock-headed John Rocker ever demeaned the Atlanta uniform, belittled the opposition, or singlehandedly put an ugly face on the era.

Not Tom Glavine. Not Greg Maddux. And certainly not manager Bobby Cox.

Those guys were all too busy taking care of business.

They laid the groundwork for Hall of Fame berths for Maddux, Glavine and Cox, and maybe even for Atlanta’s third Cy Young’un — John Smoltz.

They won not only three NL West and 11 NL East flags, but also five pennants, the 1995 World Series, and so many Cy Young Awards, MVPs and manager-of-the-year trophies, you lose count.

And they did all of the above with less arrogance in their 14-year run than some losing teams exhibit in one forgettable season.

That down-to-earth approach may not have made the Braves the postseason constant they were. It did make them a welcome one.

It all started with Cox, the three-time NL manager of the year and arguably the league’s manager of the last decade.

Cox, a four-time manager of the year overall, could have big-leagued[/ITALIC] writers, players, and even others in his fraternity as he solidified his Cooperstown credentials since 1991. When you’re the only manager in baseball history other than Hall of Famers with fourteen 90-win seasons, after John McGraw (16) and Joe McCarthy (15), an inflated ego is all but expected.

Yet no cottage industry for books about the brilliance of being him has ever sprang up around Cox. He doesn’t pretend to be Abner Doubleday or try to reinvent the game daily. Most important, Cox has remained consistent in areas where it has counted the most: accessibility, civility, humility.

As Cox showed how it’s done in the manager’s office, he was blessed with a stellar supporting cast: a master architect in general manager John Schuerholz, and key veterans aligned not only as stars, but as team leaders as well.

Terry Pendleton, tantamount to a player-manager, policed the clubhouse. Brian Jordan, Chipper Jones and Javy Lopez made for a formidable posse.

Then there was Glavine, the lefthanded Michelangelo to Maddux’s Da Vinci.
How different might things have been for the Phillies — a team desperate for veteran leadership the last two seasons — if Glavine had signed here instead of with the Mets.

Glavine, like Derek Jeter and old-schoolers Willie Stargell, Don Baylor, and Brooks and Frank Robinson before him, defines clubhouse presence.

Glavine’s comportment and his intelligent approach to all things baseball showed one young Brave after another the meaning of professionalism and responsibility.
After Glavine and Maddux departed, Smoltz stood in their stead.

Before the 2005 season started, Smoltz gathered his teammates to explain what was expected: courtesy and accountability rather than condescension when dealing with the media; dealing with rather than ducking defeat; honoring rather than embarrassing the organization.

The conglomeration of kids took Smoltz’s advice, then took the NL East — again.

You cannot manufacture that kind of character. Most teams are just grateful to stumble onto it one or two players at a time in any one cycle.
The Braves overflowed with it for 14 years.

Now the race, well-run, is over.

So celebrate, Mets. Consider the possibilities, Phillies, Marlins, Nationals.
But remember, before you mock the dying dynasty as it exits stage right, before you even think about topping it, try emulating it first.


hasan (mets fan from NY) said...

Ms. Smith. I liked your article. But just want you to know that the chops we Mets fans 'mocked' as the Braves lost to the Mets does not even belong to the Braves to begin with. Ask any college football fan in the Southern half of the United States and they will tell you the chop has been stolen from the Florida State Seminoles. Thanks for your advice, but we have no problem mocking the 10 fans who didn't even care for their team's accolades to begin with. The Braves' has been the most uninspired dynasty in the history of sports. No disrespect to the classy players, but you can't discount the ugliness perpetrated by the likes of Rocker, Andruw Jones (meaningless smirk and demeaning remarks about Mets fans) and Chipper Jones (naming his son 'Shea' after our stadium - an infinitely classless move).

That said, don't get me wrong... I liked your article and like your writing. I just hope you write about a subject you are more familiar with in the future.


Claire Smith said...

Hasan, I am familiar with New York, its fans, Atlanta, its fans, too. N.Y. fans are passionate about baseball - to their credit. Atlanta, not so much so. Problem is, NY fans seldom can see any good in any team but theirs'. Too bad. Again, I think the Mets deserved better that day, and so did the Braves.
Thanks for writing

Pat H. said...

> Yes, you are right that the Braves have been a classy organization
> over the years, with mostly classy players (with the exception of a
> few like Rocker), but your chiding Mets fans for their mock of the
> Atlanta war chant was a little overboard. It was funny. And if you
> look at a tape of the 9th inning of the game, when the mock chants
> were in full swing, you can see a broad smile on Francouer's face
> who was up at the plate. His team was losing and trying to hang in
> the wildcard race and yet he's smiling. Now, perhaps the umpire
> told him a joke, but I doubt it. It seemed pretty clear to me even
> he thought the mock chants were funny. So, please, have a sense of
> humor!

Lynne Kushner said...

>I just want to say thank you for your great commentary on the Braves! I am a
>rabid Braves fan- ever since i lived in Georgia in the early 90's . Although i
>have been here 7 yrs already-( I am from R.I. - yeah RedSox!) i can't help
>it--- i love the Braves.
>Maybe it is because manners, in general, are better in the South- what do you
>expect from NY anyway? ( but Chipper did name his son Shea)
>Some Phillie fans don't deserve a good team - with their whinning and
>complaining over every loss. Phils fans need to read your commentary too--The
>Phils have a great team and they did great last year and are doing great this
>year ---If it isn't the Braves, i sure hope it is the Phils (we Braves fans
>haven't given up yet) Bobby Cox is class!

Ron Spiegel, Philadelphia, Pa. said...

As a Phillies fan, the Braves were always the enemy, but I did admire their class and professionalism. I can’t say the same for Mets fans. Besides the incidents you mentioned, I was appalled at how the treated Chase Utley. When his hitting streak ended they cheered when he didn’t get a hit in his final at bat that day. That’s fine. But as he trotted back to the dugout they loudly booed him! I can’t help but believe that had something like this happened in Philadelphia, the national media would have picked up on it and Sporstcenter would have shown it as another example of Philly’s terrible fans.

Fred Pirelli said...

In response to your article about the Braves and their greatness. They
> did not show arrogance they have shown the great ability to whine!
> Read their quotes both of late and during the season. To quote the
> great Marcus Giles " We are not worried they are looking over their
> shoulders at us because we are coming". The result the Mets sweep them
> out of their own park. Funny thing is that was the last thing anyone
> heard from his silly arrogant mouth!
> New York Fans have a right to mock those idiot Brave Fan chop, how long
> have those insensitive self-centered fans been doing it. It was in
> April when these arrogant Braves took a series from the Mets ( the only
> one they would take) and remarked how they have a hold on the Mets. I
> guess when pride cometh before the fall and fall they did. They fell
> below even the Phillies and the Marlins.
> I suggest before you jump on the Braves bandwagon and join the other
> worshipers of the Braves (how many World Series did they win) who choked
> away many a series you research their history. Cox is a great manager
> and I'm sure he took many of his whiners to the wood shed but like
> Willie Randolph he can't control his obnoxious fans. I'm sorry to tell
> you, Braves fans are just as obnoxious as the Mets fans.
> One last thing is why if Cox is so great (I do think he is to great
> degree) then why cant he ever get his teams to win the World series.
> Mets and their fans have withstood years of gloating from the Braves
> when they win and whining when they lose, and they enjoy seeing the
> Braves and all their sympathizers both fans and media go down with them.

Steve, Philadelphia said...

It's so sad that the Braves Fans don"t support their team(s) as the philly fans do.. Just check out the attendance of the baseball, football basketball and hockey teams and compare them to the philadelphia pro sports teams...
Instead of writing about how "professional" the baseball players are ( with their ONE world series title ) p.s. even the phillies won ONE world series. Why not write about how the philadelphia fans support the teams with their $$$$.
No one seems to want to give the fans in Phildelphia any credit at all and you know, it's very very SAD.