Originally posted on Tomahawk Blog
As of June 21, the Braves are six games out of first place in the NL East. That's actually the good news. The Braves have not only suffered a great number of injuries, but they have all been to very key players. The most devastating would have to be the loss of John Smoltz. With the number of injuries and the bad luck the Braves have had in one run games, it is a minor miracle that Bobby Cox and his team aren't trailing the division leading Phillies by more than 10 or 12 games.
As the cliche goes, there's alot of baseball still to play. Even after coming off another bad road trip in which the Braves went 3-6 against the Cubs, Angels, and Rangers, there is now hope for things to turn around, thanks to the return of closer Mike Gonzalez.
Gonzalez made his return in successful fashion with a perfect ninth inning against the Rangers on Wednesday night, earning him his first save in over a year. Gonzalez, who is returning from Tommy John elbow surgery, seemed to pick up where he left off before his injury in May of last year.
There could be more good news on the horizon for the Braves. Yeah, you heard me right. I said good news. That's something the Braves have had very little of all year. There are actually signs that Mike Hampton is nearing a return. Tom Glavine should return sometime around the All-Star break. The offense will also receive a boost in the near future as Mark Kotsay is expected to be back in the line-up within the week. Not that the Braves would be back at full strength, but it may be enough to get back into the division race.
Between now and the All-Star break, the Braves will have a great chance to move closer to the Phillies. Only two of the seven teams they will face before the summer classic have winning records, the Brewers and the Phillies. In each of those two meetings, the Braves will have the luxury of playing at home. If the Braves can climb to within two or three games by the break, the season could have a completely different outlook.
So, before you start to give up on this season, take a look at what could be ahead. As horrible as things seem to be now, they could be alot worse. A month from now they could also be alot better. Just the fact that this team is still in the race even after all the injuries, shows the potential that the 2008 version of the Braves has to offer. Not only could a healthy Braves team still have a chance to win the division, but if their health improves, they could be just one trade or one healthy Mike Hampton away from being the favorite in the NL. I know, it's wishful thinking, but I need some reason to look forward to the fall.