This is going to be the debate from now until the Braves either prove they're a winning club or prove they're not a winning club this season. Jeff Schultz of the AJC likely echos many of the fans' worries about this latest incarnation of the Braves -- that they are NOT better than they were a year ago.
Put it this way: Even if Wren had 14 division titles, five pennants and a World Series on his resume like his predecessor, John Schuerholz, people would still be slapping their foreheads in unison and going, "Huh?"
Wren understands this. But he’ll also tell you, "We think we’re way ahead of where we were a year ago at this time."
And ahead of where the Braves were at the end of the 2009 season?
"Yes," he said. "I think we’re better."
Clip and save.
And Wren is right, despite Schultz' belief that these were ignominious moves. Even a question mark over Troy Glaus is a better approach to the middle of the Braves order than Garret Anderson (or Ken Griffey Jr.). There were more question marks about Rafael Soriano (coming off off-season surgery after missing 80% of the season) and MIke Gonzalez (only a couple of months of major league games after TJ surgery) than there are about Billy Wagner (same trajectory as Gonzalez with more post-surgery success) and Takashi Saito (healthy most of last season).
There were just as many questions about how reliable Javier Vazquez would be last off-season as there are about how Derek Lowe will be this season. We had no idea how Kenshin Kawakami would handle the transition to American ball, and now we know that he should be a very effect back of the rotation pitcher (and occasionally beat an opponents ace, aka Dragon Slayer). We were relying on the aging and coming-off-a-second-surgery Tom Glavine last year, and this year we've got a healthy 1 through 5 and likely four pitchers who will be competing for and have legitimate shots at the title of staff ace.
We're relying on a MUCH better rookie to fill out one of our outfield spots. We have more established players in center field and second base. We have a much deeper bullpen than the Jeff Bennetts and Buddy Carlyles of the past.
My view of this team is that it IS positioned better than it was last year. My glass if half full... but there are going to be a dozen comments that disagree with that sentiment, and that's fine. Neither of us will be proven right or wrong for at least three months.