Jury still out on the Braves

By Doug Gorman

I don't spend a whole lot of time watching sports when I'm not in the office or out in the field on assignment.

Lately, however, I've had a tough time tuning out the Braves. This team has turned the great American pastime into a game of home run derby with plans of waltzing to a 12th straight division title.

The power explosion by the Braves is one of the reasons the squad has taken early control of the Eastern Division of the National League.

Six players have already gone over the double-figures mark in shots that have left the yard. Javy Lopez , who homered twice on Monday against former teammate Kevin Milwood in the Braves' victory over the Phillies, leads the National League with 23.

Gary Sheffield with 21 is close behind in the home-run race.

Andruw Jones has 19.

Throw in Chipper Jones' 12 homer runs, Vinny Castilla with 11, and Rafeal Furcal with 10 and the Braves are an opposing pitching staff's worst nightmare.

Add the fact that the Braves have a steady pitching staff anchored by "Mr. Automatic" John Smoltz who has turned saving games into a second career, and Bobby Cox's boys could be well on their way to the Fall Classic.

Still, I'm not holding my breath or guaranteeing a World Series title.

The Braves have disappointed way too many times to even think about victory parades down Peachtree. Heck, it isn't even the all-star break yet.

Some people want to go as far as to call the Braves a dynasty for what they have accomplished over the decade plus.

Unfortunately, the label doesn't fit, because for all the success, the Braves have tanked more often than not during the playoffs, winning the whole ball of wax just one time.

Granted, considering how bad the Braves were before their playoff run started, it's been a pretty special time to be a baseball fan in Atlanta.

Who can forget the 1991 season? Fan favorite and two-time MVP Dale Murphy had been traded away and their wasn't much too cheer about after the Braves ended the 1990 season in last place.

One year later, it all started as the Braves won both the Western Division and the National League pennants. The Braves lost in the World Series.

Itched in the memory banks of Braves' fans forever will be the club's dramatic victory against Pittsburgh in the NLCS as Francisco Cabrera drove in a sliding Sid Bream with the game-winning run to send the Braves back to the World Series.

The city of Atlanta was in love with the Braves as sleepy-eyed fans of all ages stayed up late to cheer on their team. Still, there was no World Series title.

That didn't come until the 1995 season when the Braves knocked off Cleveland.

Since then, there has been plenty of trips to the playoffs, but no more World Series titles.

So, I reserve my thoughts on this year's team and their chances to bring home a second World Series crown.

As history will prove, it's safer that way.

Doug Gorman is the sports editor of the Daily. His column appears on Friday's. He can be e-mailed at dgorman@news-daily.com.