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The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

Mike SteffanosSaturday, April 7, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

Mets 11 - Braves 1

If you needed any evidence that the Mets and Braves have traded places over the last couple of seasons, consider last night's drubbing Exhibit A.

No, it won't be this easy for the Mets every night between now and October. The Braves have pitching that's good enough to win their share of games over the course of a season. Their offense will be better than it was last night, when it seemed the Braves hitters were more interested in getting back to the warm dugout than in working Oliver Perez effectively. The Mets are unlikely to go 162-0 this season, and will surely wallow through stretches when they play poorly as a team. There will be a pennant race this year. The Braves are better equipped to challenge in 2007 than they were in 2006.

But the Mets are clearly the better team now.

Last year we noted how the roles had reversed. The Braves seemed to be the team making the key mistakes, while the Mets played better fundamental baseball. The Braves feel that it was their bullpen that cost them in 2006 -- and it was awful -- but make no mistake, the Mets outplayed the Braves on the field last year. It happened again last night. I have a feeling that their infield defense will be an Achilles heel for the Braves this season.

The difference in fundamental play between the clubs is reflected in the change in attitude when they play each other, also. Go back a few years, and you just knew the Mets felt deep down that the Braves would find a way to pull games out against them. Now, it seems the Mets feel like they're the team that will find the keys to victory more often than not.

And they're not alone in that feeling. You could sense that the crowd in Atlanta lacked a feeling of security watching the game last night. The silly tomahawk chop chant -- so full of confidence in days gone by -- seemed thin and blustery last night the few times it was heard. When things started to go wrong the fans even paid tribute to the New Yorkers by treating their home town Braves to a lusty Bronx cheer on more than one occasion. Alex Rodriguez would have felt right at home with the treatment given to Larry Jones when the swirling winds caused him to misplay a foul popup after the game fell out of reach in the eighth.

The Braves have John Smoltz pitching today, and you know he's going to give them a good effort. I can't predict what will happen today and tomorrow, but I don't feel the same way about the Braves anymore. They're still a pretty good team, and they can beat you, but there is nothing inevitable about this team winning.

I know Oliver Perez will have his ups and downs, but those out there who are absolutely convinced he will fail have to be having second thoughts if they are paying attention. Let me state again that the Braves put together some atrocious at bats against him last night, but Perez was throwing the ball well and he was throwing strikes -- 56 out of 82 pitches worth of strikes. Yeah, he drifts at times, but now he seems to be able to get it back. At times he actually looks smooth on the mound, and I have a feeling we'll see more of that Oliver Perez as the season wears on.

I used to hate the arrogance of Braves fans that not only consisted of belief in their own team, but also the belief that your team will falter. To be honest, what stung most was that I knew deep down the Mets would screw up. Now I read some of the comments on a Braves web site like the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and I chuckle. Here's one:

... the Mets pitching staff will implode. Give me a break...if you are relying on 65-year old Tom Glavine, 70-year old El Duque, and Oliver Perez, you are dreaming. The Braves will somehow, some way win this division.

At one time there would be more of this. Now it just smacks of desperation and wishful thinking. Braves fans know that their only hope of winning is for the Mets pitching staff to implode. There was a time when the Braves could seize the National League East. That's history. Maybe that's why the chop chant now sounds an awful lot like whistling in the dark.

Box Score

Comments (19)

It is a new era, but I'm not ready to plant the flag in the Braves and declare victory. What we didn't get to see last night was the Braves new bullpen, which might be better than our own. And while I will take Ollie over Redman every day of the week, including religious holidays, I don't think the gap is that definitive in other areas. Smoltz, Hudson, James vs. Glavine, Duque, and Maine ... who wins that? Glavine is our ace, but how many times have we seen him get whiplash from these very same braves? We have the best lineup in baseball, but McCann looks legit, and as long as Chipper can step in the box my heart will pump fear. If Ollie looked horrible yesterday, walks all over the place, we'd be at the total opposite end of the spectrum and saying we knew he'd suck and we need a SP ASAP. Way too early to write these guys off.

Mike - I remember sitting in the relative solitude of the Shea upper deck in the early 80's, I'd join the half-hearted "Let's Go Mets" chants in the eighth inning of the wrong side of a blowout, secretly chanting in my own head, "Let's - Go - Home!"

At least then, when I heard the fans boo, I'd explain to my invariably non-sports-savvy date that they were just cheering for "HUUUUU-BIEEEEEE" or "MOOOOOO-KIEEEEEEE".

It must suck to be a Turner Field season ticketholder this year.

The most encouraging aspect of our little mini-streak so far is this: from top to bottom, Mets pitchers are throwing strikes. This bodes well.

The Assimilated Negro - I'm not declaring victory. There will be a race in 2007. The dynamic has changed, though. It used to be that things had to go really well for the Mets and bad for the Braves for us to have a chance to beat them. Not any more -- I think it's actually the opposite now.

I think Perez will look as good as he did last night some times, and terrible at others. I do think that all those waiting for him to fall on his face will be disappointed.

I'm not writing the Mets off, but the Mets are clearly the better team now. Being the better team doesn't guarantee anything, but it helps.

NostraDennis - I really don't think the Braves will be bad like last year, but I don't think they are as good as some folks think, either. They've got balanced pitching, but they have zero depth and a bad infield defense.

dear Mike,

Last night Ollie came and introduced himself again and still you dont recognize him. Ollie is the reason Omar still has $126M in his back pocket. Ollie is a few more tweaks past that pitcher in the NLCS who nearly took us to the WS. Ollie (as Metsblog alludes) is the front of rotation starter we were looking for. He was the #1 pitcher in Pitt.

last night he walked ..zero. Also last night he hit some waves and survived. This team he beat was 3-0 featuring Mccann, Franceour, and Jones Bro's..not a pushover. I think this 26yr old will turn heads this year. Metsblog has a nice Kaz vs Ollie post, but I harken to say Ollie has us forgetting Kaz and he might be the better pitcher. heck, I gushed when he debuted, now I am glad he makes zito an after thought.

Who are john maine and Ollie Perez...Two pitcher who looked great for us in the playoffs and who have started off the year looking great.

Ed, I loved what Perez did the other night, and certainly I am hoping it can continue.

It's a little early to crown the fellow and the team stud, however. Even on Friday Perez lost his arm angle slot and his release point a couple of times. He self-corrected, both times on the next pitch, which is great; long may it last.

I guess what I need to see is how Perez handles himself the next time a team takes him long two or three times in early innings. That will happen, you know; Perez is an extreme flyball pitcher and he's not going to be on each and every day. Remember, this is a player who has seen his career take a sickening downward lurch, almost to the point of professional extinction. I want to know whether he will give in to the urge to overthrow, as he apparently did in Pittsburgh, or if he will hang onto the approach that Rick Peterson taught him.

My hope is that Perez has a few more good starts before he runs into a bump in the road. Just a little more success and I'm thinking he will immune to his old bad habits.

That is odd, I dont see any posts on here from the last couple of days. Would any of you like some ketchup for those words you are eating?

Just like a Mets fan to start talkin' trash after the first game of the year between the 2 teams. There was still 2 more games left in the series and .... the Mets lost both.

The first shots of the war have been fired. A few jubiliant Mets fans stood up and cheered and were promptly shot down by the counter attack which pushed them out of their temporary positions and off their hill. Not routed, not defeated but bruised and carrying their wounded they had to retreat. The advancing Braves, have their own problems which were revealed in their series, but for the moment they can enjoy the sight of Mets fans trudging the long winding road out of town and down to Fla. The Braves' generals know what they have and know they will see that army of the north again and again. But let's enjoy the first series of battles, won by the Braves and the city of Atlanta protected from the NeW Yorkers.

I am one of those obnoxious Braves fans who thinks that the Braves will always pull out the win and the other team will always falter. Imagine how happy I was to see the Braves take 2 out of 3 from the Mets, particularly after reading this article!

Just a lesson not to get ahead of yourself. While I do hope that the Braves will pull out the division and that the Mets and Phillies will falter, I also acknowledge that it will be a tough race. The Mets, Phillies and Braves will beat up on each other all year. I think either the Braves or the Mets will win the division. I also believe that the runner-up will not take the Wild Card because there will have been too much beating up on one another within the division.

I acknowledge the Mets are good and that they'll give the Braves a run for their money. But, this weekend belonged to the Braves! This was exactly what our fans needed to get fired up about the upcoming season!

Go Braves! :)

Its funny how Mike and others "review" of the Braves included aging pitchers, injury prone players, or things "falling" their way. The thing is: What good team doesn't have those same issues?

There were no posts the last 2 days because my girlfriend hurt herself. Get a life, people.

I stand by what I wrote here. I didn't predict the Mets would win every game, I just said they were the better team. I don't go posting on Braves sites after every Mets win, but I guess I'm not as mature as you folks.

You people are kind of sad. You're so used to the fawning coverage your team receives in the AJC and on Braves.com that you can't handle a mildly negative piece about your team. Only Kristi made an intelligent point, and I wonder why she felt she had to leave a comment here. I don't comment on her blog after a Braves loss, nor do I worry what Braves bloggers write about the Mets.

I rather think that this sudden collection of Braves fans are really all the same person, no?

Hey, it's okay, no more harmful than an uncontrollable urge to play dress-up or make crank calls.

dd - Some were from the same IP address. Kristi seems to have been the only one that even bothered to read what I wrote. At least no one used profanity. Usually I have to delete comments from fans of other teams because they're full of colorful language.

Oh, please! You bash the Braves and try to make it out like it is some type of jounalistic integrity. With your uppity attitude you would think the Mets have not been the whipping boy of the NL East for the past 10 years, save one season, which just happened to be the last one. I have come to this site for your opinions for about 6 months now. I enjoyed many of your articles about the young pitchers the Mets have, and being a fantasy baseball geek, that is how I found this site in the first place. However, you cant expect to talk about which team is "better" and then expect nothing to be fired back at you when it blows up in your face. For one thing, I have only posted on here under this name, and this will only be the second time. It is classless for you to assume that these people are taking their time to put multiple posts on "your" website. Give me a break, you ran your mouth to early in the game and it back fired, now you are angry when people throw it in your face. If you are going to be big enough to dish it out, then be big enough to take it when it comes back around!

I didn't bash the Braves, I made a simple statement about the changing dynamic between the two teams. The Mets are better than the Braves now. You claim to know baseball and you don't know that.

Your point about the Mets being bad for a decade was correct. I didn't realize we were talking about the past.

If you really read what I said you wouldn't be whining like a child about it. Your comments don't bother me, because I can't take you seriously enough to do that. I'm not going to cry every time the Mets lose, nor every time someone writes something about them I don't like.

You've made your point, I made mine. Go away now -- back to the cozy confines of people and web sites who only tell you what you want to hear. Please waste no more of my time. I will not respond to you again.

The Mets are better? Funny I didnt see that this weekend. The Mets have major problems in their pen and their starting rotation. Sure you jumped on a pitcher who is barely worthy of a roster spot, but when it came down to hitting some good pitching all that went away and it came down to the two teams pens. The Braves obviously have a better one, and I believe a better team. I dont think you can expect a full year of this type of production from Oliver Perez or John Maine.

So the Mets came down and took a little whistle out of Dixie for 1 night. Let's just call that Southern Hospitality! Your welcome!
That song came back to play again on Saturday and then AGAIN on Sunday! Wow, so the Braves has a bad night behind a pitcher who should be in the minors and was called up at the last minute because Mike Hampton went down. So okay, the Mets can beat up on a Minor League Pitcher - I'll give you that! But when an old vet like Smoltz and a new comer like Davies came along, the Metropolitans couldn't handle it!
I agree that the Mets have an unbelievable lineup! The Braves don't match up evenly, but when you take into account that you have all of that firepower and the gun stays in the holster, what good is the firepower?
'07-'08 Braves - NL East Champs
'07-'08 Braves - NL Champs
'07-'08 Braves - World Series Champs

Chief Nokahoma

I commented on your site because I try to keep up with what's going on with others in our division. Our site gets lots of comments from fans of other teams, so I wouldn't think it would be surprising that I would read what you wrote and comment. Especially to defend my Braves!

With the race currently down to only a 1/2 game, I'm sure the upcoming series this weekend will be exciting and interesting. May the best team win!

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