JOHN L. PITTS: These are not your daddy's Atlanta Braves

By NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – We were talking about the Atlanta Braves the other day around the office and how they’d let the Tom Glavine story turn into such a mess.

“There was a time when they would have handled this whole thing with class,” somebody said. I nodded.

Then my mother-in-law called, wanting to know “the real story” behind the team’s failure to promote Glavine after what appeared to be a successful minor-league rehab.

“Well, it mostly comes down to money,” I said.

It’s a little more complicated than that, though.

The Braves, after an exceptional run of regular-season success, need to move past the glow of the Greg Maddux-John Smoltz-Tom Glavine days.

Sometimes, that’s going to be painful.

Economics made it impossible to keep those three pitching greats together a little longer, which is a shame. The NBA has a “Larry Bird exception” that lets teams keep their greats under contract without regard to salary cap considerations.

Baseball’s different, so all three will wind up having worn another big-league uniform for their farewells – Maddux with the Dodgers, Glavine (perhaps) with the Mets and Smoltz with the Red Sox.

Hard to blame Smoltz, of course, for taking one more shot at another World Series ring with a team that’s proven it know how to get the job done.

I guess all three will make the Hall of Fame. Once there, I hope they’ll all be wearing Braves hats.

Some bad moves

The Braves’ future might look a little brighter if they hadn’t stumbled in making some uncharacteristic bad deals in recent years.

The team that reach the playoffs for 17 years in a row didn’t get there by trading five (!) prospects for a rent-a-bat like Mark Teixeira, like they did in 2006.

And some prospects have failed to match all the hype, like infielder Wilson Betemit and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

On the other hand, they have brought up homegrown talent like catcher Brian McCann and The Next Big Things, outfielder Jordan Schafer and pitcher Tommy Hanson, so their cupboard is far from bare.

With the Big Three gone, the next question is, how long will Bobby Cox continue to manage? At age 68, it’s safe to say he’s almost done.

Being a Braves fan has been a grim slog since that last, fleeting playoff appearance in 2005. It’s as if that 18-inning loss in the first-round playoff series took something out of the team they haven’t regained yet.

They won 79 games the next season, missing the playoff for the first time since 1990, then 84 games in 2007 and 72 a year ago.

At 30-32 through Sunday, it doesn’t look like the Braves New World is here just yet.

John L. Pitts (john.pitts@djournal.com) is sports editor of the Journal and has a big foam tomahawk … somewhere under the pile of stuff on his desk.