Although it came as no surprise to yours truly, the Atlanta Braves have relinquished their 99-day reservation atop the National League's Eastern Division—and it doesn't appear that they'll be reclaiming it anytime soon.
The team's ultimate descent can be attributed to a plethora of issues that have, until now, been nullified thanks to the team's overachieving All-Stars and surprisingly effective first-year contributors.
Omar Infante is a good singles hitter, Troy Glaus had a good month, Nate McLouth had a good game and Martin Prado isn't nearly as valuable of a No. 3 hitter as he was in the leadoff spot.
No longer is Jonny Venters the unhittable left-hander upon whom Bobby Cox can rely to come into a ballgame and shut the other team's best hitters down as he did earlier in the year.
Those realizations of player worth combined with the underwhelming trade acquisitions of Derrek Lee, Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth and the Phillies' summer-long ineptitude are no longer so easily swept under the rug and forgotten about.
Winners of 10 of their last 13 ballgames, the two-time defending NL Champion Philadelphia Phillies have seemingly remembered they are—making Atlanta's task of winning the NL East for the first time since 2005 even more challenging.
In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the Braves—losers of five of their last six games—miss the 2010 playoffs entirely.
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But let us now turn our attention to football and more specifically, the Atlanta Falcons.
Judging from the preseason attendance numbers, people in Atlanta are well aware of the expectations for Matt Ryan and company.
Assuming they can stay healthy, some NFL pundits are predicting the Falcons to beat out the defending Super Bowl Champion Saints for the NFC South Title this season.
Pro Bowl players like running back Michael Turner and wideout Roddy White along with the additions of rookie linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and free-agent cornerback Dunta Robinson should provide one of the league's most competitive teams.
If nothing else, the Falcons will be an entertaining team to watch this fall and should serve as the ideal distraction from another disappointing Braves season.
As unfortunate as it would be for the Braves to miss out on the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year—especially considering the fact that they held the division lead for over three months—Atlanta fans needn't worry because while the summer may be ending, the football season is just beginning and the Falcons give us an awful lot to look forward to.
And if that's not enough to rid your mind of the utter disappointment left behind by the Braves squandered season, the Atlanta Dream are headed to the WNBA Finals.
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