Ben's Sports Take: Braves flounder, but fear not...it's football season

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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.

Not to mention the injuries to pitcher Kris Medlen and Mr. Brave Chipper Jones, who would both be key contributors and nice pieces to have in the lineup this time of 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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