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Braves Pockets Deeper Than the Nationals, And I'm Not Talking Dollars

The Washington Nationals have finally, for a little while anyway, come back down to Earth. After losing 3 of 4 to the last place Mets, they find themselves no longer six games ahead of the Braves. This morning, it's the Nationals who are struggling and the Braves find themselves just 2.5 games behind the stumbling Nationals.

Now, don't get me wrong. The Nationals deserve to have had a hard week. Nick Johnson, DL. Ryan Church, DL. Cristian Guzman, hurt. Jose Vidro, just back. On and on it goes. The Nats have lost their front line players and have had to replace them with, for the most part, players who couldn't find their way onto any other major league clubs, players like Wil Cordero and Carlos Baerga.

The Atlanta Braves have had pretty much the same problem as the Nationals. Hudson, DL. Thompson, DL. Hampton, DL. Kolb, bombed. Brian Jordan, DL. Raul Mondesi, bad mistake. The Atlanta DL is very similar to the Nationals.

Here's the difference.

When the Braves lose a player, they dig deep into their rich farm system and bring up a player who is ready to play major league baseball. Kelly Johnson. Ryan Langerhans, Brian Boyer,Wilson Benemit, Andy Marte, Brian McCann, Pete Orr, and now, Jeff Francoeur was called up from AA Mississippi and launched his first hit last night, a homerun to right-center field. The Nationals have Wil Cordero and Carlos Baerga to fill their voids.

It had to happen. The Nationals had to hit a rough spot and lose a few games. How great was it that the Nats were 6 games up when the boo-boos began. During spring training, Jim Bowden said, "The starting lineup is fine, it's the thin roster that worries me." Looks like Mr. Bowden was clairvoyant. Omar Minaya traded Jason Bay, Grady Seizemore and many others for "rent-a-players" during a make believe pennant run in 2003. He left for New York because he knew that he skinned the farm system, and that MLB wasn't about to put any money into scouting and signing young players.

Jim Bowden has to deepen the roster and do it quickly. The Nationals have to get the team healthy and do it quickly. Expectations have been raised so high that an 87 win season might be seen as "coming up short." A healthy team and a few new warm bodies gets the Nats 90-95 wins, and oh, how fun the hot stove league will be over the winter.

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