ATLANTA — Two years ago, the Atlanta Braves won 96 games and a division championship. Now, they’re barely recognizable.
Be wary when team officials, as they always do, talk hopefully of rebuilding a once-proud franchise.
How’s that working out for Los Angeles Lakers? The Boston Celtics? The San Francisco 49ers?
We could go on and on about teams that went from champions to afterthoughts a lot quicker than it took them to find their way back to the top. Rebuilding a team takes patience, skill and usually a bit of good fortune (See: Stephen Curry).
For some, it can be a decades-long process.
After winning their first World Series title in 1985, the Kansas City Royals needed 30 years to capture another.
Ditto for Golden State, which followed its 1975 title with four largely irrelevant decades. Only when the Warriors drafted a skinny guard out of tiny Davidson College did things finally turn around. Curry, to the surprise of just about everyone, turned out to be an MVP.
Now the Braves are on deck, having decided to totally rebuild their roster after a disappointing 2014 season.
In the short term, things have gotten a lot worse.
Ninety-five losses this past season and the very real prospect of even more defeats in 2016.
After trading shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday evening, the Braves have only two players – first baseman Freddie Freeman and pitcher Julio Teheran – left from their last NL East-winning team.
“It would have been easy not to make this trade,” said new general manager John Coppolello, who is now overseeing the massive overhaul. “I could’ve said, ‘Let me hold on to Simmons. He’s a fan favorite who makes great plays.’ But I want us to get better. I don’t want us to lose (95) games again. I want good, young players to fill the pipeline year in and year out.”
Getting good, young players doesn’t always translate into wins.
After two consecutive dismal seasons, the Lakers are getting a head start on the post-Kobe Bryant era with a roster that includes four rookies and three other players with just one year of experience.
In Boston, where Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen led the storied Celtics to the last of their 17 NBA championships in 2008, the process of replacing the Big Three has been a tedious one. The team is carrying three rookies and eight players who haven’t yet celebrated their 25th birthday. It’s going to be a while before they’re celebrating another title in Beantown.
The 49ers are headed for another grim era, much like they experienced after a glorious two-decade-long run that included five Super Bowl titles.
Rebuilding, in any sport, is hardly an exact science.
The Houston Astros got it right when they dismantled their team in Braves-like fashion, going from 111 losses two years ago to a wild-card berth this season.
The Braves believe their reconstruction has left them with an abundance of promising young pitchers who will someday lead them back to the playoff promised land. They’re asking for patience, but that’s in short supply around Atlanta.
In a strange bit of timing, the Braves’ corporate overlord, Liberty Media, announced Thursday that fans will soon be able to buy stock in the team. Not actual ownership, mind you, but what’s known as a tracking stock, which goes up or down based on the team’s financial performance.
Given all the high salaries the Braves have dumped, that might actually be a good investment.
Check back in a few years.