Saturday, November 15, 2003

The Year of the Braves by Josh Rutledge

It’s my belief that every person on this Earth is endowed with at least one special gift. Some are born with the gift of music. Others are natural athletes. A few are great orators. Many are brilliant artists. A handful can breathe fire. Several can open cans of tuna with their teeth.

And then there’s me.

I, Joshua Blake Rutledge, possess one special gift: the ability to ruin people’s lives. At least in the case of baseball. My endorsement is more like a career death sentence. Go take a look at your Zisk back issues. Read my contributions. Remember my piece on Rico Brogna and how he was so underrated? He retired mere months after I wrote that article. I did him in. I single-handedly destroyed the career of a two-time 100 RBI man. He’s now forgotten, and it’s all my fault. Another time, I similarly cursed Andy Ashby.

Most recently, I jinxed the 2002 Phillies. And then there were my oh-so-brilliant pre-season predictions last year. I probably doomed the Detroit Tigers to 100 years in the cellar.

It’s obvious that there’s a Josh Rutledge Zisk jinx.  Just ask Pete Rose.

Spider-Man learned that great power brings great responsibility. I’ve learned that too, and that’s why I’ve decided to write this piece. Like Spider-Man, I find myself obligated to use my gift to combat evil. And what single evil could be more evil than the Atlanta Braves? The heinous Atlanta Braves! The diabolical Atlanta Braves! Ted Turner’s pact with the devil has ensured that the Braves cannot lose. Key players leave each year, but new recruits always arrive and blossom into stars once they’ve tasted the mandatory demonic juices. Several Braves, I've heard, are actually robots programmed for baseball supremacy. It’s just not fair.

Therefore, I now present my predictions for the remainder of the Braves’ 2003 campaign. As I write this, it’s July 16th, 2003. The Braves are 61-32, which puts them wight-and-a-half games ahead of second place Philadelphia. They’ve got the division locked up, right? Of course.

(You’re reading this in the fall. So by now, you’ll know whether I really possess the “gift of jinx” or am just a baseball ignoramus)

August 1
Polygamy is legalized in the United States. Chipper Jones immediately marries the 33 Hooters girls that have mothered his children. He celebrates by going four-for-four with two home runs in a 7-1 win over the Dodgers.

August 5
In a shocking move, Gary Sheffield holds a press conference and announces that he’s a spoiled, bigheaded jerk. That night in Milwaukee, he homers four times to lead the Braves to a 31-7 victory over the Brewers. Pitcher Russ Ortiz shocks the fans by hitting a pair of home runs and a standup triple. The Braves now find themselves leading second-place Montreal by a full 12 games.

August 12
Javy Lopez’s 35th home run of the season gives the Braves a 1-0 win over San Diego. Horacio Ramirez picks up his 13th win of the year. Jung Bong levitates out of the bullpen, and the crowd goes wild.

August 13
The video for Rafael Furcal’s new rap single, “Sweet Swingin’ Stick”, debuts at #1 on MTV’s Total Request Live.

August 21
The Braves complete a four-game sweep of the Giants with a dominating 7-0 victory. Andruw Jones hits his 43rd home run of the year, and Greg Maddux tosses his second consecutive perfect game. The Braves now lead second-place Florida by 18 games.

August 27
Marcus Giles cures cancer and parts the Red Sea. Later he doubles twice and leads the Braves to a 17-2 win over the hapless Mets.

September 5
Chipper Jones flies to Switzerland so that a team of renowned brain surgeons can remove his massive ego. Darren Bragg takes Chipper’s place in the lineup that night and hits for the cycle. The Braves beat the Pirates 3-1.

September 11
Julio Franco hits two inside-the-park home runs, and the Braves complete a four-game sweep of the last place Phillies with a 5-2 victory. Vinny Castilla tries his hand at pitching and strikes out Pat Burrell twice.

September 13
Gary Sheffield comes down with a terrible case of humility and is immediately placed on the disabled list. Still, the Braves top Florida 8-3. John Smoltz picks up his 62nd save.

September 23
The Braves slam the Expos 12-1 as Russ Ortiz wins his 29th game of the season. After the game, Henry Blanco flies to Iowa and heals seven blind mutes.

September 26
Roberto Hernandez finds out that he’s been cast to play Professor Dumbledore in the next Harry Potter film.

September 28
The Braves wrap up their regular season with a 10-0 win over the Phillies. In order to ensure that the Braves don’t choke in the playoffs, God himself endows every Brave with superpowers. He also arranges for Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi to go down with hamstring injuries.

No jinxing necessary here. The Braves will still choke.

Josh Rutledge lives in southeastern Pennsylvania and edits the on-line rock magazine NOW WAVE. He likes full-figured women, ’70s punk rock, and 20-ounce bottles of Coca-Cola Classic. Contrary to popular belief, he is neither a drug addict nor a Journey fan. His favorite ballplayer is Bobby Abreu.

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