Dan Uggla is very comfortable with the Atlanta Braves, only one thing will be very different in the 2011 MLB season.

In the past, he was great at beating them. This year, he will help them beat everyone else.

Uggla was acquired by the Braves, mainly because the Florida Marlins continue to prove that they have no business existing as a Major League Baseball franchise. They have poor ownership, weak management and a terrible fan base. They shipped Uggla to the Braves because they would not pay him for a fifth year, yet they went out and gave $18 million to a one year wonder catcher in John Buck.


The Braves are expected to compete with the Philadelphia Phillies for the National League East division crown. We all know what the Phillies have done in recent years, and bringing back Cliff Lee should be enough to win them another division title. But the Braves are a very talented team, although it will be interesting to see how they fare without Bobby Cox in the dugout.

Former Marlins skipper Fredi Gonzalez will manage the Braves this season, and he was handpicked a long time ago. Even when he was managing Florida, everyone knew he would be back in Atlanta at some point.

That time is now.

The Braves have a steady lineup around Uggla, including youngsters Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman. If Chipper Jones can even bounce back a little, this team has a legitimate chance to overtake Philly in the N.L. East. If not, I would still make them a heavy favorite to win the N.L. wild card.

Apparently, I am not alone in that sentiment. MLB.com polled a panel of analysts, and they also feel strongly about Atlanta’s postseason chances this year.

Collectively, they said that “Bobby Cox’s first year away from the helm could be a special one. These aren’t the Braves of Cox’s or Chipper Jones’ heyday, but they’re still Jones’ Braves. “We feel like we have the kind of confidence that when we walk out on that field, we expect to win,” the 18-year vet said. “That’s a good feeling to have. That’s the feeling we had the first 12 years I was here. We kind of lost it for a couple of years, but that winning mentality is starting to come back.”

Atlanta could very well have a very special season. In any other year, they would be picked as a runaway favorite to win the East. But the Phillies are still too strong on paper, although injuries and some age concerns could slow down Philadelphia as the season progresses.

It is just almost impossible to bet against a team whose first four starting pitchers include Roy Halladay, Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cloe Hamels.

That may be the best rotation since Atlanta featured Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and (insert whoever here – Steve Avery, Kevin Millwood – your call).

For more on the first pitches from every game, make sure to check out Bleacher Report Mets Featured Columnist Ash Marshall, who takes a look at MLB Opening Day 2011: 20 memories, Stats and Facts from Baseball’s Opening Day.