2010 was a wild ride for the Braves, and these were the top-5 stories of the year. For stories 6-10, check out our list here.
1. Bobby Cox Retires
Talking Chop: Bobby Cox Reaches 2,500 Victories
Bobby Cox is the definition of the Atlanta Braves, and he had a memorable final season. Whether it was recording his 2,500 career victory against the Nationals in September, his 158th ejection against the Mets on September 17th, or reaching the playoffs for the 15th time in Atlanta, it was a fitting end for one of the greatest managers of all time. Sure, the Braves didn't win the World Series, and yeah, they struggled at times, but this team, more than any other team in recent memory, signified what Bobby had preached throughout his tenure in Atlanta: work hard, play the game the right way, and you'll achieve great success.
When we look back on 2010, we'll think of it as Bobby Cox's season. We'll remember him shaking hands with Hank Aaron before throwing out the first pitch on Opening Day, and we'll remember the fans chanting "BOBBY! BOBBY! Bobby!" after the final out of the NLDS. We'll remember Matt Diaz crying after being asked what it would be like to play for someone other than Bobby, and we'll remember the endless "Come on Kid!" chants from the bench. There will never be another Bobby Cox, and the man is truly a legend. We love you, Bobby. We couldn't have done it without you. Enjoy retirement.
2. Braves Win NL Wild Card
Talking Chop: Braves Clinch Wild Card
It certainly wasn't pretty, but the Braves found a way to get into the playoffs for the first time since 2005. With a make-shift roster and struggling offense, the team was able to regroup for the final game of the year and defeat the Phillies 8-7 to at least clinch a share of the wild card. The Giants took care of the Padres, and the Braves were back in the post-season. The celebration ensued at Turner Field, and the Braves were set to face San Francisco in the first round of the playoffs.
3. Jason Heyward Emerges
Talking Chop: Welcome To The Show
What can you say about Jason Heyward? We all heard of the legendary Spring Training stories and the hype surrounding the top-prospect in baseball was unreal. He claimed our hearts after just one swing on Opening Day, and his late-inning heroics seemed surreal at times. His defense in right field is among the best in baseball, and his chase for a .400 on-base percentage as a 20-year old was nearly historic. He's already involved in the community with all he does for L.E.A.D., and the story behind number-22 is heartbreaking. There isn't a better young player in baseball to lead the Atlanta Braves, and it will be truly magical to see J-Hey develop over the next few years.
4. Braves Hire Fredi Gonzalez
Talking Chop: Fredi Gonzalez Named Manager
Fredi Gonzalez, who has been the odds-on favorite to become the next Atlanta Braves' next manager since, like, 2008, was officially named Bobby Cox's successor on October 13th. While most fans approved of the hiring, there were quite a few who had their worries. Gonzalez was known for poor bench and bullpen management in Florida, and he never really had any competition for the open job. He's basically been handed the job, and it'll be interesting to see how the fans react at the first sign of controversy. If Bobby Cox was known for one thing, it was consistency. Will Gonzalez be able to stay consistent and keep the players, front office, and fans happy, all at once? All eyes will be on Fredi from the first day of Spring Training and the comparisons to Bobby Cox are inevitable, but it's crucial to let the man do things his way.
5. Chipper Jones Tears ACL, Braves Battle Injury Bug
Talking Chop: Chipper Jones Out For Rest of Season
The Braves faced more injuries than any other playoff team in 2010, and no injury was more significant than Chiper Jones'. While attempting an acrobatic jump-throw in Houston, Chipper landed awkwarly on his right knee. He collapsed on the field, and with his parents just a few feet away in the stands, his season was over. The Braves' leader on and off the field was out, and it would prove to be a huge loss. Jones was absolutely killing the ball in August and he had been carrying the team for weeks. Sure, they could move Martin Prado to 3rd and insert Omar Infante at 2nd, but it just wasn't the same.
Not only did they lose Chipper to injury, but both Kris Medlen and Jair Jurrjens missed significant time with injuries. Jason Heyward missed a month with a busted wrist and thumb, and Troy Glaus battled chronic knee problems throughout the year. Martin Prado, the team's offensive MVP, missed the playoffs with a torn oblique and hip pointer. Eric O'Flaherty (mononucleosis) and Takashi Saito (strained shoulder) missed crucial games down the stretch with injuries, and even starters like Matt Diaz, Nate McLouth, and Yunel Escobar all missed time with various injuries. When you consider how many injuries the Braves sustained throughout the season, it's pretty incredible that they were able to make the playoffs. No team in baseball faced what we did in 2010, and without a total team effort every night, we wouldn't have made the playoffs.