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With Rocker gone, Braves back on track

By By Rob Sigler
July 4, 2001
Whether you agree or disagree with his comments, one things is certain, John Rocker was a distraction for the Atlanta Braves and his departure has created a much more healthier clubhouse environment.
The proof can be seen on the playing field.
Since the controversial closer was jettisoned to the Cleveland Indians last week, the Braves have continued their surge back into contention for another division championship as the All-Star break approaches.
Coincidence? I don't think so.
In fact, Rocker should have been given his walking papers last season and was a major reason why the Braves didn't get back to the World Series.
Why the Indians would pick up the strong-armed reliever is beyond me, but it does signify the Tribe is desperate for some pitching.
The Braves, meantime, have been red hot after getting off to a mediocre start.
Atlanta posted 19 wins in June after going 26-26 in the first two months. If they remain healthy and continue to get solid pitching, look for the Braves to post their 11th consecutive postseason berth once October gets here.
Baseball at the break:
Sticking on the topic of "The Show", what a first half of the season it has been.
Already there have been two no-hitters, the retirement announcements of superstar players and the emergence of future stars, not to mention, perennial poor teams are suddenly steamrolling the competition.
Oh, and some guy named Bonds, Barry Bonds, is on pace to break a record many believed wouldn't be broken, if ever, in just two years.
Within a few days of each other, Cal Ripken Jr., and Tony Gwynn decided this would be the last season they would don the colors they have both worn for over 20 years.
Meanwhile, two rising stars, Ichiro Suzuki and Albert Pujols, look poised to carry the proverbial baseball torch. Ichiro is living up to the hype coming out of Japan, while Pujols is a virtual unknown that played one year of minor league ball before getting the call up and is having a monster season.
A glance at the standings and it's clear, the also-rans (Minnesota, Philadelphia and Chicago Cubs) have become the front-runners. Only time will tell if they can stay near the top as the dog days of summer come upon us.
Bonds, however, has clearly defined the first half of the 2001 season, belting 39 dingers before the break and is still well a head of Mark McGwire's 1998 pace of 70.
Rob Sigler is sports editor for the Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551 ext. 3235 or e-mail him at rsigler@themeridianstar.com