When Lance Armstrong won his seventh straight grueling Tour de France race last July, it was rightfully trumpeted as one of the most remarkable achievements, not just in cycling, but in all of sports.
Well, when it comes to winning streaks, how about them Braves? They've just won their 14th straight division title - a feat just as remarkable, in its own way, as Armstrong's. Like Armstrong, it will be a very long time, if ever, before that record is broken. And the Braves may not be finished yet.
They'll be going for No. 15 next year, and who's to say they won't make it? The Atlanta club wasn't supposed to make it this year. Many baseball experts, thinking the aging stars lucked out when they won the National League East division title for the 13th consecutive time last year, picked them to finish out of the running for 2005.
And that's what's so amazing about this year's success. The Braves transformed their roster from mostly old to mostly young - or, as one wag put it, they rebuilt without going through a rebuilding period, thereby removing all doubt about the genius of manager Bobby Cox.
"I just think for that transformation to happen in one year ... is pretty incredible," said superstar hurler John Smoltz, the only Braves player who was on the miracle 1991 "worst-to-first" team that began the extraordinary 14-year run.
We know, the doom-and-gloomers will lament the less-than-stellar postseason record of the Braves, but this is not the time for that. Anything can happen in a short series such as the playoffs and World Series. They are a roll of the dice.
Like the Tour de France, winning a major-league division title is a grueling task that requires sustained excellence over a long period of time - more than five months in the hot summer sun. Fourteen straight division titles is an astounding feat that stands on its own.
If the Braves finally follow up with a successful postseason, it's icing on the cake.
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