Dear Atlanta Braves,
While most breakups start with lines like "It's not you; it's me," let me assure you that in this breakup: "It's not me; it's you."
We've had a good run. One of my very first memories was being at a Braves game when Hank Aaron was chasing the all-time home run record (a record that I consider still intact), though I wasn't tall enough to see over everybody who stood up when Hank came to the plate.
That was at the horrendous Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, of course. Do you remember that ugly circle where I and a few hundred others would gather to watch the likes of Biff Pocaroba, Bob Horner, Chris Chambliss, Gene Garber, Phil Niekro and Dale Murphy? Those were lean years, and I was either there or in front of the TV watching SuperStation TBS every chance I got. I was there for you when few others were.
Then we had that amazing run of 1982-84 with a first-place finish and back-to-back second-place finishes in the National League West. Joe Torre deserved a Manager of the Century award for leading that rag-tag bunch to the top. And he got fired for his efforts. The rest of the 1980s was pretty forgettable -- although I did enjoy The Beach Boys in concert after one game. That was about the only way to get folks in the gate in the late 1980s.
Then you began to understand what the late, great Skip Caray used to say: "The best promotion is winning." You traded away my favorite player, Dale Murphy, for all the right reasons and began building a winner. Starting in 1991, we had those 14 straight division titles and a World Series win. We even got a spectacular new stadium after the Olympics were done with it.
Then owner Ted Turner had to sell the team, and it all started to go downhill. Now, you're pulling away from me -- literally -- heading into the yuppie burbs northwest of Atlanta. Who cares about us folks down South, huh? Lawd have mercy on a boy from down in the boondocks, as Billy Joe Royal put it. I'm just a po boy on the wrong side of the interstate.
You're even changing who you are. I knew you as Gattis, Upton, Kimbrel, Heyward and McCann, but now you're calling yourself Markakis, Bethancourt, Miller, Grilli and Gomes. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's like I don't even know you anymore. You're a stranger to me. Sure, every now and then I see your Freeman or your Simmons side, but you're just a hint of your former self.
And don't blame my friends for this. They've defended you and tried to explain to me that it's all about money and this rebuilding stage you're in is perfectly natural, that all teams go through it. If that's so, then remind me which year from 1991 to 2005 was the rebuilding year. Exactly! You didn't rebuild; you reloaded.
I'm sure when the new stadium opens there will be a huge splash with big-name free agent signings to team with the youngsters who've managed to develop between now and then.
But, for now, you're willing to tread water. And if you're not willing to invest in our current relationship, then why should I?
But, rest assured, I cannot love another team. So, not only am I done with you, but it looks like I'm also done with baseball, Major League Baseball anyway. I hope it's OK if I keep all your T-shirts that are in my closet. Maybe I'll wear one when I'm feeling nostalgic.
So, let's remember the good times -- Bream's slide, Justice's title-winning homer, Horner's four-homer game, Garber ending Rose's streak and so many others. I wish you the best of luck in the future. I have no doubt I'll be replaced by some other dashing fellow with whom you can start anew and rekindle the passion.
I just can't be your fan anymore.
Connect with Chris Johnson at Facebook.com/KudzuKidWriting or on Twitter @kudzukid88.