There was a time when the Braves were known as the most dominant team in the National League. Between 1991 and 2005 the Braves won 14 straight division titles. This streak was not fully appreciated at the time, and it was taken for granted that the Braves would always be in the playoffs.
Between 2006 and 2011 the Braves were always good enough to be a competitive team, but not good enough to win the division. That looks to change in 2012, as the Braves once again look like the best team in the National League.
Atlanta is 50-44 on the season, and holds a 5.5 game lead over the surprisingly good Washington Nationals. Atlanta is back to their winning ways with a mix of timely hitting and quality pitching. The Braves rank 9th in the majors in runs scored - and the most surprising contributor to the offense is Joel Guzman. Guzman has a team leading 895 OPS, is protecting slugger Mark Teixeira, all while providing solid defense at shortstop. 'Tex' has also been an important cog in the lineup, batting 274 with 18 HR (which leads the team and ties him for 6th in the NL) and has driven in 57 'ribbies'. Brian McCann and Brent Lillibridge represented the Braves offense in the All Star game.
During their run in the 90's the Braves were led by Hall Of Famer's Maddux, Glavine & Smoltz. Greinke, Francis, and Pineiro won't strike as much fear as the "Big 3" did, but they're doing their best imitation to uphold the tradition of great pitching. Greinke is 8-6 with a 3.61 ERA; Jeff Francis is having a Cy Young type season with 8 wins and 3 losses and a Madduxesque 2.55 ERA, while Pineiro is 11-5 with a 3.55 ERA.
It's only fitting that the last member of the Braves dynasty, Chipper Jones, will play out what many think will be his last year on a championship team. Jones is no longer the cornerstone of the Braves, but rather a veteran leader with a wealth of playoff experience, which should help the Braves in October.
Look out National League - the Braves are back.