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The City of Brotherly Love

No I’m not talking about Philadelphia, but rather their National League East rival, Atlanta, The Dogwood City, the ATL, Hotlanta, The Big Peach, and their baseball team, the Braves. While there have been innumerable (well, over 350 at last count) groups of brothers (two, three, even more) in Major League Baseball over the past 130+ years, examples of brothers playing on the same team are more limited, although almost 100 examples exist.

The number incremented by one this past week as the Braves made a blockbuster trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks, getting outfielder Justin Upton and third baseman Chris Johnson for super-utility player Martin Prado, highly regarded young right-hander Randall Delgado, and three minor-league prospects. The Braves earlier signed former Tampa Bay Rays centerfielder B.J. Upton to a free-agent contract of five years, $75 million. With his younger sibling Justin under contract for the next three years, it is a good guess that “Uptown” will be the new sobriquet for the teeming cosmopolis of the Southeast.

The Braves as a franchise have had quite a few brother combinations over the years, from the barely-remembered Fred and Lefty Tyler on their 1914 “Miracle” team that captured their first World Series (Lefty was 16-13; Fred was a rookie catcher who came up for a cup of coffee), to better-known pairings such as Frank and Joe Torre, Hank and Tommie Aaron, Rick and Mickey Mahler and the knuckleballers, Joe and Phil Niekro. In 2004, J.D. and Tim Drew wore the Chief Wahoo cap.

Ten years ago, Justin was a teen-ager who was a scrub on a famous youth travel team, the Tidewater Mets, that featured his brother along with current big-leaguers David Wright of the New York Mets, Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals, Michael Cuddyer of the Colorado Rockies and Mark Reynolds of the Cleveland Indians. Now he will patrol left field at Turner Field. The expectations on him, his brother and young right-fielder Jason Heyward will be sky-high: they are already being considered in the top-three outfields (along with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s grouping of Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton and Peter Bourjos and the Nationals’ trio of Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth). Any number of “power rankings” that purport to rank the teams has the Braves as a sure-fire post-season contender.

While some brother tandems are disproportionately talented (e.g., Hank and Tommie Aaron), some are more consistent with how the talent is spread (e.g., Phil and Joe Niekro). The Uptons, both five-tool players (able to hit for average, hit for power, run, field and throw) who have yet to fully realize their potential, fit in the second category. How they succeed will be key to how far the Braves advance in the 2013 season.

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