When the Braves begin their quest for a 15th consecutive division title against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on Monday afternoon, they'll do so with the confidence that they'll be able to once again hold off a much-improved Mets team and win another National League East title.
"We'll see how [the Mets] start playing when they start playing the games," Andruw Jones said. "They've had great lineups for the last few seasons and they never got it together."
When the Mets added Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran before the start of last season, many thought they'd win the division. But despite seeing the Braves use 18 different rookies and have to overcome a number of significant injuries, they still finished seven games behind the perennial division champions.
Now that New York has filled their biggest needs with the acquisitions of closer Billy Wagner, first baseman Carlos Delgado and catcher Paul Lo Duca, they once again are being considered the team most likely to end Atlanta's streak.
"I'm not going to sit here and make predictions, but we feel good about our team, and we should," Glavine said. "We addressed our needs real well over the winter and I think if you look at our team on paper against everybody else in the National League, there's a lot of reasons why we can win. But I think that is what's going to make the National League -- and our division in particular -- so exciting this summer."
Nobody is completely discounting Philadelphia's potentially potent lineup or Washington's strong bullpen, but it does appear Atlanta and New York will be at the top of what could be another exciting division race. Each of the NL East teams finished with at least a .500 record in 2005.
"All these other teams are getting good and we still have the same team," said Jones, temporarily forgetting Edgar Renteria has replaced Rafael Furcal as Atlanta's shortstop. "We're the team to beat."
Having won a division title at the completion of each non-strike season since 1991, the Braves have to annually be considered the team to beat. Having played in Atlanta from 1987-2002, Glavine understands this and at the same time feels fortunate to have been a part of the remarkable historical run.
Critics like to point out that the Braves have won just one world championship title during the run. But during his first three seasons with the Mets, Glavine, who was named the Most Valuable Player of the 1995 World Series, has come to understand just how difficult it is to win a division title.
"I guarantee you there's nobody over there that wants to trade in their 14 division titles, and there's a lot of people over here that would love to have them," Glavine said. "In the baseball world, believe me, it's something that has an awful lot of respect."
Hudson ready for Opening Day: Tim Hudson made three Opening Day starts during his years with the A's. While special, they might not be as memorable as the one he makes for the Braves on Monday.
Growing up about 90 miles south of Atlanta, Hudson gained an early appreciation for the tradition of pitching excellence that Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz helped to create.
"Obviously, it's exciting pitching Opening Day for any club, but I think especially for this one," Hudson said. "Knowing the history of the Atlanta Braves pitching and being on the staff with a future Hall of Famer [Smoltz] doesn't hurt either. It's exciting. But at the same time, I'm just going to go out and be myself and be the kind of pitcher I expect every time out."
Hudson, who owns the second-best career winning percentage among pitchers who have had at least 150 decisions, has never allowed more than two earned runs in any of his previous three Opening Day starts. His finest one came in 2003, when he tossed eight scoreless innings against the Mariners.
Reaching Out again: Hudson is one of 17 Atlanta players who have purchased a total of 140 season tickets that will be donated to local non-profit and community groups through the Braves Reach Out Program.
This will allow 11,620 less privileged individuals to attend a game at Turner Field. Since its inception in 1998, this program has distributed more than 65,000 tickets.
The Braves players participating in the program along with Hudson are Smoltz, Jones, Renteria, Chipper Jones, Mike Hampton, Jeff Francoeur, John Thomson, John Foster, Kelly Johnson, Ryan Langerhans, Pete Orr, Chris Reitsma, Wilson Betemit, Oscar Villarreal, Adam LaRoche and Jorge Sosa.
Groups or non-profit organizations looking to participate should contact Keith Roberts at (404) 614-1512.
Coming up: Hudson will oppose the Dodgers' Derek Lowe in Monday's season opener at 4:10 p.m. ET. Furcal, who left Atlanta through free agency in the offseason, is one of the key members of the Dodgers lineup.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.