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Braves and Cardinals: Two peas in a second division pod?

There was an interesting story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Sunday about the Atlanta Braves' off season woes.

The Bravos and Cardinals the last couple of years. Once among the elite clubs in the National League, now they're struggling to attract and retain talent. Atlanta has admittedly been a lot more aggressive than St. Louis in trying to improve its team this off season, but the results are the same: players are suddenly refusing to take less for the honor of playing for either club.

Former Atlanta starting pitcher John Smoltz told writer Terrence Moore that the Braves' tightening budget has come back to haunt them. Suddenly the team isn't a playoff lock anymore, so when Atlanta comes calling with lowball offers, players walk away.

“It’s a philosophy for the Braves that worked for 14 seasons in the middle of a run to division titles," Smoltz told Moore. "I just think that, now that it isn’t their automatic right to go to the playoffs anymore, it’s not as attractive to people to always take less. Ask yourself: Why is it that (players) always leave for more money?”

Sound familiar? Smoltz goes on to say that, while the Braves publicly claimed to be going after him, behind the scenes, their interest was less keen. That rings a bell, too.

“I didn’t leave the Braves, by the way," Smoltz said. "You leave when you’re given a choice.” 

The Cardinals made low offers to Brian Fuentes and Aaron Miles only to lose them to other Clubs and they let Braden Looper, Russ Springer and Filipe Lopez walk away as free agents. The Braves lost bids for several starting pitchers, outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. and to re-unite with former shortstop Rafael Furcal.