Haas doesn't mean to be knocking his predecessor, Joe Torre, but he feels one of the main reasons the Braves lost ground last year was they strayed too far from the basics of baseball.
"Eddie," says a member of the Braves staff, "built a reputation on developing young players, from the ground up. He feels that some of our players who have been in the majors for a few years may have forgotten some of their earlier lessons.
"He may be right. We certainly weren't sound in some of the fundamentals last year. We weren't good base runners and we had lapses on defense."
If the Braves are to improve over last season, that improvement will have to come mainly from within since Haas is going into camp with basically the same ball club that won only 80 games for Torre, who will spend the '85 season as a baseball broadcaster.
Atlanta's only off-season acquisitions were former St. Louis relief ace Bruce Sutter and former Yankees catcher Rick Cerone. The Braves lost relief pitcher Donnie Moore as a price for Sutter and pitcher Pete Falcone and pinch-hitter-first baseman Bob Watson retired.
The Braves gambled millions that Sutter will continue to be one of the top relief pitchers in the game. Cerone, who hit only .203 in part-time action last season, will be battling this spring for a job.
Torre is one of many who blame the Braves' decline in '84 on Bob Horner's broken wrist and latest report has it that it will be at least another month before it is known how soon the hard-hitting third baseman will be able to play again.
"Looking back, now, I'm glad neither of those deals went through," said Mullen. "We would have had to give up too much. There's nothing in the wind at the moment because most teams are content to go into spring training with what they've got."
Horner is hopeful he'll be in the lineup when the regular season begins April 9.
"Just a couple of months ago, they were talking about me missing the entire season, not just part of spring training," said Horner. "I would have liked to have reported to West Palm Beach (the Braves' training site) on the 21st (first reporting date), but that would have been a bit unrealistic.
"It usually only takes me two or three weeks of swinging the bat to be ready for the season."
The Braves would have liked to have acquired another starting pitcher, but are optimistic about those they have returning.
"I know there are a lot of buts and ifs, but we feel we have five probable starters who are capable of winning at least 15 games," said a spokesman. "Pascual Perez, Craig McMurtry and Len Barker have won that many before; Rick Mahler won 13 this past season; and Steve Bedrosian (9-6 with only four starts in 40 appearances) could be the best of the lot now that having Sutter clears the way to making him a full-time starter."
Pitching wasn't the Braves biggest problem last year, not even with Perez a late arrival after spending the winter in a Dominican jail on a drug charge.
Centerfielder Dale Murphy, the National League MVP in both '82 and '83, had 100 RBI and 36 home runs, but, with Horner out from May on, the next best was the 61 RBI and 17 homers provided by rightfielder Claudell Washington, who struggled during the second half of the season.
The Braves brought up 23-year-old Brad Komminsk, who had established himself as a high percentage power hitter in the minors, but the broad-shouldered first baseman hit only .203 and, with Watson retired, don't be surprised if 36-year-old Chris Chambliss is back in the starting lineup again.
Haas managed at AAA Richmond in 1981-83 and was recommended to succeed Bobby Cox in '82. But Braves owner Ted Turner overruled his people in choosing Torre, then turned to Haas even though the Braves finished first-second-second in Torre's three seasons.