ATLANTA (AP) Two years ago, the Atlanta Braves won 96 games and a division championship.
Now, they're barely recognizable.
Be wary when team officials, as they always do, talk hopefully of rebuilding a once-proud franchise.
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How's that working out for Los Angeles Lakers? The Boston Celtics? The San Francisco 49ers?
We could go on and on about teams that went from champions to afterthoughts a lot quicker than it took them to find their way back to the top. Rebuilding a team takes patience, skill and usually a bit of good fortune (See: Stephen Curry).
For some, it can be a decades-long process.
After winning their first World Series title in 1985, the Kansas City Royals needed 30 years to capture another. Heck, it took 29 years just to make another postseason appearance. There were a lot of dark days in between for KC fans.
Ditto for Golden State, which followed its 1975 title with four largely irrelevant decades. Only when the Warriors drafted a skinny guard out of tiny Davidson College did things finally turn around. Curry, to the surprise of just about everyone, turned out to be an MVP.
Now the Braves are on deck, having decided to totally rebuild their roster after a disappointing 2014 season.
In the short term, things have gotten a lot worse.
Ninety-seven losses this past season - the most in a quarter-century - and the very real prospect of even more defeats in 2016.
After trading slick-fielding shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday evening, the Braves have only two players - first baseman Freddie Freeman and pitcher Julio Teheran - left from their last NL East-winning team.
''It would have been easy not to make this trade,'' said new general manager John Coppolello, who is now overseeing the massive overhaul. ''I could've said, `Let me hold on to Simmons. He's a fan favorite who makes great plays.' But I want us to get better. I don't want us to lose 97 games again. I want good, young players to fill the pipeline year in and year out.''
Getting good, young players doesn't always translate into wins.
After two straight dismal seasons, the Lakers are getting a head start on the post-Kobe Bryant era with a roster that includes four rookies and three other players with just one year of experience. The team hopes at least one of them will develop into something resembling the next Kobe.
Until then, Jack Nicholson will have to handle this truth: the Lakers stink.
In Boston, where Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen led the storied Celtics to the last of their 17 NBA championships in 2008, the process of replacing the Big Three has been a tedious one. The team is carrying three rookies and eight players who haven't yet celebrated their 25th birthday. It's going to be a while before they're celebrating another title in Beantown.
The 49ers are headed for another grim era, much like they experienced after a glorious two-decade-long run that included five Super Bowl titles.
Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick spearheaded a brief return to glory, but Harbaugh is now coaching the University of Michigan and Kaepernick is on the bench. San Francisco (3-6) put up a white flag on this season when it traded tight end Vernon Davis to the Broncos for nothing more than low-round draft picks.
Rebuilding, in any sport, is hardly an exact science.
The Houston Astros got it right when they dismantled their team in Braves-like fashion, going from 111 losses two years ago to a wild-card berth this season. But the Chicago Bulls, who broke up their dynasty after Michael Jordan retired in 1998, needed seven years just to get back to the playoffs. They're still seeking another championship.
The Braves believe their reconstruction has left them with an abundance of promising young pitchers who will someday lead them back to the playoff promised land. They're asking for patience, but that's in short supply around Atlanta - especially with the Braves leaving Turner Field after next season for a new stadium in the suburbs, funded with a hefty contribution from taxpayers.
In a strange bit of timing, the Braves' corporate overlord, Liberty Media, announced Thursday that fans will soon be able to buy stock in the team. Not actual ownership, mind you, but what's known as a tracking stock, which goes up or down based on the team's financial performance.
Given all the high salaries the Braves have dumped, that might actually be a good investment.
On the field, though, they're nothing more than a penny stock.
Check back in a few years.
Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to high at pnewberry(at)ap.org or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963