Thursday, March 26, 2009

ATLANTA BRAVES - ALL TIME HOME GROWN TEAM vs. ALL TIME ACQUIRED TEAM



















To quote Red Leader in his Death Star Trench attack run… alllllllmost there!

Just two to go and I will have completed all 30 teams in my Home Grown versus Acquired opus.

Let’s finish these babies! They take way too long to write anyway.

After the absurdity of writing about the Rays and their whopping one good season it is refreshing to do a post on a team that has a deep rich history.

In fact they are the only big league franchise to win a World Series for three different cities.

That’s right, today we are talking about THE BRAVES… be they from Atlanta, Milwaukee or Boston.

I often wondered if I grew up in Massachusetts in the 1930s or 1940s instead of the 1970s and 1980s if I would have become a Braves fan. I do know that one member of my family had strong feelings for someone on this list.

But you have to read on to see who that was.

The team brought baseball glory to Milwaukee and reached a height not matched since 1957.

And the team in Atlanta put together a mindboggling playoff run in the free agency era that deserves our attention, even if they couldn’t sell out their playoff games.

We’re going to list some of the great pitchers of all time, players who participated in great post season comebacks and the single most unlikely World Series winner ever.

And oh yeah… a certain player who very well might be the greatest offensive force in the history of baseball and who is just now getting his due.

As always the rules for the rosters can be found here.

So bust out the tomahawks and turn your TV to TBS… it’s time for a Braves list.


ALL TIME HOME GROWN BRAVES TEAM


STARTING CATCHER
JAVIER LOPEZ

A dear friend of mine whose name will remain a secret once worked as a reporter for a Richmond, Virginia newspaper. She covered the Richmond Braves and got to know several of the players before they joined Atlanta.

One of them was a little flirty with her and invited her to his church. She turned him down... and kicked herself the rest of her life.

The tall and handsome guy was Javier Lopez. He would be named to three All Star teams, become a 30 home run hitter, would regularly have a slugging percentage in the .500s and be an anchor on the Braves teams in the 1990s.

He hit 10 post season homers and was the 1996 NLCS MVP when he homered twice, batted .542 and had an OPS of 1.607.

Oh yeah, he also made $61 million in his career. I remind my friend of that all the time. 
She should have gone to church with him!



STARTING FIRST BASEMAN
RYAN KLESKO

Klesko split his time between left field and first base over 8 different seasons in Atlanta and became one of the teams most consistent power sources.

In 1995 he hit 23 homers in only 107 games, batting .310 with an OPS of 1.004. 

Then he exploded in the World Series. He homered in three straight games including a go ahead shot in Game 4.

For a while he hosted his own show on the Outdoor Channel. I believe he is the only former Brave to claim that.



STARTING SECOND BASEMAN
MARK LEMKE

There is absolutely nothing eye popping about any of Mark Lemke's regular season stats. 

He has a .246 hitter with zero pop and a startlingly low stolen base total.

He never made an All Star team nor contended for the league lead in any significant statistical category.

And yet here he is starting. He came up big in the post season. 
He drove in the only run in the Braves critical 1-0 Game 2 win in the 1991 NLCS.

Then he emerged as an unlikely hero of the 1991 World Series.

In Game 3, Lemke got a 2 out RBI single in the bottom of the 12 to win the game.
In Game 4, he got three hits including a 1 out triple in the  bottom of the 9th. He would score the winning run on Jerry Willard's shallow sacrifice fly.
In Game 5, Lemke got a pair of triples and drove in three in the Braves rout.
In Game 6, he got two more hits and scored.
He got another hit in Game 7 and pulled an unassisted double play in the 8th.

In all Lemke batted .417 with an OPS of 1.170 in the Series, cementing his role as a playoff starter for seven straight seasons.



STARTING SHORTSTOP
RABBIT MARANVILLE

Before anyone suggests I put another shortstop here, let me say "Save your breath. I am not taking Rabbit Maranville out of the starting line up!"

Why?

A few reasons:

The notorious practical joker was a Hall of Famer and one of the stars of the Miracle 1914 Braves. That team that was 10 games under .500 and 11 1/2 games out of first in July and wound up winning the pennant by 10 1/2 games and swept the defending World Champion Athletics in the World Series.

Maranville batted .308 in the series, driving home 2 runs in Game 1 and finished 2nd in the MVP vote that year.

Still not convinced?
Well the Springfield, MA native was the favorite player of my grandmother, Irene Cartwright Shanahan Sullivan. 

So if you think I am going to exclude my grandmother's favorite player because someone else had a higher OPS or a better VORP, then you are NUTS!


STARTING THIRD BASEMAN
CHIPPER JONES

I've written about the draft before, but this story is worth repeating.

The Braves were the laughing stock of baseball. They stunk and they stunk publicly! Their lousy games and empty stadium were staples on basic cable across the country. Meanwhile the Oakland A's were creating a dynasty built on smart fundamental play, a deep pitching staff and power that didn't seem natural (and it turned out it wasn't.)

The Braves had the top pick in the 1990 draft and desperately needed... anything!
The consensus best player was Todd Van Poppel, a Texas high school phenom  who was being compared to Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens. But he also committed to the University of Texas, so drafting him was risky.

The Braves passed, instead taking Larry Wayne "Chipper" Jones, a high school player from Florida who NOBODY considered to be the best player in the draft.

Other players were picked as teams that needed an ace were afraid to waste their pick on Van Poppel. Finally the A's, who had the 14th pick from Milwaukee who signed Dave Parker, decided to take a chance. They drafted Van Poppel and offered him a big league contract with big league money. He jumped at the chance.

Suddenly the A's had the best pitcher available and he was going to learn from Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Dennis Eckersley, Mike Moore and pitching coach Dave Duncan. It wasn't fair! And the consensus was the Braves got screwed by drafting little Chipper Jones.

19 years later, Chipper Jones is still on the Braves. He has been an MVP, an All Star, he would have been the MVP of two Division Series if they gave out that award like I do, batted .438 with an 1.151 OPS of in the 1995 NLCS, won a World Series ring, led the NL in OPS for 2007 and won the 2008 batting title and is going to go to the Hall of Fame.

Van Poppel finished his career with a 5.58 ERA, never won more than 7 games in a season and was ultimately cut from the A's in 1996.

It's a good thing for the Braves they got ripped off.


STARTING LEFT FIELDER
RON GANT

There was a period when hitting 30 homers and stealing 30 bases in a season was a rare feat.

Only Ken Williams of the 1922 Browns pulled the feat off before integration. 

But it was becoming more common in the 1980s. When Braves infielder turned outfielder Ronnie Gant did it for a miserable 1990 team, I remember reading some sports writers snicker. "You know 30/30 has lost its luster when someone like Ron Gant could do it."

Well guess what? The next year, he did it again. And this time he did it for a pennant winning Braves team. 

I guess it got some of its luster back!

He had a solid career although his time with the Braves ended when he broke his leg before the 1994 season. Some Braves fans are still bitter that he was pulled off the bag in Game 2 of the 1991 World Series by Kent Hrbek.


STARTING CENTER FIELDER
DALE MURPHY

Dale Murphy's bad timing in terms of post season glory rivals Don Mattingly's.

Murph was one of the class acts in the game, being named one of S.I.'s Sportmen of the Year in 1987 when they honored "Athletes Who Care."

And for a while he gave Braves fans the only reason to care about going to the game. A back to back MVP (1982 and 1983) he powered the Braves to their unlikely Division Title in 1982 and continued putting up All Star numbers when the team's fortune (and attendance) plummeted. 

And anyone flipping over to TBS to catch a Braves game could help but feel badly for Murphy as he was worth 30 homers a year and the team lost 90 each year.

Finally, out of borderline mercy, the Braves traded Murphy to the Phillies in 1990.
Of course THE VERY NEXT YEAR the Braves began their mindboggling run of 14 straight post season appearances.

Couldn't they have traded to bring him BACK for that stretch run?


STARTING RIGHT FIELDER
HANK AARON

Any conversation of "Greatest Hitter of All Time" that doesn't include Hank Aaron in the discussion isn't valid in my book. 

It's amazing that he hit 755 homers, which averages out at 32 homers a year... in a pitchers era... with bigger ballparks.

And he never hit 50 in a season. Which means he never had one monster year to make up for a subpar year. He consistently hit 30 year in and year out.

I've mentioned this before but it is worth bringing up again.

Let's take Hank's 755 home runs, his great legacy... and wipe them all out.

All 755 of them were caught at the warning track. He finishes with zero homers.

Guess what?
He would still have 3,016 hits! Even without the homers, he's a Hall of Famer.

And a generous brother too. He and his brother Tommie hold the record of most home runs by a brother combination with 768. (Tommie chipped in 13 and is in the record books.)




TOP PINCH HITTER OFF OF THE BENCH
EDDIE MATHEWS

Eddie played for the Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, and along the way helped Hank Aaron pass Ruth in another record: Most home runs by teammates.

Unlike Tommie Aaron, Eddie contributed a little bit more. As teammates Mathews hit 421 and Aaron hit 442.

He hit a walk off 10th inning homer to win Game 4 of the 1957 World Series and then recorded the final put out in Game 7.

Mathews is also the answer to two great trivia questions:

- Who was the first person to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated?
- Who was Hank Aaron's manager when he hit home run #715?


THE STARTING ROTATION

WARREN SPAHN

Usually lifetime pitching records are unattainable and incomprehensible. Pitchers threw 40 starts and never came out. Cy Young won 511 games. Jack Chesbro won 41 games in one season. 

But the most wins by a left handed pitcher is not some obscure record held by a Detroit Wolverine from the 1880s. 

Warren Spahn, the crafty lefty and half of the rallying cry "Spahn and Sain then pray for rain", is the all time wins champion for left handers. And he did the bulk of his winning his 363 games in the 1940s and the 1950s... in a very lively era in terms of offense. 

He won 20 games 13 times.
13 TIMES!

And he did so missing several seasons to his service in World War II (where he won the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star!)

Not many people have the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, a Cy Young Award, a World Series ring and a plaque in the Hall of Fame.

Folks, THAT is a trophy case!
Glavine could have been a hockey player.

In fact he played minor league hockey in the Los Angeles Kings organization. The Massachusetts native loves hockey and would often train with the Bruins in the off season.

But how glad are the Braves that he decided to give baseball another shot.

He won 20 games for the Braves five different times. He won a pair of Cy Youngs and had four other top three finishes. 

And threw 8 innings of 1 hit ball in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series to clinch the first and so far only World Championship in Georgia. The future Hall of Famer was named World Series MVP.

I wonder if he ever thinks "Man, I'd rather hold up the Stanley Cup."

Here are two guys at an event in New York in the spring of 2002. I'm on the left.

The fellow on the right is Phil Niekro.

Neither of us really look like athletes. Actually I was a younger and thinner man then... maybe I could have passed as one. (Humor me.)

Niekro looked like an anthropology professor. He was a soft spoken gentleman and very friendly.

He's also a Hall of Fame pitcher. Knucksie had five top 10 finishes for the Cy Young (including being the runner up in 1969 when he won 23 games.)

He also piled up innings like crazy, throwing the fourth most in history. 
Sure he let up a lot of runs and lost a lot. He went 21-20 in 1979. But he baffled hitters (leading the league in strikeouts in 1977) and continued being a double digit winner into his late 40s.

Hey, I'm only 36! Maybe I should learn the knuckler!

Remember how I wrote in the Warren Spahn bio that pitchers from the turn of the century had giant numbers that are hard to relate to.

Well, case in point... Hall of Famer Vic Willis.

He broke in with the team in 1898 when they were called The Boston Beaneaters... a name no doubt Mel Brooks would love.

They won the NL pennant by 6 games thanks in part to the 22 year old Willis' 25 wins. 

Of his 471 starts, 388 were complete games. He completed 45 in 1902... and STILL made 5 relief appearances.

I guess those were his throw days.
Like I said... it was a different time.



KID NICHOLS

Wow. Assuming Tommy Glavine makes it into the Hall of Fame... then this is an All Hall of Famer rotation!

For four seasons in a row (1891-1894) he won 30 games each year. He would do it seven times over eight seasons...

Evidently he tried to become a motion picture distributor along with fellow future Hall of Famer Joe Tinker.

As someone who has directed an indie feature, let me tell you... it's easier to win 30 games seven out of eight years than it is to get a wide distribution.


THE BULLPEN

MARK WOHLERS

The Atlanta Braves won 14 Division Titles and 5 National League pennants between 1991 and 2005. They ONLY won one World Series.

(I'm sure Cubs, Giants and Indians fans would love to win ONLY one.)

In the years they didn't win, more often than not there was a breakdown in the bullpen at a crucial time.

There's no need to review all of them. I did it here.

The one year they did win, they had stability in the closer role.
Mark Wohlers, who was a set up man with the 1991 and 1992 NL Champs and the 1993 NL West Champs, sat in the bullpen as Alejandro Pena, Jeff Reardon and Greg McMichael lost big playoff games. (To be fair, Wohlers lost Game 5 of the 1993 NLCS giving up a Lenny Dykstra homer.)

Wohlers took over the closers role in 1995... and a funny thing happened: They didn't blow late leads.

OK, he wasn't perfect, but he closed out the Division Series against the Rockies, got a win and a save in the NLCS against the Reds and came into Game 6 of the World Series, Braves up 1-0 and got the Indians out 1-2-3 and gave the Braves the highlight they had been waiting for... a World Championship.

The Braves had their stable bullpen. That is until Wohlers let up the Jim Leyritz homer the very next year.

Don't always accept a dare.

Cecil Upshaw is a case in point.

He was one of the best relievers in the game, saving 27 for the 1969 Division Champion Braves and pitching in the 1969 NLCS.

Then one day before the 1970 season, he was walking down the street with a friend who bet he couldn't jump up and reach an awning they were passing.

He jumped, hit the awning, got his ring finger caught in the awning and tore ligaments. He missed the entire 1970 season and while he returned, he no longer was an elite reliever.

Just think how different his life could have been if he said "Nahhh" and walked on.

In 1957, McMahon was a 27 year old rookie who finally got a break in the big leagues. He was thrown into the World Series against the defending World Champion Yankees and threw 5 shutout innings in the 7 game victory.

The next year, the late bloomer made the All Star team as a reliever, going 7-2 with 8 saves, appearing in yet another World Series.

McMahon may have arrived in the big leagues late in his career, but stuck around. He pitched over 18 seasons until he was 44 years old, picking up two World Series rings along the way.

Some people just bloom later.
The Braves of the 1990s were so insanely deep with pitching that a former #1 draft pick like Kent Mercker could be used as a left handed set up man and spot starter.

With another team, he'd be a mainstay in the rotation. And two specific times when the Braves gave him a start, it looked like they might have ANOTHER ace!

He made one of his four 1991 starts on September 11th. (Remember when that was just another date?)

The Braves had only a 1/2 game lead over Los Angeles and Mercker got the start against a talented Padres team. He held them hitless over six innings... and I guess Bobby Cox had seen enough. Mark Wohlers and Alejandro Pena finished the 1-0 and held the Padres hitless... making it a combined no hitter.

If Mercker was frustrated that he didn't get a chance to complete the game of his life, he got a second chance.

On April 8th, 1994, his first start of the season, Mercker shut down the Dodgers... and this time Cox let him finish it out. He had a no hitter and the Braves gave him more run support for a 6-0 win.

I wonder if he pled to Cox in the dugout. "Don't you DARE get Wohlers up THIS time!!!"


RICK CAMP

As someone who lived in New York for 15 years, out of a good conscience I could NOT include John Rocker. And with as badly as he pitched after his S.I. interview, I'm not sure I am going to get a lot of protests from Braves fans.

Besides Rick Camp should be on here for two reasons.

First of all he was a good reliever, saving 22 games (4th in the league) in 1980 and getting some points in the MVP vote in 1981.

Secondly, he had one of the most absurd highlights in the history of baseball. On July 4, 1985 the Braves and Mets were playing a wild back and forth game. The Braves scored 4 in the 8th to take the lead... the Mets scored 1 in the 9th to tie... the Mets take the lead in the 13th on a 2 out homer... the Braves tie it on a 2 out homer... onto the 14th.

All the while Fulton County Stadium was supposed to have a big fireworks show when the game ends... and it didn't look like it ever would.

Onto the 18th... the Mets take the lead and the Braves were out of pinch hitters. So with two outs, nobody on, down by one, reliever Rick Camp had to hit for himself... and hit a game tying bottom of the 18th home run.

Braves announcer John Sterling went insane. Mets left fielder threw his glove down in disgust. Still no fireworks.

In the 19th, the Mets rallied again. But with two outs in the bottom of the 19th, Rick Camp came to the plate as the tying run again. Could he do it again?

Nope. He struck out and the game, whose starting pitch was delayed by rain, was over at 4AM.

They had the fireworks show.


THE BENCH

 
RESERVE INFIELDER
BOB HORNER

My list fascination in terms of baseball started when I began memorizing backs of baseball cards. Early on I realized that players first go to the minor leagues and their minor league stats are included on the backs of the cards.

When they play 4 or more seasons in the bigs, they stop listing the minor league stats.

Then I remember in 1979 getting the pictured card in a pack. It was of Bob Horner. I flipped the card over and it just listed one team.

1978 - Braves. And then his stats.

I was confused. Where was his minor league stats? I asked my dad "Why didn't they list his minor league teams?" My dad told me "He never played in the minors. He went right from college to the major leagues."

The back of his card fascinated me. It was something I couldn't comprehend. Was he THAT good? His stats were certainly good in 1978 and he won the Rookie of the Year. And over the years he was a consistent and terrifying slugger.

But no minor league games?

That, plus his bad ass swagger on the front of this card, made me realize "this Horner guy must be pretty good."


RESERVE INFIELDER
JOHNNY LOGAN

Logan was a four time All Star Shortstop and one of the anchors of the 1957 World Champion and 1958 National League Champion Braves.

In Game 2 of the 1957 World Series, he homered off of Bobby Shantz to help the Braves to their first win of the series.

NOT the singer of What's Another Year. I just wanted to make that clear!



RESERVE OUTFIELDER
DAVID JUSTICE

Could you blame David Justice for calling out Atlanta fans before Game 6 of the 1995 World Series?

He was a Brave in 1990 when he won the Rookie of the Year and they drew about a dozen fans a game. 

Then he became he Braves MVP candidate and playoff slugger when the Chop started and Fulton County Stadium rocked. 

Then in 1995, there was some apathy in Atlanta. It wasn't as rocking. And he went to Cleveland and saw that city going nuts they way Braves fans had 4 seasons before. So he called out the fans... telling them to get loud.

And then he gave them a reason to get loud. His 6th inning homer was the only run scored in Game 6 and the Braves were World Champs. 

And yes he slept with Halle Berry.



RESERVE OUTFIELDER
ANDRUW JONES

First of all, a quick note to the Jones family.
It's A-N-D-R-E-W. 

Secondly, I will never forget Game 1 of the 1996 World Series... some 19 year old kid from Curacao, filling in for an injured David Justice, homered in his first two at bats.

Everyone was buzzing that a new star was making his mark.

And along the way he made five All Star teams, was the runner up in the 2005 MVP vote and won 10 Gold Gloves.

Just imagine how great he could have been if his head was on tight.
Dodger fans love him.


RESERVE CATCHER
DEL CRANDALL

All due respect to Joe Torre who was a borderline Hall of Famer in a Braves uniform, and all due respect to Brian McCann, who has developed into a steady All Star and might appear on this list in a few years… this spot belongs to Crandall.

He was an 8 time All Star, 4 time Gold Glove winner and handled the pitching staff beautifully during the hey day in Milwaukee.

In Game 7 of the 1957 World Series, Crandall hit an 8th inning homer off of Tommy Byrne to put the game away and give the Braves the title.

And yes, there is a band named after him.


25TH MAN
STEVE AVERY

All due respect to Wally Berger… but I needed to include Avery on this list. Lest we forget the Braves Big Three were originally Glavine - Smoltz and Avery.

And for a while, the third pick in the 1988 draft looked like he was going to be the ace of the staff. He went 18-8 in 1991, throwing 210 1/3 innings to a 3.38 ERA.

But it was in the 1991 NLCS that he cemented his place in Braves lore. Pitching Game 2, down 1-0 in the series to a deep Pirates team, Avery and Zane Smith locked horns in a tense pitchers duel. Avery would win, throwing 8 1/3 shutout innings as the Braves won 1-0.

Then with the season on the brink, Avery took the hill in Game 6 and again got locked into a scoreless duel. He threw 8 innings of three hit shutout ball and the Braves scored 1 in the 9th to win. They won the series the next day and Avery was named MVP and the Braves officially went from last place to the World Series.

He would have other highlights including winning Game 4 of the 1995 World Series and closing out Game 7 of the 1996 NLCS... but he should get standing ovations for all time in Atlanta for pitching them into the World Series.




An all Hall of Fame rotation? Eddie Mathews and David Justice off of the bench?
A line up with Hank in the middle?

That is some incredible talent farmed through the Braves organization. 

Could the Acquired Team even put up a fight?
Well let's just say the acquired team have their share of Cy Youngs, Hall of Famers, Sports Illustrated cover boys... and a few unlikely names that won a pennant or two for the Braves.

Read on!




ALL TIME ACQUIRED BRAVES TEAM


STARTING CATCHER
HANK GOWDY

Gowdy was a backup catcher for the Giants and then the Braves when the 1914 season was grinding along. Despite a recent six game winning streak, the Braves began play on July 25th 5 games under .500 and 12 games back of the Giants.

Then Gowdy and the Braves started winning... a lot. They went on a 9 game winning streak... which after a loss gave way to an 8 game winning streak.

They won 66 of their final 85 games and ran away with the pennant and faced the mighty A's in the World Series. That's when Gowdy's heroics emerged.

In Game 1, Gowdy went 3 for 3 with a double and a triple off of future Hall of Famer Chief Bender. 

In Game 2, his heroics were behind the plate as he called a 1-0 two hit shutout as Seattle Bill James out pitched future Hall of Famer Eddie Plank.

Game 3 was one of the wildest and most dramatic games in World Series history. Gowdy went 3 for 4, including a 10th inning home run that sparked a game tying rally and then hit a ground rule double to lead off the 12 inning. His pinch runner would score the game winning run.

In the end, Gowdy would bat .545 with an OPS of 1.961 as the Braves pulled off the upset.

He was a World Series hero, and three years later would become a different kind of hero as he became the first big leaguer to enlist in World War I.

Anyone who wants to suggest a different catcher for this position, save your time. Gowdy is an all time Braves hero.



STARTING FIRST BASEMAN
FRED McGRIFF

There is a misconception that the San Francisco Giants collapsed in 1993. 

They had a 10 game lead over the Braves, but when Atlanta traded for (or stole) Fred McGriff, conventional wisdom says the Braves went on a role and the Giants choked.

That's actually not what happened at all. Yes it is true that the Braves were 9 games behind the Giants when McGriff arrived on July 20th and they finished 1 game ahead. But the Giants didn't collapse. They Giants actually had a winning record after McGriff's arrival. They went 40-27 after the Braves' trade. 13 games over .500 is not a collapse by any definition. Seriously, if your team has a 9 game lead and I told you "they are going to play .597 ball the rest of the way" you'd take your chances.

It's just the Braves played .746 ball. They went 50-17 after McGriff arrived. They won on a McGriff homer his first game. And the Braves simply wouldn't lose a game.

McGriff and the Braves would win the Division on the last day and McGriff would continue to be a steady source of power in the Braves line up, including hitting a homer in his first World Series at bat.

The real question regarding the 1993 NL West race is this: Why was Atlanta, an East Coast city, in the Western Division to begin with????


STARTING SECOND BASEMAN
RED SCHOENDIENST

S-C-H-O-E-N-D-I-E-N-S-T.

Every time I have typed his name I've had to check each letter.

And I've heard it pronounced 58 different ways. (I THINK it is Shine-Deest.)

The future Hall of Famer came over to the Braves from the Giants midway through the 1957 season. He got two hits and scored in his first game with the Braves... and went on to finish 3rd in the MVP vote. He helped the Braves win back to back pennants and hit .300 in the 1958 World Series loss to the Yankees.

I just wish that when the Schoendienst family was passing through Ellis Island, they found an easier spelling. 

They were probably checking in next to the Mientkiewicz family.


STARTING SHORTSTOP
RAFAEL BELLIARD

Belliard is the most valuable .221 hitter you will ever see. He is a 5'6" and generously listed at 150 pounds shortstop who could have easily been mistaken for a bat boy.

He hit 2 homers... total.. over 17 seasons and 2,301 at bats. Reached double digits in stolen bases once and never in his 8 seasons in Atlanta.

And yet he was invaluable. He had outstanding range at shortstop and gave the young Braves staff the confidence to throw strikes, knowing a grounder to short wasn't going into the outfield. He provided a defensive compliment to Jeff Blauster's big bat. And in Game 6 of the 1995, he made a remarkable running catch to record the first out of the 9th inning.

Now for a piece of trivia... Who were the two pitchers that surrendered homers to Belliard?

Padres pitcher Eric Show gave up a three run homer to Belliard on May 5, 1987.
10 years later, on September 26th, 1997, he hit a game tying home run off of Mets pitcher Brian Bohanon.



STARTING THIRD BASEMAN
TERRY PENDLETON

There are some people who think the Most Valuable Player needs to have some sort of standard. Perhaps a calculation of the best statistics, or perhaps the player with the prettiest numbers on the first place team.

I hope that never happens because I like the ambiguity of the MVP.

A case in point is Terry Pendleton.

Anyone looking casually at the stats would see that Barry Bonds had superior numbers, and the Pirates won the Division. 

Players like Will Clark, Bobby Bonilla and Howard Johnson also had pretty numbers. Yes Pendleton won the batting title, but he would not be the MVP with a calculator in hand.

And yet he was. He came over from St. Louis and helped change the attitude and culture in the locker room. He led behind the scenes and on the field. He brought his scrappy, switch hitting, playing-over-your-head style to a team that jumped from 97 losses to 94 wins. 

And he did all he could in the 1991 World Series, batting .367 with 2 homers and an OPS of 1.091. His double into the gap would have given the Braves the lead in Game 7... if only Lonnie Smith hadn't been decoyed.

No player was more VALUABLE in the National League that year than Pendleton. (And he finished 2nd in the voting the next year too.)



STARTING LEFT FIELDER
JOE ADCOCK

Yeah I know he was primarily a first baseman… but the acquired first basemen for the Braves have been kind of sort of awesome. And Adcock played 24 games in left for the 1958 National League Champion Milwaukee Braves… so I am sneaking him in here!

He wasn't as famous as some of his slugging teammates like Aaron and Mathews or his contemporaries like Mays and Robinson. But Adcock had terrific power. He hit 4 home runs in one game against the Dodgers in July 1954.

His power went away in the 1957 World Series, but he drove in the first run of game 2, and he drove in the only run in the Braves 1-0 victory in game 5.

Plus he broke up Harvey Haddix's no hitter with a home run. Actually it was ruled as a single as Adcock passed one of the runners. You can't blame him... it was a confusing night



STARTING CENTER FIELDER
BILLY HAMILTON

Hall of Famer Billy Hamilton's name appears all over the Braves record book. He has the highest lifetime average and the best on base percentage lifetime.

"Sliding Billy" came over from Philadelphia and joined the Beaneaters in 1896. He hit .365 his first season, led the league in on base percentage and notched a .940 OPS. His .933 OPS led the NL in 1898 and the Beaneaters won their second of back to back pennants.

But it was his stolen bases that made him king. Hamilton was the All Time stolen base king until Lou Brock broke his record and Rickey Henderson broke Brocks title.

Rickey did not include Hamilton's name in his "I'm the greatest of all time" speech.



STARTING RIGHT FIELDER
TOMMY HOLMES

I once heard that Mickey Mantle thought that Bull Durham was a sad movie because he knew of a lot of guys like Crash Davis who were talented but whose path to the big leagues were blocked by Mantle, Berra, DiMaggio etc.

A case in point was Tommy Holmes. The Brooklyn native was a Yankees farm hand, but couldn't crack the big league squad that had an outfield of Joe DiMaggio, Tommy Henrich and Charlie Keller. Two days after Pearl Harbor was bombed, Holmes was dealt to the Braves. Holmes became a star during the war years, hitting over .300 five straight seasons and finishing second in the MVP vote in 1945 when he had the league's highest OPS and won the home run title. He continued putting up big numbers after the war and helped the Braves win the 1948 pennant.

He wouldn't have that chance with the Yankees... so Mickey was right. And he is also right that Bull Durham had some sad elements. But it's still a funny movie.


TOP PINCH HITTER OFF OF THE BENCH
ANDRES GALARRAGA

Between November 18th and 20th, the Atlanta Braves made a complete upheaval at the first base position.

They sold Fred McGriff's contract to the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays and they could have easily stuck Ryan Klesko at first and acquire a new outfielder.

Instead they took a chance on the Big Cat, Galarraga, who had revived his career in Colorado, but nobody knew how much of that was just hitting in the thin air.

It turns out the Cat was indeed back. He launched 44 homers, drove in 121, batted .305 and had an OPS of .991, all the while becoming a leader in the clubhouse.

But a form of lymphatic cancer made him miss the entire 1999 season and his career was in question. It shouldn't have been. He returned to the Braves and on opening day 2000, hit the game winning homer on his way to another productive season.

It wasn't the thin air in Denver that made him tough. The Big Cat beat the Big C!


THE STARTING ROTATION


GREG MADDUX

I wrote in my Cubs post that I thought Greg Maddux was the most reliable pitcher I had ever seen. I stand by that claim.

But in my Diamondbacks post, I said Randy Johnson was the best free agent signing of all time.

That could be true... but man Maddux comes close, doesn't he? He came over from the Cubs as the 1992 Cy Young winner and won the Cy Young in his first three seasons and should have won the MVP in 1995.

He won 194 games as a Brave, had four more top 5 Cy Young finishes, averaging 17 wins a year over 11 seasons (including 2 strike shortened ones) and averaging 229 2/3 innings with a 2.63 ERA.

Oh yeah, they never missed a post season when he was there.

I'd say that was a good signing.
There was something so wonderful about the old phrase "Spahn and Sain then pray for rain."

It played to Boston fan's passion for their teams and a sort of fatalistic attitude. It would take petitioning the Lord with prayer to win a pennant.

Sain won twenty games in four of his five full seasons in Boston and in Game 1 of the 1948 World Series threw a complete game shutout as the Braves beat Bob Feller and the Indians 1-0.

He pitched another complete game beauty in Game 4 but the Braves lost 2-1. He never got a chance to pitch Game 7 as Bill Voiselle lost Game 6 and the World Series. I guess not enough Bostonians prayed for rain.


LEW BURDETTE

Sometimes baseball can provide a wonderful stage for revenge. Lew Burdette was a Yankees farm hand in the 1950s, but he was dealt in 1951 to the Braves for Johnny Sain (who became an effective reliever and spot starter for three Yankees World Series winners.)

Burdette first emerged as a reliever... then a spot starter... and then a 19 game winner by the mid 1950s.

With the Braves now in Milwaukee, they won the pennant in 1957 and faced his old team in the 1957 World Series.

Down 1-0, Burdette pitched a complete game in a tense, back and forth 4-2 Game 2 victory.

Burdette matched up with Whitey Ford in Game 5 with Burdette winning 1-0.

And on three days rest, manager Fred Haney gave the ball to Burdette for Game 7. He threw another complete game shutout to finish the series with a 3-0 record and a 0.67 ERA over 27 innings. Sweet revenge when he got Moose Skowron out to clinch the World Series in Yankee Stadium.

But revenge can be a two edged sword. The very next year, the Yankees beat Burdette in Game 7 of the 1958 World Series in Milwaukee.

Hank Gowdy was undoubtedly the hero of the 1914 World Series... but Dick Rudolph shone as well. The 26 game winner shut down the heavily favored A's with a complete game victory in Game 1

And then back in Boston for Game 4, Rudolph threw another complete game gem. He let up 1 run and walked only 1 to finish with a 2-0 record.

In the 9th inning he got Stuffy McInnis to ground out to third and Rudolph became the first Braves pitcher to ever clinch a World Series.
Yes I know he had his bad moments in the World Series for the Braves... especially coughing up Kirby Puckett's game winning homer in 1991 and Dave Winfield's World Series winner in 1992.

But Leibrandt is on this list for two reasons:

First of all he was an effective left handed starter who won 15 games for the 1991 and 1992 NL Champs.

But more importantly, he was a steady veteran prescience on the club full of young pitching stars. The Braves in 1991 had John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Steve Avery, Kent Mercker, Mike Stanton, Mark Wohlers, Pete Smith, Armando Reynoso and Marvin Freeman... and all of those young kids had a confident veteran with a World Series ring to look up to.

If his expertise rubbed off on those kids, and a lot of those names became steady contributors over the years, then his inclusion is a no brainer for me!

Besides, I obviously couldn't put him in the bullpen!!!!


THE BULLPEN


JOHN SMOLTZ

What the hell am I putting possibly the best big game pitcher in the history of the Braves in the Bullpen?

Well he IS the Braves all time leader in saves.
And I wonder what could have been different in Braves history had he been the bullpen closer all during the Bobby Cox run.

I'm not saying the Braves all time leader in strikeouts and #5 all time in wins and a 15-4 post season record including twice throwing a complete game to clinch a playoff series and winning the 1992 NLCS MVP would be easily replaceable.

I'm just saying with so many post season flops from the bullpen, maybe they needed a steady anchor.

I'm just saying.


GENE GARBER

At one point Gene Garber had career stats that would seem to put him among the elite relievers.

When he retired, he had the fifth highest number of appearances in history with 931. 

He trailed only Hoyt Wilhelm, Kent Tekulve, Londy McDaniel and Rollie Fingers.

He ranks 32nd all time in saves... and 24 of the ones ahead of him piled up the bulk of their saves after Garber retired. He'll never be remembered as a great closer, but for a while at least the man who stopped Pete Rose's 44 game hitting streak looked the part.

Yes I know he let up Gene Larkin's single to end the 1991 World Series.

But Pena was a huge part of what got the Braves to Game 7 of the World Series.

When Braves closer Juan Berenguer went down for good in mid August in 1991, the Braves traded with the Mets for Pena. He appeared in 15 regular season games for the Braves and saved 11 of them and won 2 more. 

And then in the NLCS, he saved 3 of the 4 Braves victories, including striking out Andy Van Slyke with the tying run at third to end Game 6.

So it didn't end well... he got them that far!
(The Braves reacquired Pena for the 1995 run. He won 2 games in the Division Series and was part of the World Champion team.)
In mid July of 1993, the Braves were 9 game behind the San Francisco Giants. Bobby Cox made a switch, removing veteran Mike Stanton from the closer role and giving it to rookie Greg McMichael.

He recorded his first save on July 28. He would save 19 games over the last 2 months of the season.

The Braves would go 43-16 the rest of the way and sneak past the Giants into the playoffs.

In 1995 the closers job went to Mark Wohlers, but McMichael, a former Indians prospect, would remain a valuable set up man and would save Game 1 of the 1995 NLCS in Cincinnati.

Fred McGriff gets all of the credit for the Braves surge in 1993. But maybe McMichael had a little something to do with it too.
Another pitcher in the Braves caravan on closers, Ligtenberg became a 30 save man for the 1998 Braves. 

But injuries cost him the entire 1999 season and he struggled to regain his effectiveness when he came back.

John Rocker took over for Ligtenberg during his injury. Ligtenberg was the opposite of the boneheaded Rocker.

While Rocker was hunting and being afraid of minorities, Ligtenberg earned a chemical engineering degree from the University of Minnesota.

One player destroyed chemistry, the other has a degree in it.


THE BENCH


RESERVE INFIELDER
ROGERS HORNSBY

Yup. THAT Rogers Hornsby.

And as I said in my Giants post, he's not just here because he's a Hall of Famer.

The great hitter got passed from the Cardinals to the Giants to the Braves to the Cubs... and hit wherever he played.

He was in Boston for one season (1928) and posted the highest single season average for any Braves player in the 20th century (.387) and led the NL.

He also had the highest on base percentage, the highest slugging percentage, the best OPS and led the league in walks.

He finished 13th in the MVP vote.
Really? There were 12 better seasons than that?


RESERVE INFIELDER
BOB ELLIOTT

"Mr. Team" came over from the Pirates before the 1947 season. He won the NL MVP his first season with the Braves.

In 1948, he came up big in the World Series. He batted .333 with an OPS of 1.010. And with the Braves on the verge of elimination in game 5, he hit a first inning three run homer and added a solo shot in the third as the Braves lived to see another day.

Not to be confused with the father of Chris Elliott and half of the brilliant comic duo Bob and Ray.


RESERVE OUTFIELDER
HUGH DUFFY

At 5'7" and 160 pounds, Hugh Duffy wasn't exactly imposing. But the Rhode Island native put together enough eye popping stats with the Beaneaters to be one of the game's elites.

He won a pair of home run titles and in 1894 he won the NL Triple Crown. His average was .440. 

I don't care if you are a Sabermetrics guy who doesn't care about batting average. .440 is .440!!!

Besides his OPS was 1.196 and also led the league.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame and helped the Beaneaters win the 1892 championship.

You'd think a Boston champ named Duffy would be more revered in Massachusetts.



RESERVE OUTFIELDER
MARQUIS GRISSOM

When the Expos broke up their wonderful 1994 team, the Braves swooped in and got Atlanta native Marquis Grissom for Roberto Kelly, Tony Tarasco and Esteban Yan.

The trade worked out.

Grissom fit in perfectly into the Braves clubhouse and won the Gold Glove, anchoring the outfield defense.

In his first taste of post season experience, Grisson lit up the Rockies pitching staff in the 1995 Division Series. He homered three times, batted .524 and an OPS of 1.572. He went 5 for 5 in the finale, scoring 2 runs.

And then in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series, he caught Carlos Baerga's fly ball to clinch the title.

It was good for Grissom, evidently one of the game's really good guys, to come home again.


RESERVE CATCHER
FRANCISCO CABRERA

Has there ever been a third string catcher that single handedly derailed a proud franchise quite like Francisco Cabrera?

And I feel a little responsible. When I was watching the 1992 NLCS in my dorm room in New York, I kept making fun of Francisco Cabrera. He was the single most obscure person on the Braves bench. He was once a Blue Jays prospect who got into a few games in the 1991 World Series... but only had 10 at bats in 1992 and was on the roster because Greg Olson was hurt.

And all during that series I would say to my buddy "they should bring Francisco Cabrera up in this situation." 

Game 7 was chugging along to its incredible finale and I was excited. The Red Sox stunk that year and while I remained a Sox fan, I found myself following the Pirates and rooting for them. 

And when they got to the 9th inning of the last game with a lead, I couldn't believe they were about to pull off the come back.

Then the Braves rallied... and I got nervous... so much so that I couldn't make my "bring in Cabrera" joke.

Then with two outs the unbelievable happened. Cox brought in Cabrera!
I started laughing and relaxing. There was no way that the third string catcher was going to be the most unlikely post season hero in baseball history!

Base hit... Justice scores... Bream chugs home... Braves win... the Pirates have yet to recover.

Unbeknownst to Cox and Cabrera, they both gave me a tremendous middle finger.

Again, save your typing for another catcher. No other catcher that the Braves have ever acquired had a bigger impact on the team nor destroyed another proud franchise like Cabrera did.


25TH MAN
MIKE DEVEREAUX

First of all, I know Babe Ruth was once a Brave. But I am not picking him. He was a .181 hitter on a 38-115 Braves team in 1935, and he was done by June.

So naturally if you can't pick Babe Ruth, you go to Mike Devereaux.

Wait… MIKE DEVEREAUX?

Yes. Mike Devereaux is getting love for his 1/3 of a season in a Braves uniform. And let me tell you why.

In 1995, the Braves still had the reputation for being a good team that couldn't win the big game. And after a close call with the Rockies, the Braves went into the NLCS versus the Cincinnati Reds.

The Braves tied Game 1 in the 9th and the two teams went into extra innings. With two outs and a runner on in the 11th, Mike Devereaux singled to center driving in Fred McGriff with the go ahead run. The Braves would win 2-1.

Game 2 was another extra inning Atlanta win and Devereaux contributed with an RBI double.

In Game 3, Devereaux walked in yet another tie game situation, setting up Charlie O'Brien's game winning home run.

And in the Game 4 clincher, Devereaux broke open a 2-0 game with a three run homer to put the Reds away.
  
In the end he batted .308 with an OPS of .972. And while other players (like Chipper Jones and Fred McGriff) had gaudier numbers, Devereaux was named the Series MVP.

Without his contributions, the Reds would probably have won 2 or maybe 3 of those games. And maybe the Braves don't make the World Series and they finish their run without a title.

Who knows? But what I DO know is Devereaux's NLCS deserves a standing O in Atlanta!



WHO WOULD WIN A HEAD TO HEAD SERIES?

How can I pick against Maddux? Smoltz? A World Series hero like Lew Burdette?

I can do it with Spahn, Knuskie and Glavine pitching... I can do it with Mathews, Murph and Chipper in the line up.

And oh yeah, there's a fellow by the name of Hank who can hit them out.

VERDICT: THE HOME GROWN TEAM WINS...NIEKRO STRIKES OUT CABRERA ON A KNUCKLEBALL FOR THE TITLE!



THAT'S THE BRAVES!!!


And the Rays
And the Phillies
And the Cubs
And the Indians
And the Tigers
And the White Sox.
And the Royals
And the Brewers
And the Reds
And the Dodgers
And the Blue Jays
And the Pirates
And the Diamondbacks
And the Mariners
And the Nationals
And the Angels
And The Padres
And The Twins
And The Orioles
And the A's
And the Astros
And the Giants
And the Rockies
And the Mets
And the Rangers
And the Marlins
And the Yankees
And the Red Sox

1 to go...

NEXT ALL TIME HOME GROWN VS. ACQUIRED TEAM:
THE ST. LOUIS CARDINALS










13 comments:

  1. I think I read somewhere that Hank Aaron signed with the Braves, and not the New York Giants, because they offered him $100 more in bonus money.

    Think about that, for $100, we could have had Aaron and Mays in the same outfield.

    That said, Hank got plenty of protection from big Ed Mathews — the only man to play for the same team in three different cities, and also to play in three cities as both a major and a minor leaguer (Milwaukee, Atlanta, and Houston).

    Thanks for the inclusion of Murph. Very much a beloved guy, but I think Smoltz might be Mr. Atlanta Braves for the next generation of kids.

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  2. Cool Star Wars reference!

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  3. I read somewhere that Mays signed w/ the Giants instead of the Braves b/c Braves ownership said he wasn't worth a $500 signing bonus. I guess it goes both ways with these two.

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  4. ummm, no Babe Ruth?

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  5. Where is Sid Bream? lol...

    I'm actually glad you mentioned Greg McMichael...always enjoyed him out of the pen. I actually talked to him on the phone once when I was a young kid. I wrote to him during the offseason asking for his autograph and then he ended up calling me asking how I got his home address.

    - Wes

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  6. Please tell me "No Babe Ruth" was a joke!

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  7. Ruth did technically play 28 games for the Braves in 1935. Not exactly a difference maker, but still falls under the rules for the acquired team.

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  8. Yes, I am aware Babe Ruth was on the Braves.

    I did put some Hall of Famers who finished up their careers on other teams (Rogers Hornsby is on both the Giants and the Braves acquired team... Richie Ashburn is on the acquired Mets team... Ty Cobb is on the acquired A's team)

    But the difference is they had terrific seasons with their new teams

    Ruth was a bust with the Braves.

    And unlike Duffy, Grissom, Devereaux, Adcock, Hamilton, Holmes and Gallaragga (who all contributed to Braves pennant runs) Ruth was borderline worthless on one of the worst teams in Braves history.

    Should I put Yogi Berra on the Mets team?
    Steve Carlton on the White Sox team?
    Christy Mathewson on the Reds team?
    Rickey Henderson on the Dodgers team?
    Goose Gossage on the Mariners team?

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  9. Point taken. I guess its hard to narrow down the lists in the first place for teams that have been around for so long. Nice job by the way. I'm a Phillies fan and enjoyed that piece.

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  10. fred mcgriff gets my HOF vote

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  12. I agree with Fred McGriff for HOF, not just for his stats, but leadeship. The man is a wonderful human. He came, did his job, and went home. No drama, no "accolades", just played consistent baseball.

    Also, When you said you'd pick Randy Johnson over Greg Maddux, Randy himself disagreed with you (well, not with YOU, but with the statement)
    He is quoted as saying
    "He's much more intelligent than I am because he doesn't have a 95 or 98 mph fastball. I would tell any pitcher who wants to be successful to watch him, because he's the true definition of a pitcher." - Randy Johnson

    Down to the eternal question of THROWER vs. PITCHER... I personally belive Greg takes it :)

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  13. bravesgirl31... I am a HUGE Maddux fan and I can certainly see your point.

    Maddux is one of the 2 or 3 best free agent signings of all time as is Randy Johnson.

    I guess the one reason I would put Johnson's slightly higher was that he arrived at Arizona and turned them from a non factor expansion team to a 100 win constant contender while Greg Maddux arrived on a team that was already a back to back pennant winner.

    But an argument can made for both. I would argue that as a pitcher, Maddux was the second best I ever saw (after Tom Seaver)

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