20 years ago, the Bravos signed the best pitcher we’ll ever see

“This one hurts,” said Gene Michael, the general manager of the Yankees, who did manage to trade for Jim Abbott on Sunday. “He’s the best one out there. I never thought I could say this. But he’s a steal at $28 million. He’s a steal.”

Needless to say, Stick was right.

I remember where I was when Mad Dog signed: Atkins Park on Highland Ave., with CD. We were stunned, because, as you recall, JS liked to operate under the radar, and Barry Bonds was his supposed target.

Instead, the premier rotation in baseball got better, and for $6 million less than the Yankees offered. Maddux wanted to win, and in December 1992 the Braves afforded him the best opportunity.

How times have changed.

cerone

The 20 worst A-Braves players: #9 Rick Cerone

“Fuck you, George!”

Rick Cerone earned considerable respect from the baseball community when he cursed out George Steinbrenner during the 1980 playoffs, capping a career year that saw him finish 7th in the AL MVP race.

Five years later, he became a Brave. Back then you welcomed any trade, figuring if someone was good enough to play for another big league team he had to be an improvement over his Braves predecessor.

Cerone’s arrival coincided with Eddie Haas’ hiring and Bruce Sutter’s signing. Safe to say that year was a cursed one for the Braves, and the Jersey native produced accordingly.

Not that we should have expected much. Cerone had struggled through four injury-plagued seasons after his breakout performance in 1980, and the Steinbrenners had to be thrilled to turn him for pitching prospect Brian Fisher. who saved 14 with a 2.38 ERA and 1.078 WHIP as a rookie in New York.

Cerone got off to a promising start in Atlanta, rapping 14 hits in his first 32 AB, but it was all downhill from there. He batted .208 in May, .186 in July and .176 in September, hitting only one HR after April. Haas and his successor Bobby Wine kept him in the line-up because there were no real options; Bruce Benedict had forgotten how to hit and Larry Owen never learned.

Cerone, traded for Ted Simmons after the ’85 season, is the fifth catcher to make our list, though he may not be the last.

Cease with the spin

Even if the season were to begin Friday, manager Fredi Gonzalez insists the Braves would be OK despite making no deal for a new left fielder during the Winter Meetings. …

“We didn’t come here with a sense of urgency,” Wren said after 3-1/2 days at the Winter Meetings. “You always like to see if you can put together the perfect fit. The perfect fit for us is obviously a true leadoff hitter. I don’t know if we’re going to come away with that or not between now and early April. And it might go beyond that. We might piece it together, put our team together the best way we can, and as the season progresses see if we can find that true leadoff hitter.

“We don’t feel like it’s [requirement right now]. We feel like we have a pretty good ballclub.”

“Pretty good ballclubs” lose in the first round of the playoffs, assuming they make it there. The Braves hierarchy, given little choice by Liberty, appears to be okay with that.

Obviously you don’t want to telegraph panic, but as I outlined the other day the Braves don’t have any acceptable internal options. The team as presently constituted ain’t going to win a pennant.

But hey, the winter meetings weren’t a total loss. Fredi’s option for 2014 was exercised, likely ensuring postseason disappointment over the next two years regardless of who mans LF.

The Phillies are coming! The Phillies are coming!

UPDATE: Never mind — the Phils just acquired Revere for Vance Worley.

UPDATE: According to DOB, the Braves are talking to Minnesota about Revere.

Jon Heyman says the Phils have been talking to the Twins about Ben Revere, who’s apparently available for pitching. I hope FW is on in this, because Revere, an Atlanta native, would be a perfect fit.

Revere, 24, hit .292 with 40 steals in 124 games last year. He’s gifted defensively and won’t be a free agent for four years.

I’d be willing to part with Delgado and Sean Gilmartin to make it happen.