The all-obscure Bravos

Longtime Braves fans recall the ’82 team fondly, but do you remember Bob Porter, a utility OF who, in 41 games over two seasons, hit a punchless .171? How ’bout Tom Hausman, the journeyman right-hander acquired from the Mets to add depth to the bullpen? He was released the following January.

So that got me thinking about some of the home team’s more nameless charges over the years. I went back to 1977, when I first started following the Braves, to compile this list.

1970s

Pitchers: Duane Theiss, Steve Hargan, Don Collins, Bob Johnson, Mike Davey, Steve Kline, Mike Beard, Pablo Torrealba

Position players: Atlanta native Hank Small, Jerry Maddox, Chico Ruiz (not the Chico Ruiz who starred for the Reds in the 1960s), Mike Macha, Jim Wessinger

1980s

Pitchers: Mike Payne, Dave Schuler, Hausman, Joe Johnson, Steve Ziem, Kevin Blankenship, Rusty Richards, Gary Eave, Jay Aldrich, Sergio Valdez

Position players: Gary Cooper, Porter, Trench Davis, Terry Bell, Ken Smith, John Rabb, Ed Whited, Jeff Wetherby, John Russell, Mike Jorgensen, Mike Fischlin, John Mizerock, Ed Romero

1990s

Pitchers: Paul Marak, Terry Clark, Tom Thobe, Ray Holbert, Dean Hartgraves, Carl Schutz, Kevin Lomon, John Leroy, Adam Butler, Brian Edmondson, Everett Stull, Joe Winkelsas, Rod Nichols56_1

Position players: Alexis Infante, Kelly Mann, Brian Kowitz, Ramon Caraballo, Jarvis Brown

2000s

Pitchers: Sam McConnell, Dave Stevens, Ismael Villegas, Gabe Molina, Chris Seelbach, Trey Moore, Joe Nelson, Scott Sobkowiak, Andy Pratt, John Ennis, Jorge Vasquez, Seth Greisinger, Frank Brooks, Matt Childers, Travis Smith, Kevin Barry, Jason Shiell, Steve Colyer, James Parr, Jeff Ridgway, Matt DeSalvo

Position players: Tim Unroe, Pedro Swann, Mike Hubbard, Steve Torrealba, Jason Perry, Reid Gorecki, Barbaro Canizares, Brian Barton

John Rocker says something stupid (cont’d)

One quick example to support my theory: I watch the World Series every year as most of you probably do. Each year I see a stat that comes across the screen during at least one of the games (generally having to do with Mariano Rivera). It lists all of the top post-season closers of all time. They usually do this to show how dominant Rivera has been during his post-season career. At any rate, the stat always reads “top post-season closers of all time (minimum 15 innings pitched).”

As one would expect there are several notable names up there, but one name that is always absent despite having thrown 21.3 scoreless playoff innings is … mine. That’s no accident, folks. That’s conspiracy. I know about it – and so does Tim Tebow.

I doubt Rocker’s story, as he’s been known to stretch the truth make shit up. (And it’s 20.2 scoreless  playoff innings, not 21.3, which would be 22.) It also should be noted that Fox carries the World Series every year, so I suspect if Rocker was left off the list it was an honest mistake.

But that wouldn’t allow Rocker to play the victim, as he’s prone to do. Remember this:

“I’ve taken a lot of crap from a lot of people. Probably more than anybody in the history of this sport. I know Hank [Aaron] and Jackie [Robinson] took a good deal of crap, but I guarantee it wasn’t for six years. I just keep thinking: How much am I supposed to take?”

And as for the 20-plus scoreless innings, someone owes Walt Weiss a thank you.

 

 

This is the Melky we remember

Toronto made some big moves this offseason, all of which have failed miserably.

Besides the trades for R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson, there was the signing of Melky Cabrera to a two-year, $16 million contract.

Cabrera is hitting .236 with a .280 OBP and .276 slugging percentage after Saturday’s loss to the Mariners, dropping the Jays to 10-21. He has ONE extra base hit.

Could Scott Thorman be far behind?

Everyone’s favorite .211-hitting, PED-using centerfielder is coming back! Yep, the Braves, for some reason, have picked up Jordan Schafer off waivers from Houston.

I’m going to assume this is one of those what-the-hell-nothing-to-lose moves. If this is any indication of how we’re going to replace Bourn, we shudder. It can’t be. Then again, we replaced Greg Maddux with John Thomson. That was different, one spot of five. We only play one center fielder.

If Schafer opens 2013 in center field for the Braves, I’ll read a book by Sean Hannity. I’d sooner eat the carpet under my desk chair than read a book by Sean Hannity.

In other matters, good moves to pick up the options of McCann, Huddy and Maholm. McCann will make a chunk of money. But you’re highly unlikely to find anyone better for next season. Keep him one more year, and Bethancourt should be ready for 2014. Meantime, work to sign Heyward and Freeman long-term, now.

Former Brave is ‘worst player in baseball,’ but not as bad as Jerry Royster in ’77

According to Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference’s WAR (Wins Above Replacement) calculation, Jeff Francoeur is the the worst player in the game, though he’s not the worst ever.

Jerry Royster‘s 1977 with Atlanta, a -3.7 FanGraphs and -4.1 B-R debacle. The utilityman hit .216/.278/.288 and, the metrics say, played brutal defense.

Baseball Reference ranks Frenchy’s WAR at -3.0 — the 11th worst season for an offensive player since 1901.

With a dreadful August and September, Francoeur could threaten the season both sites agree is the worst ever.

 

John Rocker is a whiny little bitch

Hard to tell what’s more tortured in John Rocker’s new tome, “Scars and Strikes” — the writing or the ex-Brave’s insistence that he is a victim.

I died on a Sunday evening. While dining at a restaurant in Melbourne, Florida, on December 19, 1999, I came face to face with the grim reaper, who appeared before me in the form of media’s biased scrutiny and rabid lust for the sensational, and watched as my soul was put to death right before my very eyes. There was no discretion taken, there was no objectivity considered, there was no truth sought: A mafia-style murder with a proverbial bullet to the back of the head to appease the godfather. …

Former SI writer Jeff Pearlman even had the audacity to write something critical of Roger Clemens, Rocker writes.

In the grotesque work, “The Rocket That Fell to Earth” Pearlman uses quite a holier-than-thou approach in his chastisement of perhaps the games greatest and most decorated pitcher of all time, Roger Clemens. To which Clemens responded, “He’s a low life wanna-be. By his looks he could star on ‘The Addams Family.’”

Hey Shit for Brains, you pitched on the same team as Greg Maddux yet you label fellow cheater Roger Clemens “the greatest pitcher of all time!?!” You really are an idiot.

But still, we should pity him.

Make no mistake about it, however, everything inside of me that day, everything I worked a lifetime to become, who I was at the core of my being which took more than a decade to create was laid to waste in one fell blow all for the sake of selling a few fucking magazines. The death to my one chance in life, the death of my hopes and dreams, which will never be again. The death of my family’s name. All for $3.95. At this point all that’s left is a flesh-covered shell inhabited by a beating heart right next to where a soul once existed. I hope it was worth it.

Rocker repeatedly implies that Jeff Pearlman destroyed his career, neglecting to mention that he had a 6.00 ERA and 1.750 WHIP after being traded from the Braves.

A chat with former Brave Lonnie Smith

World Net Daily recently published a fawning piece on the persecuted ex-Brave John Rocker. In the article, the former closer shares his views on subjects such as immigration reform, the national debt and the general direction of the country.

We also learn that Rocker was banished from baseball because that Sports Illustrated writer tricked him into ranting about blacks, Asians, Asian women

A hell of a ball player

drivers, gay people, New Yorkers, young single moms, and assorted others who make the world less pleasant for John Rocker. His 6 ERA, and 6 walks per 9 IP over his last three big league seasons — not to mention his 6.50 ERA and 2.50 WHIP with the Long Island Ducks — aparently had little to do with his exit from the game.

Anyway, we thought we’d discuss the state of the world with another eccentric ex-Brave.

Rowland’s Office: Lonnie, thanks for your time.

Lonnie: Yeah. I don’t talk to many white folks.

RO: Rowland is actually black. But I’m not him.

Lonnie: Rowland who?

RO: OK. Let’s get right to it.

Lonnie: Right to what?

RO: What do you think is the biggest issue in the next presidential election? And a related question, should the National League adopt the DH, or should MLB kill it outright? 

Lonnie: Yeah, I thought about killing that mother fucker with the suspenders. Election? I think income inequality and some other fundamental questions about our nation’s economy are critical to the future. The DH? Three-time World Series Champion Lonnie Smith loves to hit. 

RO: What about the future of capitalism?

Lonnie: Well, we need to have a substantive debate about what kind of capitalism we want, you know? Managerial capitalism, or entrepreneurial capitalism, or worker capitalism, or some hybrid of all types. I do think we are in danger of further separating the country into long-term haves and have-nots. When people feel like they’ve fallen out of the system, and feel that the system doesn’t give them a fair shake, while they see Wall Street types making millions a year and getting bailed out by the Congress, it creates some dangerous feelings of disaffection and disconnectedness. People feel like the system is stacked against them. They withdraw and don’t participate. That’s bad
for democracy and the civic life of the nation and of our communities. 

RO: Wow.

Lonnie: Fuck, yeah. And I’m not sure big corporations and wealthy individuals should be able to bankroll elections. That’s not good for participatory democracy either. I fear that we have parties in this country that are quietly undermining our public institutions, at all levels, in the name of the free market. That is not good.

RO: Lonnie, what have you been doing lately?

Lonnie: None of your goddamn business.

RO: Lonnie, thanks again for your time. It’s been fascinating.

Lonnie: Get the hell off my porch.

Damn the 2006 Braves pitching sucked!

Stout pitching made the Braves’ incredible run of division pennants possible. Bad pitching ended the run.

And by bad I mean wretched. Only the ’87 and ’77 Bravos had worse ERA’s. The ’06 Braves had two pitchers — Kyle Davies and Chris Reitsma — with substantial roles who finished with ERA’s over 8.

Starters and relievers — both awful. Smoltzie was effective, but that was about it. Huddy was Lowe-like in ’06, with a 4.86 ERA and 1.438 WHIP. John Thomson and Horacio were middling at best. In the ‘pen, everyone from Ken Ray to Jorge Sosa auditioned for the closer’s role and failed.

These were the Braves of Wayne Franklin, Chad Paronto, Tyler Yates and Kevin Barry.

It’s a shame, ’cause the ’06 Bravos raked at the plate. B-Mac hit .333 with a .571 slugging percentage — three other Braves, Chipper, LaRoche and Andruw, topped .500 that year. The team was first in homers in the NL, second in RBI and third in hits.

Still an asshole

I’ll never type the words John Rocker without reminding people of  2005′s most odious quote, which tells you all you need to know about the combustible southpaw:

“I’ve taken a lot of crap from a lot of people,” said Rocker, who racked up 88 saves, more than 330 strikeouts and a 3.42 ERA in six seasons with the Braves, Indians, Rangers and Devil Rays. “Probably more than anybody in the history of this sport. I know Hank [Aaron] and Jackie [Robinson] took a good deal of crap, but I guarantee it wasn’t for six years. I just keep thinking: How much am I supposed to take?”

(photo, snapped during a live TV appearance in his hometown, via Gondeee)

Damn near the coolest day in Braves history

I started following the Braves in 1978. Thirty nine-year-old knuckleballer Jim Bouton was called up in September. I was too young to have read “Ball Four” and was only vaguely familiar with Bouton, but his return to the majors was getting a lot of attention. In my then-brief experience as a Braves fan (five months), only one other game — the night Garber ended Pete Rose’s hitting streak –  had the feel of an event (box score). Frank Deford with the prose:

The crowd of 11,162, more receptive to romance and joy than the cheerless, image-conscious critics from Cincinnati and Los Angeles, stood and applauded the man. He gripped the seams and threw a knuckleball to the Dodger lead-off batter, Davey Lopes. “Strike one,” the umpire said. Lopes, who later characterized the afternoon as “a joke” rife with “disrespect for baseball,” struck out.

That dream ended in the fourth. A knuckleball is destiny’s child. Fastballs, curves, sliders, the usual pitcher’s fare, are tools of the man who throws them. But to hear knuckleballers tell it, their pitch decides what it will do without much regard for the wishes of the man who is throwing it. Sunday, Bouton knew when he warmed up that he had only a pedestrian knuckler. In his last start, a two-hitter against Orlando, he had “superknuck” with him, and he threw it 95% of the time. Against the Dodgers, he had to mix in his palmball, a cut fastball (timed at a death-defying 70 mph; his knuckler sidles up around 60), an occasional change. And in the fourth, he lost some of his rhythm and got a bit wild. An anguished Reggie Smith, distressed at “this circus atmosphere,” engaged in some wish-fulfillment and got himself thrown out of the game for sassing the plate umpire at every turn.

Bobbi Bouton grimaced. “This is bad,” she said. “A knuckleballer needs so much concentration.” She knows her husband, the pitcher, well. He immediately walked Bill North, Smith‘s replacement. Steve Garvey then got the Dodgers‘ first hit; two more singles followed, and Rick Monday made it 5-1 with a three-run homer. Trailing 6-1, Bouton went out for a pinch hitter after five innings.

Bouton finished the season strong, however, winning his next outing against the Giants (1 unearned run, 3 hits, in 6 IP) and matching J.R. Richard over seven innings in his next, holding Houston to two runs. I stayed up late to watch that one.

Wouldn’t it be cool to see it again? MLB Network should have a “Basement Tapes” kind of show for just these kind of games but that won’t happen. Hell, they never air any old games anymore unless they’re a part of some Bob Costas-hosted retrospective. Maybe he’ll do one on Bouton’s second act.

The All-Blah Braves: 3B

Choosing a 1B (Casey Kotchman) and 2B (Keith Lockhart) was easy. They were as uninspiring as it gets. Shortstop was more of a challenge, as the position has been staffed by so many horrible, if not uninspiring, players.

But there is no debate when it comes to 3B. In fact, the All-Blah third baseman qualifies as the captain of this uninspired crew.

Do I even need to say his name?

Unfortunately, Obie rarely sat on the bench while a Brave

Ken Oberkfell came to the Braves less than two years after he delivered the winning hit off Geno in Game 2 of the ’82 NLCS. He was acquired to replace the oft-injured Bob Horner. On the night of the trade the Braves were 32-23 and in first place. After Obie: 48-59. Not all his fault, but his .233 BA and .598 OPS in 50 games didn’t help.

Things only got worse. The Braves never won more than 72 games during Obie’s tenure. Apparently the force was not with him.

In St. Louis Obie was a .292 hitter, with a .364 OBP. As a Brave he hit .271 with a .346 OBP. He topped a .400 slugging percentage only once as an everyday player, and that didn’t come in Atlanta.

He never even reached 50 RBI as a Brave despite often hitting in the middle of the order. He managed five homers in ’85 — a career-high. He hit 3 homers in his four other full seasons at Fulco, with batting averages those years hovering in the .270 range. So he was consistent, at least.

Defensively, he caught what he got to, which wasn’t much. His numbers would’ve been tolerable had he been a factor on the base paths but he wasn’t, successful in less than 50 percent of his 33 SB attempts.

What’s more, Obie cost the Braves Ken Dayley, who emerged as a very effective reliever for the Cards. When Obie was finally traded, in Aug. 1988, to Pittsburgh I rejoiced. It didn’t matter who the Braves were getting in return though it’s fitting that player turned out to be Tommy Gregg, a candidate for the All-Blah bench.

Twenty years ago tonight, Bobby said Wohlers and got Leibrandt

Hey, it happens. And the Metrodome was a helluva lot louder than the Ballpark in Arlington.

A lot of people criticized bringing in Charlie Leibrandt to face the Twins in the bottom of the 11th of Game 6 but it’s not like Bobby had options. Mike Stanton and Alejandro Pena had already pitched two innings apiece in relief of Steve Avery. There wasn’t much left to choose from.

Jim Clancy? Randy St. Claire? Mark Wohlers, a rookie who walked 13 in 19 IP after being called up to Atlanta? Fellow southpaw Kent Mercker was also available, but he hadn’t struck out Kirby Puckett twice, as Leibrandt did in Game 1 of the series. And right-handed hitters batted only .237 against Leibrandt in ’91.

Why not Leibrandt?

Six (er, three) degrees of Braves separation

In 1982 Jerry Willard was one of five players, including Julio Franco, traded from Philadelphia for Von Hayes. Score one for Cleveland.

Willard was released by the Indians four years later and bounced around, first to Oakland, then to the White Sox, before landing in Richmond in ’91. When called upon to pinch hit in the bottom of the 9th of Game 4 of the World Series Willard had just four big league hits since 1986.

The journeyman catcher was pinch hitting for another journeyman catcher, Francisco Cabrera, after Tom Kelly replaced Mark Guthrie with another ex-Brave, Steve Bedrosian. On a 1-2 pitch Willard lofted a lazy fly to right, scoring the Lemmer.

The next day the AJC and the paper I worked for at the time, the Gwinnett Daily News, ran the same headline: Remarkable! Sure was.

Jim Clancy’s claim to fame

Jim Clancy may have been the Scott Linebrink of the ’91 team but 20 years ago Saturday night he was the pitcher of record in the first World Series game won by the Atlanta Braves.

He did so by retiring one batter — Minnesota hurler Rick Aguilera, who lined to deep center to end the top of the 12th. Aguilera, the Twins’ seventh pitcher, gave up a single to Justice in between fly ball outs by Gant and Brian Hunter in the bottom half of the inning. We all remember the Lemmer’s game-winning single but tend to forget it was made possible by a steal of second by the Braves right fielder, who was 8-for-16 in SB attempts during the regular season.

If Justice hadn’t been successful the game would’ve continued into the 13th and the Bravos would’ve been dependent on Clancy, who had a 5.71 ERA and 1.442 WHIP after being acquired from Houston, to hold serve. Not a pretty thought.

David Justice as hitting coach?

Why not?

A guy with a .378 career OBP who NEVER struck out 100 times in a season knows of what he speaks. This whole superstar can’t teach thing is really passe, considering the likes of Don Mattingly and Mark McCheater have been successful batting instructors with their former teams.

Wouldn’t you love to see Jay Hey spend some time under Justice‘s tutelage?

Did Willie Harris and Fukey just save the Braves season?

Thanks, Willie!

Willie Harris had some decent moments in Atlanta, including a 6-hit game that Jerome Jurenovich curiously named his greatest Braves memory. My favorite Willie moment just happened.

The Mets entered the 9th down by four runs. Willie works the count full before drawing a lead-off walk. Nick Evans reaches after hitting a grounder to short, booted by our old pal Fukey. What should’ve been a double play becomes one of two plays involving ex-Braves that preserved the local nine’s playoff hopes.

With the game tied at 6, Fernando Salas comes in and fans David Wright for the second out. Up comes Willie. Down to his last strike, Willie singles to right, scoring two. Mets take an 8-6 lead and the Cards go down feebly in the 9th.