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The 20 worst A-Braves players: #1 Andres Thomas

It was difficult omitting Corky Miller, who had 5 hits as B-Mac’s back-up in 2008 and batted .138 in 87 AB’s as a Brave. But how do you exclude Andres Thomas, the 7th SS to make our register? (Go here for the complete list.)

Stat awareness works for and against Andres, a Brave from 1985-90. I was a kid when he played, back when hitters were measured solely by batting average, homers and RBI. For infielders like Andres, it was all about errors, and he made a ton. Andres led all shortstops in errors in 1988 and was the runner-up in ’89. In ’87 he was charged with 20 errors despite appearing in only 82 games. Not good, though not as bad as it appeared at the time, as Andres ranked tops in range factor among all shortstops in ’87 and in the top 5 the next two seasons.

Conversely, Andres was generally thought of as productive bat for a SS. In the days before ‘roids became so widespread a .252-13-68 line, Andres’ line in ’88, looked pretty good. There were persistent rumblings of a Thomas for Barry Bonds swap back then, though I can’t imagine Pittsburgh ever seriously pondered it.

Andres was the anti-Bonds when it came to OBP, a basic stat today but one that was largely ignored in the ’80s. Good thing for Andres, because his was disproportionately awful.

He walked 59 times in 6 years with the Braves. Freddie, Uggla and Bourn each accrued more bases on balls in 2012. Andres was consistent, at least, never walking more than 14 times in a season, which explains his career .255 OBP, lower even than fellow 20 worsters Pat Rockett and Luis Gomez. His lifetime offensive WAR was -3.9 may not mean much until you compare it to those of Jason Bay and Jeff Francoeur, who in 2012 ranked near the bottom of the league with -0.8 and -1.2, respectively.

Andres, who had become the face off the franchise’s low point in Atlanta, was released following the 1990 season. His departure and the glory days that followed were no coincidence.

 

Deron_Johnson Braves

The 20 worst A-Braves players: #2 Deron Johnson

Three years before coming to Atlanta, Deron Johnson slugged 32 homers and drove in 130 for the Reds. Three years after leaving the ATL, Johnson, then with the Phils, clubbed 34 HR.

Johnson hit a punchless .208 in 1968, his only season as a Brave. He supplied none of the power expected from a 1B, finishing the year with 8 HR, 33 RBI and a .600 OPS — Sonny Jackson territory. At the opposite corner Clete Boyer was even worse (.586 OPS). The Hammer led the team that year with 29 HR and 86 RBI; Felipe Alou was the runner-up in both categories, with 11 and 57, respectively.

Some Launching Pad.

Obviously it took some doing to be the worst hitter on the ’68 club, but Johnson took the lead early and never looked back. Through May he had but 14 hits — 2 HR, 2 doubles — in 97 AB. He was just as crappy in September, hitting .176.

Johnson was consistently abysmal vs. right-handed pitchers — .179 BA, .536 OPS — and at Fulco, where he hit .166. He was sold to the Phils in December 1968 and hit 78 HR over the next three years.

Reggie Sanders’ career followed a similar pattern before and after his one year in Atlanta, but Johnson, the original, did it better, er, worse.

 

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The 20 worst A-Braves players: #3 Luis Gomez

Luis Gomez was a poor man’s Rafael Belliard, at least at the plate. Like Raffy, Gomez was smooth, if unspectacular, defensively. But Belliard was a regular Barry Larkin on offense compared to Gomez, the only player on our list who was traded for another of the 20 worst Braves, Pat Rockett (part of the deal that brought Chris Chambliss to Atlanta).

The Braves knew what they were getting in Gomez, a utilityman who came to Atlanta with a career .216 BA. They probably didn’t think he’d do much worse, but he did, batting .192 in 156 games with the Bravos. Of Gomez’s 60 hits only 6 went for extra bases. He had no homers, triples or stolen bases. Didn’t walk much either, which accounts for his .249 OBP.

Pitchers Doyle Alexander and Preston Hanna nearly matched Gomez’s meager .451 OPS in 1980 while Knucksie had just one less double.

Baseball Reference compares his career to that of the infamous Mario Mendoza, although the final Mendoza line (.215 BA) was five points higher than Gomez’s.

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The 20 worst A-Braves players: #4 Melky Cabrera

I’m not going to try and convince you that Melky Cabrera was worse than, say, Sugar Bear Blanks. But there were few Braves as lazy and ineffectual as Wide Leche.

When the Braves acquired Cabrera I was under the delusion that he was one of those players you appreciate the more you saw play, a guy who would fill in capably all over the outfield, steal a few bases, hit a few homers, et al.

Instead the Cabrera we saw was out of shape, a liability on defense, punchless at the plate and a clod on the bases. And he didn’t seem to give a damn.

Granted, Melky probably would not be on this list if not for his antics last July at The Ted.

CD posted about it the day after, demonstrating some rare prescience:

The guy acts like he’s going to toss baseballs to the fans, and then doesn’t. Like some smart ass 13-year-old, he taunts Heyward to run to third. He cadillacs out of the box after hitting a ball that nearly scraped the top of the wall on its way out. …

Of course, never mind that he has decided to take the game seriously only after being in the big leagues for several years. I hope he blows a hammy or loses 100 points off his batting average by the end of the season. Maybe he’ll get busted for ‘roids. I wouldn’t be surprised.

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The 20 worst A-Braves players: #5 Rob Belloir

Rob Belloir was acquired from Cleveland in 1975, a bad sign, as the Indians were the AL version of the Braves. He was the PTBNL in a deal that brought Blue Moon Odom to Atlanta — a trade Eddie Robinson would’ve been better off not making. Blue Moon was 1-7 with a 7.07 ERA in his one season as a Brave. Belloir was just as bad.

What else would you expect from a lifetime .246 hitter in the minors?

Pretty much what Belloir produced — or didn’t — in parts of four seasons as a Brave. His was a career of attrition, as the utility infielder’s appearances dwindled with each year. By the time it was over, in 1978, Belloir had 167 MLB AB’s and only 36 hits — 30 of which were singles. He hit no homers and stole no bases.

You’d assume, then, that Belloir could pick it, but you’d be wrong. He appeared in 38 games at SS as a rookie, committing 12 errors. The Mercer alum retired with a .927 fielding percentage,

jmbraves

The 20 worst A-Braves players: #6 Jim Morrison

If I was a blowhard hack like Chris Berman I’d write something like, “Braves fans didn’t love Jim Morrison one time, let alone two.” I’ll spare us all.

Morrison, a veteran of the worst Braves team ever, was something of a two-way player, appearing in three games as a pitcher. He actually had some success on the mound, tossing 3-2/3 scoreless innings. That wasn’t enough to make up for his impotency at the plate.

Morrison was signed by the Braves after hitting .216 with no homers and ZERO walks in 74 AB as a Tiger. He managed but 14 hits in 92 AB with Atlanta, including an 0-for-30 stretch, good for a .152 BA and .468 OPS.

It’s hard to say whether Morrison was the worst player on the ’88 Braves — Jerry Royster, Damaso Garcia, Gary Roenicke and Terry Blocker make a good argument. But just being in the  conversation is bad enough.

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The 20 worst A-Braves players: #7 Jordan Schafer

Homering in your first MLB AB has guaranteed one thing: You won’t make the Hall of Fame (hopefully Jay Hey changes that).

Jermaine Dye and Will Clark are probably the best players to accomplish the feat. They are the exceptions among a fraternity that includes Esteban Yan, Johnnie LeMaster, John Montefusco and the 14th Brave to make our list, Jordan Schafer.

Schafer looked like a future star in 2007, hitting .312 with a .887 OPS (49 doubles, 10 triples, 15 HR) in Single-A. Then he was suspended 50 games for HGH. His performance since then suggests ‘roids had much to do with his early success.

He was mediocre at Double-A Mississippi in 2008 and the Braves, with no real alternatives, named him their Opening Day CF after a solid spring.

He responded by going deep off Brett Myers. Two games later he hit a 2-run bomb off Jamie Moyer.

Schafer would homer only once more in his next 99 games as a Brave, striking out 105 times in 363 AB total. He was a disappointment defensively, as well, often letting the wall play him in CF.

An injured hand contributed to his struggles as a rookie, but good health hasn’t translated to performance. Jordan did show some flashes in 2011 and handled his trade to Houston with class. It’s been downhill ever since. The Astros gave him ample opportunity — even after he was busted on a felony pot charge last spring — and he responded with a .211 BA and .297 OBP.

When FW re-signed him earlier this winter, I couldn’t help but think of Craig Robinson, Larvell Blanks and Adrian Devine. Wasn’t once enough?

We were told not to fret, that Jordan would be the starting CF in Buford, not Atlanta. But with the LF job still open Schafer has a shot — a very long shot — at making the big league club even though he’s done little to deserve it.

Craig_Robinson

The 20 worst A-Braves players: #8 Craig Robinson

The Braves of the 1970s had a peculiar habit of trading for players they once discarded. Pitcher Adrian Devine, for example, was traded to Texas in 1976 then reacquired the following winter. Two years later, he was traded back to Texas. Coming to Atlanta in that last deal were Doyle Alexander and Larvell Blanks, who had two tours apiece with the Braves.

Craig Robinson was acquired from the Phillies prior to the 1974 season and was immediately christened as the starting SS despite an undistinguished minor league career. Robinson, who finished April with a .183 BA and slugging percentage, didn’t get his first double until June. He was a singles hitter who didn’t hit many singles, collecting but four doubles in 452 AB.

Robinson saved his worst for the home folks, batting .187 at Fulco with a .212 slugging percentage — numbers that would embarrass many pitchers. He wasn’t much better defensively, committing 29 errors in 138 games.

Robinson was traded to the Giants in June 1975. A year later, he was back in Atlanta, acquired along with Willie Montanez in the ill-fated Darrell Evans deal. He’d appear in 42 games over the next two seasons, finishing his Braves career with a .223 BA and .531 OPS.

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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.

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The 20 worst A-Braves players: #10 Jimmy Kremers

Jimmy Kremers, the Braves 2nd round pick in the ’88 amateur draft, made his MLB debut two years later. It would be his only season in the majors, and with good reason.

Kremers had 3 hits in his first 25 AB and none in his last 25. He had five hits in between, finishing with a .110 BA and .369 OPS  in 73 AB. On top of that he struck out every 2.5 AB’s.

So he must have been strong defensively, right? Not exactly. Despite playing just 27 games at catcher, starting 21, Kremers allowed 24 steals in 29 attempts.

Basically, if Kremers was starting you could count on him striking out at least once and allowing at least one runner to steal a base.

Yet somehow the Braves were able to trade Kremers to Montreal on April Fools Day, 1991, for Otis Nixon. Otis, an  Atlanta folk hero, hit .278 and stole 186 bases in four years with the Braves.

Terry Blocker

The 20 worst A-Braves players: #11 Terry Blocker

Terry Blocker is a helluva guy. When pitcher Dave Shotkoski was gunned down in West Palm Beach in 1994, Blocker, trying to make a comeback as a replacement player, took to the streets to help find the culprit.

Without ever meeting the man, Blocker was able to come up with a street nickname. He went to the police, who soon arrested Neal Douglas Evans, age 29, and charged him with first-degree murder and attempted robbery.

“Blocker saved us at least one day and probably two,” said Detective David Atherton of the West Palm Beach Police Department. “He went out on his own. Nobody asked him to do it. He’s very modest. He doesn’t think he’s a hero, but if some people had known what he was doing, he would have been in danger. I’m in danger every time I go there.”

Six years earlier, Blocker was the part-time CF for a Braves team that would’ve probably lost to most replacement squads.

Blocker was chosen by the Mets with the 4th overall pick in the 1991 amateur draft ahead of Frd McGriff, Mark McGwire, Frank Viola, David Cone, Matt Williams, Mark Langston, Sid Fernandez, Paul O’Neill, Ron Darling, Devon White, to name 10. (The Braves, with the 12th pick in the 1st round, selected Jay Roberts. The OF, a special teams stalwart with the Washington Huskies who had not played high school baseball, never advanced past Single-A, batting .187 over 4 years. )

GM Bobby Cox acquired Blocker from New York for pitcher Kevin Brown (not that Kevin Brown) prior to the ’88 season, throwing him into the OF mix along with the likes of Albert Hall, Gary Roenicke and Dion James. Blocker ended up starting 59 games in CF, providing decent defense but little else, batting .212 with a .250 OBP and .283 slugging percentage. The erstwhile speedster was 1-for-2 in SB attempts.

He started the ’89 season in Double-A Greenville but made it back to Atlanta, which tells you plenty about that Braves team. Blocker hit .226 in 31 AB, the last of his MLB career until attempting a comeback, 5 years later, as a replacement Brave. It was then that Blocker finally made his mark, albeit off the field.

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The 20 worst A-Braves players: #12 Zolio Versalles

Before German Jimenez and Julio Franco, there was Zolio Versalles. Like the others, he was signed out of the Mexican League. Unlike Franco, he had nothing left.

Which is surprising, since he was only 31 when the Braves acquired him early in the 1971 season. His resume included an MVP and 2 Gold Gloves, but Versalles was a shadow of his former self by the time he got to Atlanta, thanks in part to a back injury suffered while with the Dodgers.

He batted just .191 in 194 AB with a paltry .233 OBP. Defensively, he was just as bad, committing 13 errors in 52 games at SS and 3B. He was released in August, ending his MLB career.

According to Wikipedia, Versalles, who never learned English, struggled after baseball.

Holding a series of menial jobs, he lost his house to foreclosure and was eventually forced to sell his MVP trophy, his All-Star rings and his Gold Gloves. In addition to his back problems he suffered two heart attacks, underwent stomach surgery and was sustained solely by disability and Social Security payments.

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The 20 worst A-Braves players: #13 Jesse Garcia

Hard to imagine why the Braves and Orioles felt the need to swap Steve Sisco and Jesse Garcia, two players destined to be minor league journeymen.

You may have forgotten about Garcia, who played parts of four seasons with the Braves. He surpassed 100 AB’s just once, in 2004, Jesse’s last in Atlanta. That year Garcia drew his first, and only, walk as a Brave. That’s right: in 191 AB’s Garcia walked ONCE — not a good idea when you’re a career .216 hitter with no power.

He wasn’t that slick a fielder, either, committing 7 errors in ’04 in just 39 games. Garcia ended his Braves career with a negative WAR on offense AND defense.

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The 20 worst A-Braves players: #14 Ernie Whitt

Guarantees always backfired when made by a member of the pre-’91 Braves. Chuck Tanner once promised a parade down Peachtree. When he was fired, maybe.

After he was acquired from the Blue Jays for assorted flotsam, Ernie Whitt told the local organ that Toronto GM Pat Gillick would regret the trade.

“They got caught up in my being 37 years old, ” claimed Whitt, who expects to catch 130 games (in 1990). “You don’t look at age; you look at production. I’m going to drive in 70 runs, hit my 15 home runs and hit .260. You can go to the bank on it.”

Good thing he was wrong about the 130 games. The 67 he appeared in were bad enough.

Whitt likewise fell short on his other predictions, finishing with a .172 BA, 2 HR and 10 RBI.

At least he was consistent.

(batting average)

  • HOME: .162
  • ROAD: .183
  • FIRST HALF: .169
  • SECOND HALF: .174
  • RISP: .134
  • BASES EMPTY: .183

Whitt saved his worst for two-out situations, finishing just above the Corky Miller line, at .103.

But he was a good backstop, right?

Not on Aug. 30.

(via the local organ)

Hardly a speed team, the Dodgers took a 4-2 lead on Kirk Gibson’s two-run homer and by working over catcher Ernie Whitt for a season-high five stolen bases, including two double steals, in the first four innings.

Whitt’s Braves career would be over two months later. After signing with the Orioles he guaranteed he’d hit at least .180.

pat_rockett_autograph

The 20 worst A-Braves players: #15 Pat Rockett

Pat Rockett, a San Antonio high school sports legend and standout wide receiver, was heavily recruited by the Texas Longhorns. Unfortunately, he decided to pursue baseball instead. Bummer. Had he chosen football the Braves might have used the 10th overall pick in the 1973 amateur draft on Eddie Murray or Fred Lynn, each of whom was selected behind Rockett. 

According to a 1988 article in the local organ chronicling what had been the team’s sorry history at SS, Rockett rarely hustled and balked at instruction, refusing to play winter ball.

“He just didn’t have the heart to play, ” longtime scouting director Paul Snyder said. “He didn’t work at it. He just didn’t want to do those things to make himself a better player.”

Nevertheless a franchise starved for stars hyped Rockett as the next big thing, tapping the 22-year-old as its starting SS in 1977. It quickly became clear that the hype was unwarranted, as Rockett hit a punchless .254 while committing 23 errors in 84 games. He was even worse in ’78, batting .141 in 142 AB, good for a .366 OPS. Paul Maholm, Med Dog, Huddy, Randall Delgado and Brandon Beachy all had a better OPS in 2012 than Rockett produced 34 years ago.

Appropriately, Rockett was pinch hit for in his final major league game. By Darrel Chaney, another candidate for this list. Rockett spent the entire ’79 season at Richmond, hitting .223.

That offseason, he was part of a package sent to Toronto in exchange for Chris Chambliss. Rockett was out of baseball before his 26th birthday.

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The 20 worst A-Braves players: #16 Omar Moreno

When your game is built on speed and you manage but one SB in 58 games, it’s time to look for another line of work.

Fortunately for Omar Moreno, the ’86 Braves were desperate and their manager thought it was still 1979.

Chuck  Tanner begged GM Bobby Cox to sign Moreno to a minor league contract prior to Spring Training, and Bobby acquiesced. On a team bereft of speed, the ex-Pirate might have some value off the bench.

Instead, he ended up starting 78 games, mostly in RF, where he committed five errors. He did lead the Braves with 17 steals, though he was caught 16 times. Moreno wasn’t on base much, hitting .234 and walking 21 times, good for a .276 OBP.

As a washed-up 33-year-old who was once pretty decent , Omar was in many ways the face of the ’86 Braves.

Be thankful it’s not 1986, Braves fans.

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The 20 worst A-Braves players: #17 Brad Komminsk

There was considerable excitement about Brad Komminsk‘s arrival, and why not. The 22-year-old dominated Triple-A pitching in 1983, batting .334 with 24 HR, 26 SB, 78 BB and only 70K’s, good for a 1.029 OPS. He was as can’t miss as they come.

But miss he did. Badly. He hit just .203 in ’84 with a .592 OPS and wasn’t much better in ’85, batting a punchless .227. He spent most of ’86 at Richmond, where he struggled mightily before mercifully being dealt to Milwaukee for Dion James (a coup, in retrospect).

Komminsk ended up with 642 AB’s as a Brave, equivalent to one full season, and hit .217 with 12 HR, a .297 OBP and .319 slugging percentage. He defines “bust.”

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The 20 worst A-Braves players: #18 Bob Uecker

There’s a reason Bob Uecker is self-deprecating. He really, really sucked — especially as an Atlanta Brave.

Uecker played his first and last major league games with the franchise, debuting as a Milwaukee Brave in 1962. He was re-acquired in June 1967 from the Phillies to be Joe Torre’s back-up but ended up starting 48 games, often as Knucksie’s personal catcher. Not that he was any good at it.

The Miller Lite pitchman led NL catchers in errors (11) and passed balls (27 , 25 as a Brave) despite only 59 starts. That’s more passed balls than Eddie Perez and Charlie O’Brien allowed in their careers.

Uecker was equally inept at the plate, managing but 23 hits (18 singles) in 158 Atlanta AB’s, striking out 51 times for a .146 BA. The only thing worse than his .236 OBP was a pitcher-like .215 slugging percentage. Mercifully, the Braves released Uecker four days after the season concluded. I’m surprised it took that long.

NOTE: Not ranked in order; Uecker may well be the worst of the worst. He certainly won’t be the last catcher to make out list. 

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The 20 worst A-Braves players: #19 Damaso Garcia

What is it about shitty ex-Braves and uniform burning? Frank LaCorte, one of the worst hurlers in Braves history, torched his Astros uni. Talk about your fashion statements, heeeeey!

When Damaso Garcia burned his Blue Jays togs in the summer of ’86 the Braves pounced, acquiring the two-time All Star with a .293 BA and an average of 34 SB over five seasons for Craig McMurtry, was was 10-26 over his last three years in Atlanta. The late Jesse Outlar of the Atlanta Constitution called the deal “almost too good to be true.”

It was true, but there was nothing good about it. Garcia missed the entire ’87 season with knee problems, returning the following year a shell of his former self. Garcia totaled just seven hits as a Brave — three of which came in the ’88 opener. After that, he managed but four hits in 53 AB. That’s an .075 BA. His .117 BA that year was lower than pitchers Rick Mahler, Zane Smith and Charlie Puleo.

While his talent dissipated, Garcia was as big an asshole as ever. He was released in May after twice pulling himself from the line-up and refusing to play third base.

The Braves celebrated Garcia’s departure by burning his uniform.

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The 20 worst A-Braves, non-pitchers: #20 ‘Gainesville’s own’ Jody Davis

(in no particular order) 

I attended high school in Gainesville, which has its charms, assuming you can get past the smell of dead chickens.

There aren’t many famous people from there, save for Georgia’s current governor and Howard Stern’s favorite Klansman, Daniel Carver.

So Jody Davis was a pretty big deal. The ginger-haired catcher was the first MLB player from the area, just beating former UGA punter (and Cardinals pitcher) Cris Carpenter (not to be confused with Chris Carpenter, who’s much better).

Davis was an above-average backstop before coming to Atlanta. He played in two All-Star games and finished 10th in the 1984 NL MVP voting.

But he was abysmal as a Brave, batting .161 over three seasons. The only thing worse than his .237 Braves OBP was his slugging percentage (.236). He had more strikeouts (65) than total bases (63).

He saved his worst for the home folks, batting just .143 at Fulco in 1989. Davis was mercifully released the following May after starting the 1990 season with 2 singles in his first 28 AB.

His departure paved the way for Greg Olson, which is about the only good thing you can say about Jody’s time in Atlanta.