The Braves traded a future Hall of Famer to acquire Denny McLain halfway through the 1972 season. Granted, Orlando Cepeda was nearing the end of his career, though he’d have one more productive year before retiring.
McLain, however, was done by the time he got to Atlanta. He was worth a gamble, pardon the pun, considering he was only 28 and just four years removed from winning 31 games for Detroit. The Chicago native had 114 wins by his 25th birthday but only 17 afterward — three with the Braves.
The ’72 Braves had the third best BA in the NL and finished second in homers. But their pitching was abysmal beyond Knucksie, who had a 3.06 ERA and 1.087 WHIP. Enter McLain, who showed no trace of his old form, sucking as a starter (6.47 ERA) and reliever (5.73 ERA). He allowed 10 hits per 9 IP and struck out only 3.5/9.
The Braves kept him on the roster the following spring but McLain couldn’t crack a pitching staff that would finish last in the NL in ERA, just as it did in ’72. He was released in March, never to don a major league uniform again.
Trivia question: McLain was one of three Braves from the 1970s (that I know of) to serve prison time. Can you name the other two?