The All-Underrated Braves: OF

Lonnie Smith‘s base-running gaffe did not cost the Braves Game 7 in 1991. If you’re going to assign blame, place it on Ron Gant and Sid Bream — a combined 0-for-8 that night — for their inability to get a runner home from third with less than 2 outs. 

Lonnie had 2 hits that night, and if he catches heat for anything it should be his decision to bunt with Lemmer on 2nd and 1 out in the 5th inning. He reached base, moving Lemmer to third, but should’ve been trying to get the run home. That aside, Lonnie was one of the Braves’ better hitters in the series, homering three times with a .910 OPS, more than double Bream’s OPS in the Fall Classic.

Yet Bream is a folk hero in Atlanta. Lonnie, meanwhile, is seen as a goat. I don’t begrudge Sid’s status, but with the game on the line I’d take Lonnie every time.

In 5 years with the Braves, he hit .291 with a .380 OBP and .456 slugging percentage. Sure, his defense was shaky, but was he any worse than Justin Upton last year?

Next time you hear someone badmouthing Lonnie, remind them what he did for the Braves. Sure, he once threatened to kill JS, but that’s why pencils have erasers.

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6 comments

  1. Lonnie’s gaffes are magnified because he essentially had two horrific baserunning blunders in the series – the going-back-to-tag on Pendleton’s double over Puckett’s head and the one where some say he fell for the deke by Gagne and Knoblauch (personally I think he just failed to pick up the ball when he should have had his eyes on Jimy Williams, but I digress).

    The playoffs aside, do the Braves even see the postseason in ’91 if it weren’t for Lonnie? He stepped into an imperfect situation and hit leadoff, stepping in for a guy who was stealing at will and jump-starting the offense on a nightly basis. He should be credited for never trying to be Otis v2.0 and simply being the player we knew him to be. What was the alternative? Keith Mitchell? Brian Hunter in left and Bream facing lefties?

    People who jump on Skates aren’t exactly being fair, as he never would have been in the position to fail on the basepaths in the Fall Classic if Otis could have just stayed away from the nose candy.

  2. It really is unfair to judge a player too harshly for what happens in the post-season. Lonnie Smith was a winner, like Terry Pendelton, with two (2) rings when he became a Brave. He helped make us winners, too.
    Excellent pick.

  3. Two things…

    1) When Lonnie didn’t score from first in the eighth inning of Game 7 on Pendleton’s double, it’s worth noting Pendleton actually struck out earlier in the at bat. The third base umpire said he foul-tipped the ball into the dirt, but watch the replay – he never touched the ball with his bat. He then doubled to left and we blame Lonnie for not picking up the third base coach and scoring. Not saying we’re wrong for doing so, but these are the facts.

    2) Gant should be blamed a million times over for not producing in the postseason. How many times did he disappoint in October of ’91? Want another fun stat? In ’93, he struck out seven different times in the series against Philadelphia to end an inning with runners on base.

    That motorcycle accident may not have been the worst thing to happen. For the team, anyway.

  4. And… in Game 4 of the ’91 Series, Smoltz gives up the lead to the Twins via a Pagliarulo HR. Who answers? Lonnie with an out-of-nowhere shot to dead center to tie it. But all anybody remembers is Lemke’s triple and Willard’s sac fly. Not hating on the Atlanta fans, but all the people that bust on Lonnie for his baserunning mishaps better remember these l’il tidbits as well.

  5. If it weren’t for the nose injury and base-running gaffes, Lonnie would be remembered differently. Guy could flat-out hit.

    But people tend to forget Otis Nixon’s nose injury kept him out of the series. We can blame everyone on-site for the Braves’ shortcomings in 1991, but if Otis had been available to the Braves, it would have been a big help and probably would have put us over the top.

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