So we’ve compiled our list of the 25 most consequential Atlanta Braves and there were some difficult omissions. Among the more notable names we passed over:
Javy Lopez. He’s basically admitted to juicing, which diminishes his stellar 2003 campaign, when he hit 43 HR in 129 games. Otherwise, he was a steady bat during the glory years though not much of an asset behind the plate. Good, not great. (CD and I disagree on this one.)
Tim Hudson. If you were compiling an all-Atlanta Braves rotation Huddy would probably be your fifth starter. He was a pleasure to cheer for and a positive influence in the clubhouse and community.
Craig Kimbrel. Already the all-time saves leader and without question the best closer in team history. Unfortunately, his manager has seen fit not to pitch him in some of the team’s biggest games over the last five years. Tough to omit a guy with a .90 WHIP and 1.43 ERA — safe to say he’d be high on this list if he pitched during the 90s. Had Kimbrel been on those teams it’s likely the Braves would’ve won two more world championships (’92 and ’96).
Gene Garber. Only Phil Niekro, Warren Spahn and John Smoltz appeared in more games for the franchise and only Kimbrel and Smoltzie have more saves. He was a generally reliable member of the ‘pen for 11 seasons and was at his best for the ’82 division winners, saving 30 games with a 2.34 ERA in 119 IP.
Ron Gant. In seven seasons he clubbed 147 homers and stole 157 bases before an ill-fated motorcycle ride ended his tenure in Atlanta.
Ralph Garr. The Roadrunner batted .317 and stole 137 bases (though he was CS 62 times) in eight seasons with the Bravos. Unfortunately for him, the early 1970s were among the most forgettable of the Braves’ Atlanta era. Garr returned to the organization as a scout and is a well-deserving member of the Braves Hall of Fame.
Lonnie Smith. A lot of Braves fans blame Lonnie for the loss in Game 7 of the ’91 Series, but it was Ron Gant and Sid Bream who couldn’t drive in a runner from third with less than two outs. Getting confused by the Metrodome’s Hefty bag ceiling is pardonable, and the Braves wouldn’t have gotten there without Lonnie, who had three homers in the series. In five years with the Braves, Skates posted a sterling .837 OPS, highlighted by a fantastic 1989 season: .315 BA, .415 OBP, .533 slugging, 21 HR, 25 SB.
Ryan Klesko. Better than given credit for, Klesko had a .886 OPS in 8 seasons.
The toughest omission, for me at least, was “The Beeg Boy,” Rico Carty. Had his career not been best with injuries, he would’ve been a shoo-in for our list. But even though he missed all of 1968 and 1971 and never played more than 136 games in a season for the A-Braves, Carty’s Atlanta stats are eye-catching: .317 BA, .388 OBP and .496 slugging. And few Braves can match the numbers he delivered in 1970: .366-25-101, .454 OBP, .584 slugging. That’s a 1.037 OPS — .204 points higher than Justin Upton’s 2014 OPS. Two years later, GM Eddie Robinson traded Carty to Texas for 28-year-old middle reliever Jim Panther. Six years later, 38-year-old Rico hit .282-31-99.