What follows is a position-by-position compilation of the worst Opening Day starters ever, with two caveats. The cut-off is 1977, and injury substitutes (i.e. Easy Ed Miller over Jeff Burroughs in ’80) don’t count.
C: “Gainesville’s own” Jody Davis (’89). Like runner-ups Rick Cerone (’85) and Ernie Whitt (’90), Davis was once an above-average backstop. But they all turned into Fernando Lunar once they got to Atlanta. Davis, who batted 5th on Opening Day in ’89, slipped the most. The two-time All-Star batted .169 in 231 ABs that year with a ungodly .489 OPS.
1B: Rico Brogna (’01). Gary Roenicke (’87) and Scott Thorman (’07) were worthy contenders, but Brogna had nothing left and even he knew it, retiring midway through the season after putting up a paltry .632 OPS. His departure paved the way for the Julio Franco era.
2B: Dan Uggla (’11-’14). Damaso Garcia (’88) was a disaster. Rod Gilbreath (’77), Jerry Royster (’78) and Tony Graffanino (’98) weren’t much better. But Uggla gets the nod for sustained crapulence.
3B: Alberto Callaspo (’15). By a landslide. Even with Ken Oberkfell (’86-’88) and Royster (’77) in the mix. Seeing Callaspo take the field on Opening Day was a sure sign the rebuild was going be even more painful than we feared. He was the whole package: bad glove, erratic arm, no range, no power, no speed, no contact.
SS: Pat Rockett (’77-’78). How bad was Rockett? Well, he beat out Andres Thomas (’87-’89), Erick Aybar (’16) and Tyler Pastornicky (’12). Rockett represented all that went wrong for the Braves in the ’70s. They drafted him 10th overall in ’73, ahead of Fred Lynn and Eddie Murray, and watched as he struggled at the plate and with the glove. Rockett hit a punchless .254 in ’77 while committing 23 errors in 84 games. He was even worse in ’78, batting .141 in 142 AB, good for a .366 OPS. And 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.” Or even a competent one.
LF: Melky Cabrera (’10). No contest. A fat flop who was indifferent at the plate and often comical in the field. We’d later discover his total lack of class.
CF: Eric Young Jr. (’15). How dreadful was the 2015 Opening Day line-up? Alberto Callaspo wasn’t the worst player in it. That would be EY Jr., whose woeful reign in CF (.502 OPS in 35 games) was mercifully brief.
RF: Raul Mondesi (’05). CD and I had high hopes for the former Dodger. We were even going to start a fan club: The Mondeleeza’s (as in Condi Rice). Guess I’ll never get to wear my pearls in public. A .630 OPS ended the Mondesi experiment after two months.
SP: Len Barker (’85). No need to re-live the Barker fiasco, though to be fair he wasn’t awful that season, fashioning a 3.85 ERA in 126 IP with a 1.251 WHIP. But he was as far from an ace as you could get.