How considerate for former crappy Braves utility infielders to do me the solid of giving me a quick, easy column to write as my wife gave birth. I’m actually writing this two days before it posts, yet through the magic of words, I will make it seem like it’s Wednesday.
Happy hump day, everyone! Hope you are enjoying your January 29, 2014. (nailed it)
Two days ago, as yesterday’s star Paul Janish was signing with the Rockies, another former Brave headed elsewhere as well as Elliot Johnson inked a minor league deal with the Indians. While Janish at least got a year-and-a-half to look awful as a Brave, EJ got two months, yet he still played a bigger role for the Braves than Janish ever did.
Also unlike Janish is that Johnson doesn’t excel defensively anywhere. His value is found in his flexibility and a gritty almost Ecksteinian approach to this thing we call baseball. An undrafted free agent, Johnson originally made it to the majors with the Rays in 2008, but arrived to stay in 2011. Well, he stayed for two years, playing nearly 200 games with woeful offensive numbers. However, in his time with the Rays, he certainly wore many hats. Well, no, he didn’t, but it’s just an expression meaning he played several different positions. First base, second base, shortstop, third base, left field, center field, and right field. Now, he didn’t do any of these things particularly well, but it’s decent value. He also showed a nice ability to maximize underwhelming speed and steal bases, swiping 18 in 24 attempts in 2012.
Johnson was the player-to-be-named in the gigantic James Shields/Wil Myers trade during the offseason of 2012-13, going from the Rays to the Royals. He sucked fairly hard in KC, slashing a Janish-worthy .179/.218/.241, though he was successful in all 14 stolen base attempts. Surprisingly for a team that was willing to look past the miserable play of Jeff Francoeur, the Royals cut bait on Johnson and in a shocker, the Braves picked him up last August 21st. Usually, it’s the Royals digging through Atlanta’s garbage like a stalker.
While Johnson would move around and start games in left, at third, and once at shortstop, his primary position with the Brave was at second, where he garnered much internet support as a replacement for Dan Uggla. With the Braves, he had one of his best runs in the majors, slashing .261/.317/.359 in 32 games, including adding eight steals. The Braves were so sad in stolen bases that Johnson was tied for third on the Braves in steals.
With Uggla’s lazer-eyes still not working so well, the Braves made the controversial decision to start Johnson at second in the playoffs. In his first 13 plate appearances, he was hitless with a walk, four K’s, and he grounded into a double play. In his 14th, he hit a one-out triple in the seventh inning of Game 4 and would score the go-ahead run. Something happened later to negate the importance of that. In his final plate appearance with the Braves, Johnson stranded a pair of runners with a flyout. The odd, never discussed thing, is that after that at-bat, he was removed from the game. Why, say Jordan Schafer, didn’t pinch hit for him is pretty strange. Oh, well.
I will not miss EJ. I don’t think anyone will. He was just a sign of how sad the once-deep bench regressed to. Good bye Elliot and may the Indians need a guy who can’t, can’t really field that well, but can show grit and determination and all-around whiteness while playing several positions.