|Sorry, couldn’t find a Braves pic with both|
Jay Gula | Getty Images
The 2009 Atlanta Braves finished short in their bid to return to the playoffs, but had high expectations entering 2010 to rectify that. Jason Heyward was about to arrive, they had some nice young pieces in the rotation like Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson, and had just added Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito to what was supposed to be a good bullpen. But they had a hole at first base. Freddie Freeman was a year away so they sought some stopgap options and got a pair of them with Glaus and Hinske.
Make no mistake – this was supposed to be Glaus’s show. The 2000 AL Homerun Champ, Glaus had been productive in 2008 before missing most of the following year. He was breaking down due to injuries, but the Braves rolled the dice that he could handle first base, a position he had played sparingly in his career, and provide some power. The previous year had seen the Braves replace an ineffective Casey Kotchman with Adam LaRoche, but Sleepypants left for bigger money. The hope was that Glaus simply could stay healthy enough in his age-33 year to give Atlanta enough production.
As for ‘Ski, he gave the Braves another power bat and a little outfield insurance if Heyward struggled. The 2002 AL Roockie of the Year had reached 400 plate appearances just once in the previous five years, but was a productive platoon/bench option along with being a high-character player.
Things got off to a poor start for Glaus and he ended the first month of the season with a .194/.310/292 line. May would see him get hot, though, as he slashed .330/.408/.534 during the month with 6 HR while being named NL Player of the Month. Atlanta, who had began the year much like Glaus (9-14 in April), surged with 20 victories in May and were just a half-game out when the month ended. They would win their next four to increase a win streak to nine and took over the NL East until September when the Phillies passed them. Like the Braves, Glaus couldn’t retain his torrent May pace as summer dragged on. While productive for most of June, Glaus collapsed in a 39-game stretch from June 28 to August 17 when he slashed just .172/.282/.267. His struggles would prompt the Braves to trade for Derrek Lee in August so that they could DL and rest Glaus. He would make it back in September and started a pair of games at first base with a brief cameo at third base mixed in.
Hinske got off to a wonderful start with an RBI triple on opening day (aka the game Heyward homered in his AB). He was OPSing over a thousand as late as June 1 and received increased playing time in place of the jerkish loafer Melky Cabrera. His overall numbers declined as a result, He also played a good deal at first for Glaus. By the end of the year, Hinske’s slash was a solid .256/.338/.456 with 11 HR.
Both players would get their postseason moment. Not expected to play in the field, Glaus was supposed to provide a bench option for the depleted Braves, who were missing both Chipper Jones and Martin Prado as the NLDS against the Giants began. After falling 1-0 in the opener, Game 2 in San Francisco was tied at four as the tenth began. In a double switch, the Braves moved Omar Infante to second base for the hapless Brooks Conrad and put Glaus in at third with Billy Wagner coming into pitch. Wagner would hurt himself on a sacrifice bunt, which would be his last game. Kyle Farnsworth entered and promptly hit Freddy Sanchez and walked Aubrey Huff. With Buster Posey at the plate and the infield drawn-in, Posey sent a screamer to third. Glaus, who had played just two innings all year at third base, could have gone to home to get the potential game-winning runner, but instead opted to throw to second. Infante caught it and gunned down Posey at first base (video). The double play extended the game into the 11th and Rick Ankiel hit a 2-2 homer to put the Braves ahead and tie up the series.
Hinske nearly put the Braves in a position to push the Giants to the brink. With the score 1-0 in the 8th inning in Game 3, Glaus was announced as the pinch hitter to face Jonathan Sanchez with a runner on first. San Francisco countered with Sergio Romo which prompted Bobby Cox to go with ‘Ski. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat with the count 2-2, Romo hung a slider and Hinske hammered it just beyond the right-field wall (video). However, Craig Kimbrel, then a rookie pressed into closer duty with the Wagner injury, blew it in the ninth and the Giants won. They would go onto win Game 4 as well.
While he stuck around for two more years, Hinske’s OPS fell from .793 to .713 to .583 in 2012. He would play one more year, this time with Arizona, before retiring. He’s moved into coaching since and is an assistant hitting coach for the Cubs. As for Glaus, he would get the start in Game 4, but went hitless. It was the last game he played. He kept the option of returning opening for a year, but never got an offer he couldn’t say “no” to. He officially retired in December of 2011 and is eligible for the Hall of Fame this year, though he’s unlikely to get 5% to stick around for another year.
Ultimately, the signings that were announced six years ago today gave us two of the best postseason moments of the last decade. All in all, a good day.