When you have operated a squad for nearly 150 years, you rack up a pretty expansive collection of players that have taken the field for you. In this series, we look at possibly the best possible lineup you could build that all share one thing in common – a last name that begins with the same letter.
While the best player to ever wear a Braves uniform will be part of this group, his supporting staff isn’t quite that impressive. Oh, there are a few All-Stars here and an up-and-comer, but there are also some guys selected as the least bad of a collection of bad. I’ll show you the lineup and then we’ll go position-by-position.
- Ozzie Albies, 2B
- Felipe Alou, CF
- Hank Aaron, RF
- Joe Adcock, 1B
- Rick Ankiel, LF
- Ed Abbaticchio, SS
- Willy Aybar, 3B
- Stan Andrews, C
- Steve Avery, SP
- Paul Assenmacher, CL
Here’s a deeper look at the selection process.
Catcher – Stan Andrews
Nicknamed “Polo”, Andrews was a bit-player who played in 32 games between 1939-40 and just 70 total games in his career. He hit .203/.217/.203 with Boston, which could tell you how bad things are for Team A when it comes to catchers. Go ahead – find a better choice. Tom Asmussen, who went 0-for-5 with Boston in 1907? Toby Atwell, who actually hit worse than Andrews for Milwaukee in 15 games during 1956? Joe Ayrault? Yikes. Just yikes.
First Base – Joe Adcock
No question here. Adcock is one of the best first basemen in franchise history, despite the fact he was platooned relentlessly over a decade with the team. He was part of back-to-back pennant winners and hit 239 homers as a Brave. Sorry, Tommie Aaron. Your last name may have helped you reach 1045 plate appearances in the majors, but won’t get you on this club.
Second Base – Ozzie Albies
Oh, I’m not being cute. There just isn’t much else to select from. Bob Avila is the only other primary second baseman with at least 200 plate appearances as a Brave and Albies blows him out of the water.
Shortstop – Ed Abbaticchio
Over four seasons, “Batty” hit .255/.313/.332 for Boston with 79 steals and yes, that’s enough to make this club. What, were you expecting Erick Aybar?
Third Base – Willy Aybar
Like catcher and shortstop, the selection is dirt thin here. Bill Akers had a very short-run like Aybar, playing for just 36 games in 1932. Either one of the Aspromonte brothers (Bob Aspromonte and Ken Aspromonte) would have been possibilities if they didn’t have a collective OPS of about .615. Chub Aubrey nearly took it on name value alone. To his credit, Aybar did hit .313/.373/.391 as a Brave. Sure, it was only in 127 PA, but we’re starving for production here.
Left Field – Rick Ankiel
None of the other possibilities were all that exciting – Garret Anderson, Josh Anderson, Brian Asselstine, and even Lane Adams. That opened the door for Ankiel, who gets the nod based entirely on one home run he hit for the Braves. I nearly went with Matt Adams, but Avery threatened to walk. Keep an eye on this Ronald Acuna Jr. kid, though. I hear he could be good.
Center Field – Felipe Alou
Alou spent six years of his 17-year career with the Braves, twice leading the NL in hits (I see you, Knockahoma Nation). Overall, he slashed .295/.338/.440 as a Brave with 94 home runs and 40 steals. He’s promised, however, to not attempt a stolen base as he was caught 35 times trying to do that as a Brave. With this offense, we cannot afford to run into outs.
Right Field – Hank Aaron
I know. It’s shocking Aaron got the call over Cory Aldridge, but I have to stick to my guns and go with the guy who set franchise records in a plethora of offensive categories. As a Brave, he reached 3600 hits, 600 doubles, 96 triples, 733 home runs, and even found time to swipe 240 bases and walked more than he struck out. He’s the best player to ever play for this franchise and one of the greatest of all time.
Starting Pitcher – Steve Avery
The lefty gets the nod over 1940’s stalwart, Nate Anders, and the very tradeable Doyle Alexander. To be fair, Alexander helped the Braves acquire a Hall of Famer. From a performance standpoint, though, there is no question who deserves the spot. Avery made 201 starts with the Braves. While his arm petered out, his dynamite pitching in the 1991 NLCS and a solid start in the ’95 World Series are justification enough for this squad.
Closer – Paul Assenmacher
Going with Assenmacher over Jim Acker as the former was a little more difficult on hitters. Luis Avilan and Antonio Alfonseca also had their moments for the Braves. However, Assenmacher saved 14 games over four seasons with Atlanta. After finishing his Braves’ run with a 3.46 career, he pitched another decade in the majors.
What do you think? What would your A-Team look like? If you guys like this series, we’ll continue with it. Also, we’ll find out which letter has the best collection of talent.