All-Time Favorite Atlanta Braves, #4 & #3

All-Time Favorite Atlanta Braves, #4 & #3

As we race to the finish line that is the offseason, so does our All-Time Favorite Atlanta Braves series. If you’re new to the series, here’s the previous pieces:

All-Time Favorite Atlanta Braves, 10 &9

All-Time Favorite Atlanta Braves, 8 & 7

All-Time Favorite Atlanta Braves, 6 & 5

Hope you’ve been following along in the comments section, providing us with your favorites! If not, there’s always time.  4 & 3…here we go!

Ryan Cothran’s All-Time Favorite Atlanta Braves, Number 4

Bruce Benedict – “Now batting, for your Atlanta Braves, Catcher #20, Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce Benedict”.  We as fans tend to be drawn to a player who doesn’t stand out statistically, doesn’t stand out behaviorally, and I can’t explain why Bruce has always been close to my heart. Maybe it’s the memories of childhood, sitting in front of our 22-inch television built to look and act like a piece of furniture, and hearing the announcers and crowd do the “BRUUUUUUUUUCE” anytime he’d come to bat or do something eventful.

Nicknamed “Eggs”, Bruce was primarily a defensive first catcher in an era where nearly every catcher was a defensive first catcher. He appeared in 2 All-Star games including 1983, his best offensive year, in which he compiled a .733 OPS in 133 games. He also played a vital role in the 1982 division winning Braves. As far as Braves history is concerned, Bruce has a very important role as his development at the catching position led the Braves to explore other avenues for then catcher, Dale Murphy. Needless to say, the rest is history as Dale moved to the outfield and became a perennial All-Star and back to back MVP.

Bruce has worn many hats since his retirement including Minor League coach, scout, and NCAA Division 1 referee, but the only hat that matters to me is the hard plastic hat with the Braves logo.

Brittni Swanson’s All-Time Favorite Atlanta Braves, Number 4

Tim Hudson – What I love about Tim Hudson is that he is a good ‘ol country boy. He was such an amazing pitcher; one of the best pitchers of the 2000’s in my opinion. I remember one time watching an interview called ‘At Home with Tim Hudson’, I don’t know why it is something that has always stuck out in my mind about him, but Joe Simpson interviewed him at his 700-acre property. He was describing how he spends his time at home, riding four-wheelers, having barbeques, hunting, fishing, etc. and I thought to myself he’s just like me and my family. I grew up in the same sort of environment and it’s something that I have always remembered about him and the way he carried himself throughout his MLB career; he is just a simple, honest, talented redneck.

Plus on top of all his success as a pitcher, he has a fantastic foundation and anyone that gives back to the community the way his and his family have is very inspiring and says a lot about the type of person he is. I have a lot of respect for people like Tim Hudon, who have money and fame, but put it toward others and that, to me, makes him a classy guy and an all-time favorite in my book.

Tommy Poe’s All-Time Favorite Atlanta Braves, Number 4

One of my favorite cards.

Andruw Jones – I, like many fans, recall looking forward to the arrival of Andruw Jones. The previous year, the Braves had won the World Series and now, here was the best prospect in baseball. For years, we waited for his breakout season. It seemed like a bad joke – every year, Sporting News or Sports Illustrated would predict an MVP season. He was expected to be Ken Griffey Jr., but even better. It’s unfortunate because those expectations were straight impossible to live up to.

What Andruw did become was the best center fielder I have ever seen. He bashed 434 home runs – 368 with the Braves. That includes 2005 when he finally seemed to be coming into his own with a 51-home run year. His follow-up was nearly as good, but years of playing world-class defense caught up with him in 2007. He left the Braves, never played more than 107 games again, and just kind of faded away. It was a sad end to a career of possibilities. While we can talk about how Andruw never became Willie Mays, the version of Andruw we did get was one of kind. Oh, and he should be in the Hall of Fame, too.

Ryan Cothran’s All-Time Favorite Atlanta Braves, Number 3

Jonny Venters– 33% of the O’Ventbrel trio, but Jonny Venters had 100% of my heart while on the mound. Always an underdog, Jonny Venters was a draft afterthought, being selected by the Braves in the 30th round of the 2003 draft. As a starter in the minors, Venters continued the path that most 30th round picks go on and that is the path out of baseball. He walked too many, struck out too few and the future wasn’t bright. Then the unthinkable happened: a failed minor league starting pitcher became an elite reliever overnight.

It was 2010 and Venters received a Spring Training invite, likely just as filler and to get a bit of exposure. However he got the attention of the most important man in the clubhouse: Bobby Cox. Cox saw the slider, knew it was a gem, and brought Venters on to dominate in short inning stints, and dominate he did. By the end of May in his rookie season, he solidified himself as a back-end bullpen arm and held it through 2012.

Venters pitched 229.2 innings of dominant baseball for the Braves from 2010-2012. Most of his innings came in high-leverage situations and he held opponents to a .574 OPS. Lefties, righties, it didn’t matter. Venters sat them down and did it all in the most humble fashion one could imagine. After the 2012 season, Venters’ slider was deemed the most unhittable pitch in all of baseball, a title that had been given to Mariano Rivera‘s cutter for several straight years.

Unfortunately for Jonny, the slider was the pitch that put the most stress on his elbow and after 3 years of constant use, his arm said no more. Now, Jonny is rehabbing with the Rays in Spring Training, has undergone 3 Tommy John procedure, and another elbow procedure, and after 5 years out of the league, Jonny, minus a few ticks in MPH, sees light at the end of the tunnel. I, for one, am rooting for him no matter the jersey.

Brittni Swanson’s All-Time Favorite Atlanta Braves, Number 3

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Freddie Freeman | By Doug Anderson (SA BY CA 2.0) via Flickr

Freddie Freeman – There is something special about Freddie Freeman being at first base. If someone other than Freddie is playing first and they miss catching a ball, I instinctively say ‘Freddie would have gotten that.’ His stretch is absolutely insane and there have been so many times I find myself saying ‘how did he do that?’ Freddie is my favorite active Braves player. He seems like an all-around great guy; he’s fantastic at bat and at first base. The last couple of years he has performed so well, I hope this year that he can stay healthy for the whole season. Last year he hit 28 home runs and in 2016 he hit 34 home runs.

I still have yet to meet him and that is currently on my bucket list for the 2018 season. I think he brings a great spirit to the organization. I don’t really know why he’s my favorite, all I know is I enjoy watching him play more than any other current Brave. I feel like I have somewhat of a connection with Freddie because the year that he joined the Braves in the majors was when I started seriously watching the Braves. So it’s kind of like me and Freddie have grown up together with the club.

Tommy Poe’s All-Time Favorite Atlanta Braves, Number 3

Greg Maddux – Watching Greg Maddux pitch was kind of like watching Picasso paint or Jimi Hendrix play. You knew what you were seeing was truly amazing and unique. Maddux never had Randy Johnson‘s fastball or Pedro Martinez‘s slider, but he didn’t need it. His control was otherworldly. You know those arcade games where you throw the balls through holes? The bigger hole gives you a hundred points, the medium hole gives you 250, and the smallest one gives you 500? Maddux could set new highs on that game that no one would ever touch.

He didn’t market himself and just went out and did his thing 35 times a year + the postseason. In some regards, it was rather boring. You ended up remembering the times something weird happened – like three walks or a Grand Slam – over his own accomplishments because they were so common. Like how in 1996, he gave up his first regular season Grand Slam to Benito Santiago. It was his tenth major league season.

Maddux was so good that he had a baseball accomplishment named after him (complete game, less than 100 pitches). Not too shabby for a guy who only struck out 200 batters once during his season.

Please consider purchasing Walk-Off Walk and Outfield Fly Rule’s 2018 Atlanta Preview with plenty of great information about Freddie Freeman and all of the Braves players from the GCL to the majors.

1 Comments

I am SO GLAD that Wisler, Blair AND Sims were all SENT DOWN to Triple A! Those three not panning out (at the beginning of The Rebuild, when Coppy had Sims and traded for Folty and Wisler….and The Trade with Arizona to get Blair…Coppy felt that Folty, Wisler, Blair and Sims would all be up/getting their feet wet by 2016 and be ready to LEAD The Braves rotation, along with Teheran, in 2017).

However when Wisler and Blair showed in 2016 that they could only STINK UP the place…when Sims wasnt progressing any faster than ‘one level per year’…that left ONLY Folty who showed ‘any promise’ of ever becoming a LEGIT MLB starting pitcher (which is why Coppy had to spend over $30 mil on the likes of ‘journeymen AT BEST’ type pitchers like Jaime Garcia, Bartolo Colon and RA Dickey to fill out The 2017 rotation with Folty and Teheran..INSTEAD of spending money to address the offensive holes we had. That…combined with Hector Oliveria not panning out…which is a trade that I’m sure that Coppy regretted….made 2017 to be a year where competing was going to be impossible. Even with The Oliveria Trade being a disaster….The Braves did get a pick that led to Joey Wentz being drafted! So not all is completely lost with that trade!).

The other single lining of The Oliveria Trade..is that it led to Brandon McCarthy being a member of The Braves 2018 Rotation (as long as he stays healthy/UNTIL The July Trade Deadline IF he can stay healthy/productive).

With the release of Scott Kazmir today…The Braves are currently eating approximately $32 mil of 2018 payroll salaries (Kazmir’s $16 mil PLUS $21 mil Adrian Gonzalez’s $21.5 2018 salary because The Mets are paying $500k of it….minus $5 mil that The Dodgers sent over in The Matt Kemp Trade)..that are NO LONGER on The Braves. We’re still paying McCarthy $10 mil and Culberson around $600k for 2018. Basically, we’re paying McCarthy and Culberson “$42.6 mil” to play for The Braves in 2018, lol!

With 1 WAR being worth approximately $10 mil each…if McCarthy and Culberson combine to be worth 4 WAR…they’ll be ‘paying for the trade’, lol. If not…then no biggie.

With Sims, Blair and Wisler simply NOT HAVING IT….with Kazmir being cut…The Starting 4 of Teheran, Folty, McCarthy and Newcomb ALL BETTER be HELLA DURABLE in 2018 or things could get UGLY QUICK! Sanchez will be the 5th starter until Gohara gets healthy in May. However if injuries start to plague the starting 4….Sims, Wisler and/or Blair will get the call (no way do The Braves bring up Soroka, Allard and/or Wright UNTIL after The ASB…at the earliest! Those three are OUR FUTURE..they need their time in Triple A to show that they are READY for The Majors!). If Sims, Wisler and Blair are making MLB starts for The Braves in 2018 in the 1st half….you guys can FORGET about seeing The Braves SNIFF anything over 75 wins in 2018!

That’s why it is SO IMPORTANT that we keep our pitching prospects in our System UNTIL AFTER we’ve FULLY BUILT our Starting Rotation! 2018 is SO IMPORTANT (not just at The Majors with Folty and Newcomb’s showings on the mound….but also with Soroka and Allard at Triple A….Tooki in Double A…Wentz, Anderson, Wilson and Davidson in High A…and Muller in Lower Class A. Also, Weigel’s progress from elbow surgery may allow him to pitch in Triple A later in The 2018 Season). The 1st half of The 2018 Season…will show what kind of progress/projection each of those arms have in the not too distant future! Our GM AA will be able to better access things! That’s why it would be FOOLISH for him to start ‘making moves’ (like many were clamoring him to do) soon after he was hired in November!

I’ve made it clear how I’d like to see AA go about things. However, one never knows how arms will play out! Injuries happen ALL THE TIME (so does an inability/unwillingness to quit throwing ‘straight fastballs’ that ROUTINELY get launched into outer space…like what happened to Sims, Wisler and Blair!).

One positive note: Ozzie Albies is A BEAST! Him and Freddie are going to have to CARRY The Braves the 1st 2 weeks of The Season..UNTIL Acuna gets called up!

Even though I’ve pushed for The Braves to go with Albies and Acuna to hit in front of Freddie….I’ve come up with a possible ‘passable’ 2018 lineup (after Acuna gets called up):

1. Inciarte
2. Swanson
3. Albies
4. Freeman
5. Acuna
6. Markakis
7. Flower/Suzuki
8. whoever plays 3rd

For this lineup to work..Swanson would HAVE to show that he can be the type of #2 hitter that many of us envisioned him being! That would allow for Snitker to slot the rest of the hitters down..providing some power for the #3-#5 spots of the order (along with the #7 slot with Flowers and Suzuki)!

Sure, it would take away the speed aspect of having Albies and Acuna hit at the top of the lineup. However, scoring runs is IMPOSSIBLE without some power in the middle of the lineup. Albies/Freeman/Acuna hitting #3-#5 is MUCH BETTER than Freeman/Markakis/Flowers or Suzuki hitting #3-#5! Inciarte and Swanson would have to get on base consistently….for this to work!

Your thoughts?

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