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.
Strap in, ladies and gents, because this is going to be a bumpy ride. Team B and Team C each had their weaknesses. But they were mostly solid lineups with a good – if not great – pitcher on the mound. Sadly, impact players whose last name begin with a “D” have been largely absent from the Braves organization. They don’t even have a player whose name begins with “D” on the roster right now. As a result of this lack of depth, while I’ll look at who should be our current champion at the end, I imagine an upset is not brewing. Get ready to see some names you’re not familiar with.
- Al Dark, SS
- Hugh Duffy, CF
- J.D. Drew, RF
- Matt Diaz, LF
- Mark DeRosa, 1B
- Art Devlin, 3B
- Gene DeMontreville, 2B
- Bob Didier, C
- Bill Dinneen, SP
- Jeff Dedmon, RP
- Chuck Dressen, Manager
- George and John Dovey, Owner
It’s probably not a good sign when the second-best hitter on this team spent just one year with the franchise.
Catcher – Bob Didier
The Braves traded away Joe Torre for a few reasons, but one was related to Didier who the Braves were very high on. Sadly, he was pretty atrocious. He’d hit .225/.281/.270 over 795 plate appearances. By the end of his time in Atlanta, he was only around because Phil Niekro liked to throw the ball to him. The fact that he’s the catcher of this squad speaks volumes about the options. Feel free to find a better catcher than Didier here. Con Daily had a .529 OPS between 1886 and 1887. I guess, for the time, that’s better? Jody Davis was actually worse in a Braves’ uniform than Didier, but Davis getting hurt opened the door for Greg Olson. Should we value that?
First Base – Mark DeRosa
DeRosa played one inning at first base during his seven years with the Braves. Good enough for me. He was only a .266/.318/.371 hitter with Atlanta, though he was 7-for-19 in the playoffs for the Braves and had a career .980 OPS in the postseason. We are going to need that kind of “clutch” offense to take down Team B (they won’t). This is another position you’d expect some power – somewhere in franchise history. But nope. DeRo is about the best you’re going to get.
Second Base – Gene DeMontreville
In two seasons with Boston at the turn of the century, DeMontreville hit .282/.301/.341 with the Beaneaters, including five homers in 1901. And yes, that’s enough to get on this team over the Jack Dittmer‘s and Oscar Dugey‘s.
Shortstop – Al Dark
The answer to the question, “Who won the 1948 Rookie of the Year?” Dark’s career and popularity are more attached to his time with the Giants than with the Braves. Or maybe before he became a professional when he was a three-sport star at LSU during World War II. But his major league career really got going in 1948 when he hit .322/.353/.433. That made him the last Rookie of the Year of both leagues (they started handing out awards for separate leagues the next year). Because Boston hated good things, he was traded to the Giants after 1949 and starred in New York. Dark would finish his career with 50 games as a 38-year old in 1960 with Milwaukee. Overall, he hit .299/.334/.395 as a Brave.
Third Base – Art Devlin
Devlin was also popular with the New York Giants, spending much of the first decade of the 20th century holding down third base for them. He swiped a league-high 59 bases in 1905 – the same year he won a ring. He’d finish up his career in Boston in 1912 and 1913 with a .269/.354/.348 clip, nearly matching his OPS with the Giants. Devlin was also considered one of the, if not the, best defensive third basemen of his time. And really, for this team, that’ll do. Unless you want to go with Charlie Deal, who did have a big hit in the 1914 World Series.
Left Field – Matt Diaz
From 2006 until 2009, Diaz was a .316/.363/.466 hitter. Now, yes, he did almost all that damage against southpaws, but Team D will take offense wherever they can find it. In left field, Diaz was a defensive…wonder? At an old forum I frequented, we referred to him as Magellan for his interesting paths to the ball. At the plate, though, he was a masher when he had the platoon advantage. Other options considered were Jermaine Dye, Vince DiMaggio, and – because this team might need it – Jack Daniels.
Center Field – Hugh Duffy
While I bag on this collection of talent, Hugh Duffy is one of the better players in franchise history. A focal point on the great Boston teams of the final decade of the 19th century, Duffy twice led the NL in homers. In a sign that Boston was playing on rookie level in 1894, Duffy slashed .440/.502/.694. Over a full season. I mean, come on! Of course, how good Duffy actually was is limited by the level of competition that he was facing, but we’ll let the results speak for themselves. Duffy is second in franchise history in steals to former teammate, Herman Long, and is sixth on OBP (minimum 1000 PA).
Right Field – J.D. Drew
In the first “Year In the Life,” I wrote about Drew’s only season in Atlanta. Statistically, it remains one of the best seasons in franchise history and one of the best one-year careers any player has had for any team. He slashed .305/.436/.569 with 28 doubles, 31 homers, 12 steals, and 118 walks. While many hated this deal because of the player Atlanta gave up, Drew definitely delivered the goods.
Starting Pitcher – Bill Dinneen
Steve Avery, Lew Burdette, John Clarkson…Bill Dinneen? Another dead ball arm like Clarkson, Dinneen joined Boston for two seasons in 1900 and 1901. He had a 3.03 ERA during this time, which is essentially a 128 ERA+. That’s about as good as you’re going to find for this team. I did look for better options, though. Cozy Dolan started his career as a pitcher with Boston before shifting to the outfield. Randall Delgado and Kyle Davies both flamed out with the Braves. Nig Cuppy is a funny name. Just felt I should mention that last one.
Relief Pitcher – Jeff Dedmon
I also considered Adrian Devine, who had his finest season when he wasn’t a Brave. Dedmon picked up eleven saves as a reliever for the mid-80’s Braves. He wasn’t good. That allows him to fit in well with this squad.
Manager – Chuck Dressen
The only manager in franchise history whose last name begins with a “D,” Dressen was actually pretty successful with the Braves in 1960 and 1960 with a 159-124 record. However, he was replaced by Birdie Tebbetts. Dressen managed for 16 total years with a record of 1008-973, winning two pennants with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1952 and 1953.
Owners – George and John Dovey
Have you ever wondered why Boston briefly changed their name to the Boston Doves? It’s because of these two guys. George was the principal owner when the brothers bought the team in 1907, but he died of a pulmonary hemorrhage while riding a train two years later. A year later, John sold the team to John P. Harris.
Best Team By Letter: Team B vs. Team D
The Team B lineup, built around Wally Berger, Dusty Baker, and Sid Bream with Burdette on the mound, should easily get by Team D. I would usually write more about a hypothetical match-up, but I feel this one is already in the bag.
Agree or disagree? Would love to hear your thoughts and Happy Easter to all of the Walk-Off Walk nation.
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