Our Team “E” squad was an awful one to write about. Team F, though, has some fun names – including a few current Braves. In fact, Team F carries a heavy-Atlanta flavor as Boston and Milwaukee are not represented all that well by this squad. There are some weak points – especially the outfield – but there are some real strengths as well. As always, at the end, we’ll match Team F up against our champion. Team B held off a big challenge from Team C, but has coasted in back-to-back games. Will this team finally unseat them?
As this series typically goes, we’ll start with our lineup and follow that up by going position-by-position.
- Rafael Furcal, SS
- Julio Franco/Matt Franco, 1B
- Freddie Freeman, 3B
- Tyler Flowers, C
- Jeff Francoeur, RF
- Tito Francona, LF
- Gus Felix, CF
- Hod Ford, 2B
- Lou Fette, SP
- Terry Forster, RP
- Judge Fuchs, Manager and Owner
Here’s your position-by-position breakdown.
Catcher – Tyler Flowers
It should be a sign of the available competition when Flowers, who has just 192 games with the Braves, is the runaway choice for catcher. His competition? Jorge Fabregas and David Freitas. Fortunately, Flowers would have been at worst, a fun candidate, after hitting .276/.370/.432 with 20 homers in nearly 750 PA. Of course, what makes that production level so amazing is that Flowers was signed for his framing skills, not his offense. That was a good bet considering he hit .223/.289/.376 over parts of seven years with the Chicago White Sox. Guess the former 27th-round draft choice by the Braves in ’04 was just meant to be a Brave.
First Base – Dos Francos
We get our first platoon of the series. Back in 2002, these two combined to hit .283/.349/.419 with 18 home runs. Sure, in a huge offensive environment of that era, that kind of production from first base wasn’t significant. But for the Braves, who needed complimentary numbers at the very least from first base, it was a nice boost to the team. From the left side, Matt Franco had a .912 OPS over 233 PA while Julio Franco, in his first full season with the Braves, hit .284/.357/.382. Another option to consider is Robert Fick, who joined the team in 2003. Elbie Fletcher spent parts of six years with the franchise in the 30’s and 40’s. Jack Fournier finished up his 15-year career with one productive season for a 94-loss Boston squad in 1927.
Second Base – Hod Ford
You might be thinking – what kind of name is Hod? His full name was Horace Hill Ford. He broke in the majors in 1919 for a cup of coffee before becoming a regular player for Boston over the next four seasons. He’d return briefly in 1932-33 to close out his career, hitting .267/.318/.356 in just over 2,000 PA with the franchise. While no world-beater, Ford outclasses other options such as Kerby Farrell and Ed Fitzpatrick.
Shortstop – Rafael Furcal
Though he was, at times, infuriating and he later earned scorn for how he and his agent treated the Braves during a free agent period, Furcal was definitely productive in his six years with the franchise. He was once an All-Star and hit .284/.348/.409 while with the franchise. Three times, he posted a 3-fWAR or better season. His arm remained the best many Braves fans had seen from shortstop until Andrelton Simmons arrived. Certainly a better option than Pepe Frias and Leo Foster.
Third Base – Freddie Freeman
I mean…do I need to point out why? He still remains one of baseball’s most underrated superstars despite a .307/.406/.575 mark since the beginning of the 2016 season. And yeah, I know I’m cheating by putting Freeman at third base. For all of you Ryan Flaherty, Juan Francisco, and Nanny Fernandez fans, I’m sorry.
Left Field – Tito Francona
Acquired in 1967, Francona played parts of three seasons with the Braves. He hit .273/.350/.350 with the franchise and while the power is low, Francona’s ability to get on base makes him an easy pick here. And, yeah, that’s partly related to how poor the options are. Buck Freeman hit .301/.355/.452, but only played one year with the team in 1900 before jumping to the Red Sox.
Center Field – Gus Felix
By sheer lack of options, Felix makes the squad as a center fielder. His career was short – just five years – and mostly forgettable. He arrived in the majors in 1923 as a 28-year-old rookie for Boston. He hit .273 that year with a career-high six home runs. Injuries would limit him to just 59 games the following year, but he bounced back in 1925 for his best season. He slashed .307/.356/.405 with 25 doubles. That fall, Boston traded him to Brooklyn in a six-person deal and he played two seasons with the Robins, hitting just about the same as he had in Boston.
Right Field – Jeff Francoeur
While he never really became “The Natural,” Francoeur is a good fit on this squad. Over parts of six seasons, including 99 games in his final year, Francoeur hit .265/.307/.420 with the Braves. He bashed 85 home runs. While those marks aren’t nearly as gaudy as people expected out of him, Francoeur had his moments with the Braves. He now works for the team, doing analyst work both on pre-and-post game reports and the occasional radio when the Braves are on the road and Don Sutton takes time off.
Starting Pitcher – Lou Fette
I am a little surprised the options are so miserable here. You could go with Dana Fillingim, who threw 1028.1 innings for Boston. Or Hank Fischer, who primarily pitched during the team’s final years in Milwaukee. Or even Fred Frankhouse. He spent most of the 30’s with Boston. Mike Foltynewicz and Max Fried may eventually replace my choice of Fette, but for now, I’m rolling with the righty out of Alma, Missouri.
Fette was a 30-year-old rookie in 1937 when he led the NL in shutouts with five. His career is essentially just three years due to injuries, but before those injuries hit, he was an excellent pitcher in the NL. He was also an All-Star in 1939 and finished his Braves career with a 3.17 ERA in 688 innings. That included a brief comeback in 1945 after being brought back due to many players doing their part for the war effort.
Closer – Terry Forster
Oh, you could go with Kyle Farnsworth here if you wanted to. Forster, however, did have a 2.29 ERA over 165.1 innings during his three seasons with the Braves. He also finished with more saves with the franchise than Farnsworth. Finally, he didn’t give up a Grand Slam to Lance Berkman and a solo homer to Brad Ausmus in Game 4 of the 2005 NLDS. That alone makes Forster the better choice.
Manager and Owner – Judge Emil Fuchs
Born in Germany, Fuchs came to America as a child and by 24, he was Deputy Attorney General for New York. Later on, he became the attorney for the Giants under John McGraw and bought the Boston Braves with Christy Mathewson in 1922. He would be the principal owner until 1935. For a time, he even managed the club and later convinced Babe Ruth to come to the Braves as player, vice-president, and assistant manager. He even hinted that Ruth could become a manager one day. That was a lie and Ruth later retired and left the organization. Soon after, Fuchs sold his shares to his minority partner, Charles Adams.
Best Team by Letter: Team B vs. Team F
With Freeman in the fold, Team F has a superstar to rely on. The problem comes down to pitching. Team B will go to Lew Burdette in this game. While Burdette isn’t a Hall of Famer, he was a solid pitcher. Team F counters with Lou Fette, who might have fits navigating through the Jeff Blauser/Wally Berger/Dusty Baker-led squad. Yet again, Team B will advance.
Agree or disagree? Let me know below.