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 – the last name that begins with the same letter.
One thing that will stand out about the G’s in team depth. Not that there are some positions that had few options – the left side of the infield is especially weak – but many decisions left off many talented players. That also speaks for the players that did make the team and their talent level. Team G’s strength comes on the mound and in the outfield. Defensively, there are a few issues, but mostly, this is a strong team. Will it be enough to take down Team B, our current champion and winners of five straight? I’ll look at that to end the article.
- CF Marquis Grissom
- LF Ralph Garr
- RF Ron Gant
- 1B Andres Galarraga
- 2B Marcus Giles
- 3B Adonis Garcia
- C Hank Gowdy
- SS Alex Gonzalez
- SP Tom Glavine
- RP Gene Garber
- Manager – Fredi Gonzalez
- President and Owner – James Gaffney
- Pinch-Hitter – Tommy Gregg
- Modern-Era Utility Player – Tony Graffanino
Here’s the Position-by-Position breakdown
Catcher – Hank Gowdy
We don’t care about defense on this roster and Evan Gattis is a strong contender here, but Hank Gowdy has to be the choice. A strong defensive catcher and a team captain despite his youth, Gowdy was originally a first baseman for the Giants before the Braves moved him behind the plate. In his first full season, he helped to guide a young pitching staff to the 1914 World Series. He would go on to play 852 games with the franchise, hitting .260/.339/.339.
Gattis did one thing – hit moonshots. In his two years with the Braves, the sometimes left-fielder (apparently for giggles) belted 43 homers with a .791 OPS. He’s on-base challenged and didn’t spend enough time with the Braves to beat out Gowdy, though. Frank Gibson was a backup catcher for Boston throughout the 20’s and hit pretty well in that role (.281/.316/.389). Kind of surprising since Mickey O’Neil had a negative bWAR in 3-of-his-5 seasons as the regular. Possibly, like Gattis, Gibson was a defensive question.
If I was going by purely name value, Peaches Graham would be my pick. Over 3+ seasons, he hit .266/.344/.315 for Boston before being moved to the Cubs in 1911. Plus, we could play Presidents of the United States’ “Peaches” before his at-bats.
First Base – Andres Galarraga
There are few contenders here, opening the way for the story of The Big Cat. Oh, of course, you know the story. He signed with the Braves in 1998, replacing Fred McGriff, and showed that his power was not just a Coors Field thing. He belted 44 homers and posted a .991 OPS. And now, here is where we say (expletive) cancer. Galarraga would miss 1999 with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and it seemed like he may never play again. However, on opening day in 2000, Galarraga belted a homer to win a game and while he was no longer an MVP candidate, Galarraga was quite effective with a .302/.369/.895 season.
My most memorable Galarraga moment with the Braves, though, came on August 22 at Coors Field against his old teammates. In the 11th inning of a 6-6 game, John Wasdin hit Galarraga with the seventh pitch of the at-bat. The idea that Wasdin was trying to intentionally hit Galarraga is absurd. But he did and The Big Cat charged the mound. Both players were ejected, leading to Paul Bako playing first base. In the 12th, Brent Mayne, a backup catcher, induced a groundout with two runners on and Chipper Jones at the plate to end the inning. Adam Melhuse, another backup catcher who was 0-for-6 to begin his career, singled in the winning run for the Rockies in the 12th. Here is a VHS-rendered version (should start at the 29-minute mark).
Second Base – Marcus Giles
Over six years, including four as an everyday starter, Giles hit .285/.361/.448 with 72 homers – marks that many of didn’t expect from a 5’8″ second baseman. Of course, steroids have long been expected as a reason for not only his dropoff but later domestic violence issues he would have. It was a fun ride for a little while, though. Other options include Rod Gilbreath, who once led the league in sacrifice bunts. That’s really all I can say about him.
Shortstop – Alex Gonzalez
Okay, the options aren’t that great here. If you’d rather have Gil Garrido, a part-timer in the late 60’s and early 70’s, feel free to go with him. I’ll stick with Alex Gonzalez, who hit 21 homers for the Braves in 221 games. Sure, he also had a .277 OBP. Like I said, the options kind of suck here. He was a good, though not elite, defender and that counts, right? Maybe?
Third Base – Adonis Garcia
Oh, I know, you are sitting there and saying “No Ed Gremminger? Where’s Battleship?” Literally, there are two players in franchise history whose names begin with “G” and were regulars at third base. I went with the name I had heard of. But if you have a better option, I am all ears.
Left Field – Ralph Garr
The strength of this team – beyond its Hall of Fame starter – is the outfield. Here are some of the names that didn’t make this team: Sid Gordon, Ken Griffey, Debs Garms, and Cito Gaston. Instead, I went with three players I think are better. Garr is tied for sixth in franchise history in batting average. Sure, he’s a defensive disaster, but we’ll deal with that for what he can do for the top of the lineup. He also swiped 137 career bases, which may not count like a lot, but is second-best among Braves whose last name begins with a “G.”
Center Field – Marquis Grissom
Gold Glove? Check (x2). First 200-hit season for the Braves since Garr? Check. First player since Garr to reach double digits in doubles, triples, and homers as a Brave? Also, check. First player since Eddie Mathews to field the final out of a World Series that led to the Braves celebrating? Random, but also check.
But sure, Grissom only spent two seasons in Atlanta. But in many ways, he was the missing link. Without Grissom, do the Braves win it all in 1995? Maybe, but it would be a lot harder. He was also a big-time performer in the postseason, hitting four postseason homers for the Braves and swiping nine bases to go with an OPS over .800.
Right Field – Ron Gant
I mean, yeah, he was a left-fielder and sometimes center fielder during his best years, but I’m not asking Ralph Garr to play right field. Do you know how many Braves have hit at least 30 homers and stolen at least 30 in the same season? Three – Hank Aaron in 1963, Dale Murphy twenty years later, and Ron Gant in 1990. AND Ron Gant in 1991. Gant was hardly a perfect player. He was streaky, often disappeared during October, and only on-based .326 as a Brave. But he was still a fine ballplayer and when he was on, one of the most feared bats in the league.
Starting Pitcher – Tom Glavine
I know! A real shocker here when guys like Joe Genewich and Pretzels Getzein are around. But I’ll still go with Glavine here and his 17 years as a Brave where he populates many of the most respected leaderboards for pitchers in franchise history. Of course, there were those five years in New York, but you can’t let that ruin what was a tremendous career with the franchise before it. Two Cy Young awards, four Silver Sluggers, and in 1995 – one of the finest pitched postseason games any of us have ever seen. In fact, in eight World Series starts, Glavine has a 2.16 ERA. Not too shabby.
Relief Pitcher – Gene Garber
Garber pitched for the Braves for parts of ten seasons and was the franchise leader in saves until John Smoltz broke his record. In addition to 141 saves, he had a 3.34 ERA over 856 innings and while his numbers don’t match up with modern power pitchers as far as strikeouts go, he was one of the most effective relievers in baseball for two decades. There was a trio of modern arms that I did consider. Kevin Gryboski has a reputation as a rally killer but too often created them. Jason Grilli had an All-Star quality first season with the Braves, but that was about it. And finally, Mike Gonzalez was fun to watch. He couldn’t stay healthy, though.
Manager – Fredi Gonzalez
Okay, so nobody wept when Gonzalez was fired after a 9-28 start to begin 2016. But he did manage the club to a 434-413 record over the 5+ seasons he was in charge, including one Wild Card Game and a division title. That’s not super impressive, but only four managers won more games with the franchise and the Braves’ average finish in the division of 2.3 during his time is sixth-best in franchise history.
Owner and President – James Gaffney
Do you know how the Braves got their name? It came from Gaffney and no, it wasn’t to celebrate Indian heritage. It was to celebrate ownership’s connections to Tammany Hall and the latter’s tendency to adopt Native American customs. It was that connection as one of Charles Murphy’s most trusted advisers that helped Gaffney move up the ranks in both prestige and finances. He joined John Montgomery Ward when the latter bought the club with Gaffney as the treasurer. Together, they pushed the new team name.
Ward sold his shares to Gaffney shortly after they took over the club in 1911 and Gaffney is often credited with revamping Braves Field. Gaffney would later build the team an even better stadium (originally jokingly called The Wigwam, another play on Tammany Hall). But before the new ballpark, Gaffney remade the current product and hired George Stallings. In 1914, Gaffney got his World Championship. The following season, the new Braves Field was opened. But by January 1916, Gaffney sold his club.
If you think Ted Turner is the most controversial owner the Braves have ever had, you don’t know the name of James Gaffney.
Pinch-Hitter – Tommy Gregg
In 1990, the left-hand-hitting Gregg set a new franchise record with four pinch-hit home runs in 59 PA. Later, Evan Gattis would tie that record and it remains the most in a single season since moving to Atlanta. Butch Nieman holds the overall record with five in 1945. Of course, neither Gregg nor Gattis, were a threat to Matt Stairs‘ career record with 21 pinch-hit homers.
Utility Infielder – Tony Graffanino
Over three seasons, Graffanino hit .225/.299/.357 for the Braves while playing second base, shortstop, and third base. He hit 13 of his career with 58 home runs. Okay, so his time with the Braves really isn’t that amazing. And you could easily argue for Philip Gosselin or even Nick Green. However, I go with Tony here now more because of A.J. Graffanino, his son who was selected with the 232nd overall pick in the eighth round of the draft last week. His father was a tenth-round pick back in 1990.
Best Team By Letter: Team B vs. Team G
Team B has held off all comers – even ones with Bobby Cox at the helm or Freddie Freeman at first. But Team G is a real challenge. From their tremendous outfield to their top-notch starter, they have the goods. Honestly, how fun would it be to see Lew Burdette vs. Tom Glavine? Glavine would have to deal with Jeff Blauser, Wally Berger, Dusty Baker, and Bill Bruton. But Burdette would have to navigate through a lineup Garr, Galarraga, Grissom, and Gant. This one is a tough decision, but I’m going to go with Team G has our new champion.
Agree or disagree? Let me know.