For this edition of the Franchise Greats series we come to my favorite team. So, all the opinions herein are indisputable facts and cannot be disagreed with. Warning, reading further will expose you to awesomeness you may not be prepared to deal with, conversion to Braves Country is a common side effect. The Braves have been around since the very earliest days of Major League baseball. Their history can be traced back to 1871 giving them 149 continuous years of existence. For the first 70 years of their history they hailed from Boston. They went through several mascot identities across those years starting as the Red Stockings (‘71-76), then the Caps (‘76-82), Beaneaters (1883-1906), Doves (1907-10), Rustlers (1911), Braves (1912-35), Bees (‘35-40), and back to Braves from ‘41 till today. Sharing Boston with the Red Sox ended up being a tough proposition so they moved West in ‘53 to Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Braves were a successful franchise but the market wasn’t big enough for the owners in the early 60s and they were coaxed into moving South. They became the Atlanta Braves in 1966 and unless something drastic happens have made no indications they would leave the city any time soon.
The Braves are the only franchise to win a World Series in three different cities. Technically in 1892 they won the final playoff series in 6 games over the Cleveland Spiders but before 1903, the leagues did not recognize a champion so it was merely an exhibition. In 1914, the Boston Braves surprised Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics with a 4-0 sweep. The ‘48 team lost the series in six to the Indians (revenge for 1892 perhaps?) and then the team left Boston. Once in Milwaukee, they went to back-to-back World Series in ‘57-58 against the Yankees, winning the first and losing the second, both going to 7 games. The Yankees will become a bit of a theme. Once in Atlanta, the success returned again as they made the playoffs in ‘69 and ‘82 but failed to secure a pennant. Then one of the greatest runs in professional sports began in 1991 as they won 14 consecutive division titles. Excluding the ‘94 season in which no team was crowned, although they were six games back of the division leading Expos when the strike occurred. At the beginning of that streak they lost the ‘91 and ‘92 World Series, first to the Twins in 7 and then to the Blue Jays in 6. In ‘95 they returned and defeated the Indians in 6 for the 3rd (or 4th) championship in franchise history. The “Team of the Nineties” wasn’t done though, they’d return to the World Series in ‘96 and ‘99 but they lost both to the Yankees (in 6 and 4 games respectively) and I’ll never forgive those stupid pinstripe-wearing clowns. After failing to win the division in ‘06 for the first time in 15 years, they took a little break and then made it back to playoff baseball five times in ten years from ‘10-19, including each of the last two, but haven’t won a single series.
They hang 3 World Series banners, 17 NL pennants, 14 NL East titles, and 5 NL West titles in their decorated rafters. All that success (isn’t it beautiful?) means there are some impressive players in the Braves’ history. Each city and each major era will be represented below as we select the All-Braves squad. Let’s get to it!
I solemnly vow to not simply select my favorite player at each position. That being said, I really love the All-Braves Catcher. The Catchers who made the biggest impact were Del Crandall, Javy Lopez, Brian McCann, Joe Torre, and Deacon White.
HOFer Deacon White was from the very earliest days of the franchise. He was a Red Stocking from 1873-75 and a Red Cap in ‘77. In those four years he managed to accumulate 11.9 fWAR bolstered by his impressive ‘75 season. He slashed .367/.372/.453 which in that league was worth 32.5 Off and 4.3 fWAR both strong indicators of his offensive prowess. He was the best Catcher in baseball at the time and it’s not particularly close. He led all Catchers in RBIs, Runs, AVG, OBP, SLG, wRC+, Off, and fWAR and was tied with the leader in HRs (he and Pop Snyder each had one, different times). Despite that era-specific dominance, he’s a distant 5th amongst the franchise Catchers.
The HR leader among Braves Catchers is the backstop of the storied 90s dynasty, Javy Lopez. Javy debuted in ‘92 but didn’t take over until ‘94. Rather famously, he platooned opposite whoever the All-Braves’ ace (to be revealed later) wanted as his personal Catcher so he only exceeded 130 games 3x as a Brave. He broke out in the ‘96 NLCS with five doubles and a pair of homers for an OPS of 1.607 in the seven games and the series MVP. His next two seasons he was a top-5 Catcher trailing only Mike Piazza in HRs and RBIs. Injuries cut his ‘99 season in half and he wasn’t the same guy until his career-best season in ‘03. An All-Star for the 3rd time, he had 43 HRs, 109 RBIs, slashed .328/.378/.687, a 170 wRC+, worth 43.3 fWar. He also was worth 9.2 Def for a fWAR of 6.8. He was seven PAs short of qualifying for any awards but led all Catchers in HRs, RBIs, AVG, SLG, wRC+, Off, had an absurd .359 ISO, and position leading fWAR. He finished 5th in the NL MVP race and then left the Braves that offseason.
The 50s Braves had Del Crandall behind the plate. Debuting in Boston in ‘49, Del played a pair of seasons before being drafted into the Army. He served his country and returned in ‘53 to a new group of players and a new city as the Braves began their Milwaukee chapter. Crandal is said to have reinvented the position, being one of the first Catchers to really aggressively throw the ball around the infield looking to pick off runners. He was primarily a defensive standout, posting double-digit Def in 8 of his 13 Braves seasons. An 8x All-Star, Crandall led all Catchers in Def (137.7) over his Braves career and was 3rd in HRs behind HOFers Yogi Berra and Roy Campanella. He wasn’t a very efficient hitter though, slashing .257/.313/.412, only a 96 wRC+, costing the Braves -29.7 Off.
HOF manager Joe Torre began his playing career in Milwaukee in ‘60 and followed the Braves to Atlanta before leaving after the ‘68 season. During his peak, from ‘63-67, Torre was far and above the best offensive Catcher in the league like White before him and Lopez after him. He held the positional lead in HRs (117), all three slash categories (.301/.364/.487), wRC+ (140), and Off (129.8). The second best hitting Catcher during that stretch was Tom Haller who was worth 30.8 Off – 90 runs less than Torre. He was the runner-up in the ‘61 ROY voting, and went to 5 straight All-Star games from ‘63-67.
The franchise fWAR leader at Catcher is Brian McCann. He came into the league in ‘05 and was the face of the Braves till he left after the ‘13 season. After a breakout season in ‘06 and a minor regression, he put in six-straight seasons of elite value. From ‘08-13 he was arguably the best player in the entire league, his 36.2 fWAR tied for the league lead with Tigers’ slugger Miguel Cabrera. He had a few strong offensive seasons but most of his value came from the defensive side and he was dominant. He was second among Catchers in Def behind Yadi Molina, but his 213.8 just over that span would be the franchise leader and would be 10th all-time. His total as a Brave (232.1) would be 6th all-time and he played several more seasons with the Yankees and Astros finishing as the 4th most valuable defensive Catcher in history. He was an All-Star every season from ‘06-13 save 2012 (for no good reason I’m sure). His best offensive seasons were ‘06 and ‘08. In the first, he slashed a ridiculous .333/.388/.572, a 142 wRC+, with 19.9 Off. Then in ‘08, it was .301/.373/.523, a 135 wRC+, worth 20.5 Off. He also hit 20+ HRs every full season as a Brave except ‘07 in which he only had 18. A beloved teammate and leader, he returned to Atlanta in ‘19 for his final season and while his bat had lost its sting, he was stil elite behind the dish. His HOF case is borderline, but I know I’d vote for him.
White, Lopez, and Torre all provided league-leading offensive value while Crandall and McCann were historically great defenders. The Braves’ history is too loaded for a 3rd Catcher, so Torre and Mac will be the only ones to make the cut.
C – Brian McCann and Joe Torre.
Another one of my personal favorite players has a case for 1B. The contenders are Joe Adcock, Freddie Freeman, Bob Horner, Fred McGriff, and Fred Tenney.
Joe Adcock was one of the standout performers for the 50s Braves. He began his career in Cincinnati before coming to Milwaukee in ‘53. A pair of injury plagued seasons broke up an otherwise consistently impressive ten-year Braves career. His 130 wRC+ from ‘53-62 was 7th among 1B and four of the men ahead of him are HOFers. His best season came in ‘56 when he had 38 HRs, 103 RBIs, and slashed .291/.337/.597, a 154 wRC+, worth 33.0 Off. He’s the current franchise leader in HRs among 1B, although he likely won’t hold on to that beyond the next full season. His 26.2 fWAR is 3rd in our list.
The current starting 1B for the Braves has quickly risen up the all-time franchise ranks. Freddie Freeman debuted in 2010, took over the following year and quickly became one of the most consistently great players in the league. From ‘13-19, his 232.6 Off trails only Mike Trout and Paul Goldschmidt. The 4x All-Star has a career slash of .293/.379/.504, which is a 137 wRC+. For a 1B, his defense has been above average, though it has slipped a little lately, but his real value is at the dish. Among 1B with 1000 PAs since ‘10, he’s 6th in AVG and OBP, 8th in HRs and SLG, and 5th in wRC+, resulting in 4th in Off and fWAR. In a lot of ways, when McCann left, Freeman became the face of the franchise and holds that mantle today. He’s 2nd in HRs among Braves 1B and only needs 12 more to catch Adcock. He’s second in fWAR although another All-Star season (6+) will make him the franchise leader there as well.
The 80s were one of the dry spells for the Braves, but slugger Bob Horner was a bright spot. Over his nine years with Atlanta, ‘78-86, he jacked 215 HRs with a .508 SLG. But if Freeman is a model of consistency, Horner was the opposite. His career bobbed up and down between injuries, breakouts, and just plain poor seasons. His best season. ‘80, he had 35 HRs, 89 RBIs, slashed .268/.307/.529, a 125 wRC+, with 13.8 Off and picked it a little at 3B for a 4.6 Def and 3.5 fWAR. He’s in the list with the 1B instead of the 3B because 1) he played 1B the latter half of his career and 2) his 19.4 fWAR wouldn’t make the cut across the diamond.
Fred “Crime Dog” McGriff also got a nice sizable paragraph in the Blue Jays edition of this series. He was traded to San Diego from Toronto in ‘91 and two years later, in July of ‘93, Atlanta sent three players to the Padres for him. He re-signed with Atlanta after the ‘95 World Series run and then was sent to Tampa in a trade after their expansion draft in ‘97. While still a feared slugger, McGriff began his decline in Atlanta. In ‘94, the strike shortened season, he had 34 HRs, 94 RBIs, slashed .318/.389/.623, a 156 wRC+ worth 34.8 Off – 3rd among 1B. By ‘97 nearly every data point had slipped as he had 22 HRs, slashed .277/.356/.441, only a 110 wRC+ worth 9.2 Off. He still holds a special place in Atlanta’s history though, as he homered twice in the ‘95 World Series win and had a career .917 OPS in the playoffs.
The franchise fWAR leader at 1B is Fred Tenney. From 1894-1907, Tenney was the 1B in Boston and also played some Catcher and Outfield. He had three strong offensive seasons and was a solid defensive 1B which allowed him to accumulate 40.6 fWAR. His best season was 1899 when he was the best 1B in baseball. His slash of .347/.411/.439 was a 125 wRC+ worth 23.9 fWAR and was 1st or 2nd positionally and his 15.0 Def and 6.1 fWAR were far and above tops.
Tenney’s fWAR lead is due entirely to his longevity. Freeman and Adcock’s resumes are much more impressive. Picking between them is tough, but Freeman is slightly better across the offensive categories and will almost certainly pass Adcock in the few he’s still trailing in at the completion of the 2021 season.
1B – Freddie Freeman
The 2B position isn’t quite as strong as the others for the All-Braves, but there’s still a player with a clear advantage over the others. The top-5 are Tony Cuccinello, Marcus Giles, Glenn Hubbard, Bobby Lowe, and Felix Millan.
Tony Cuccinello debuted in ‘30 but it wasn’t until ‘36 that he came to his 3rd team, the Boston Bees. He stuck around for a couple seasons before being traded to the New York Giants. He lasted half a season in New York before coming back to the Bees. Another season later he was traded to the White Sox and wrapped up his career in ‘45. His first season in Boston was the best of his career and what earned him a spot on the list. He slashed .308/.374/.402, a 121 wRC+ worth 16.9 Off and was also worth 19.6 Def, nearly all career-highs. His 5.5 fWAR that season was 3rd among 2B behind HOFers Charlie Gehringer and Billy Herman.
Marcus Giles had a short career but his two peak seasons were awesome. From ‘01-06, Giles was the keystone for Atlanta and then he finished his career with an ill-fated season in San Diego. His best two years were ‘03 and ‘05. With ‘04 thrown in, despite injuries keeping him to only 102 games, he led all 2B in Off with 68.3 and fWAR with 14.9. He slashed .305/.377/.480, a 125 wRC+ along with 12.2 BsR and 25.4 Def, all elite numbers for his position. His 49 doubles in ‘03 were the most in franchise history since 1884.
Glenn Hubbard was another 80s Brave, spending all but 2 of his 12 seasons in Atlanta. From ‘78-87 he manned second but really only provided value on the defensive side of the ball. He actually cost Atlanta -89.9 Off over the course of his career but partially made up for it by being an elite defender. His 62.8 Def was 7th among 2B across that span and in ‘85 he led the position with 20.9. His 14.9 fWAR doesn’t really threaten the All-Braves squad.
Felix Millan had a similar career to Hubbard. From ‘66-72 he provided value defensively while struggling offensively. He made the list but his entire Braves career was only worth 8.2 fWAR. Comparatively Reds’ superstar 2B Joe Morgan was worth 8.7 fWAR in ‘72 alone.
The fWAR leader at 2B is Bobby Lowe. Possessing a HOF mustache, Lowe was a defensive standout for the Beaneaters from 1890-1901 accumulating 90.3 Def over that span, 5th among 2B. He also had abnormal power for the era leading all 2B with 70 HRs, the next closest, HOF Nap Lajoie, only had 46.
Giles only trails Lowe by 6 fWAR but he also only had two truly good seasons. Lowe’s longevity and the lack of a more impressive option make him the guy. If fans are wondering where Ozzie Albies is, he’s only been in the majors for three years and his 10.3 fWAR would still only be 5th in franchise history. With several more seasons like his last two, Albies will quickly make a strong claim for this spot, but we might have said the same about Marcus in ‘05 and that faded in a hurry.
2B – Bobby Lowe
2B posed a challenge because none of the options were great while SS posed the opposite problem. The candidates are Jeff Blauser, Rafael Furcal, Johnny Logan, Herman Long, and Rabbit Maranville.
You may notice a surprising exclusion; defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons. His brief time in Atlanta was mesmerizing and the numbers back up his unmatched skills (75.6 Def in only four seasons). However, he really struggled at the plate and only accumulated 10.1 fWAR as a Brave.
The shortstop of the 90s, at least on the offensive side of any platoons, was Jeff Blauser. Debuting in ‘87, Blauser was in Atlanta till ‘97 before finishing up with the Cubs for a couple seasons. He broke out in ‘92-93 and then finished his time in Atlanta with perhaps his best season in ‘97. In ‘93, he had 15 HRs, 73 RBIs, .305/.401/.436, a 128 wRC+ worth 25.5 Off. Among SS only Travis Fryman had a better offensive showing. Then in ‘97 he set career-highs in a number of categories with 17 HRs, a .308/.405/.482 slash, a 135 wRC+ and 28.0 Off. He led all SS in Off, a list that included Nomar Garciaparra, Alex Rodriguez, and Derek Jeter.
Possibly one of the most exciting prospects in Braves’ history was Rafael Furcal. He came into the league in ‘00 and was awesome from the get-go winning the NL ROY. He slashed .295/.394/.382, with 40 SBs, and a career-high 13.5 BB%. He regressed a little and suffered an injury but in ‘03 he was back at the top of his game. He was an All-Star, led all SS in runs (130) and BsR (11.1) and was 6th among SS in fWAR with 4.0. After the ‘05 season, another strong output for Furcal, he signed a big deal with the Dodgers and was gone. Furcal had all the tools, arm, speed, bat skills, but he didn’t quite put it all together like the Braves had hoped.
The shortstop of the 50’s Braves was Johnny Logan. Logan debuted in ‘51 and then followed the Braves to Milwaukee, started in both World Series, and then was traded to Pittsburgh midway through the ‘61 season. Logan had one good offensive season in the middle of seven-straight elite defensive seasons. In ‘55, he slashed .297/.360/.442, a 121 wRC+, worth 17.9 Off. He didn’t have power, only managing 15 HRs once, or speed as he only stole 19 bases in his career, but he also never struck out only K’ing in 7.8% of his 5518 PA’s from ‘51-60. During that span, only HOFer Ernie Banks had more fWAR despite Logan being just below average with the bat and Banks being…well above-average. His 31.3 fWAR as a Brave is 2nd in franchise history.
The highest fWAR in Braves history belongs to Herman Long. After reaching pro ball in 1889 with the Kansas City Cowboys in the American Association, Herman came to Boston and was their SS from 1890-1902. Over that 13-year stretch he was the best defensive ballplayer in the league. He had a few good offensive seasons as well. In 1891, he slashed .282/.377/.407, a 120 wRC+, a 24.8 Off with 129 runs scored and 60 SBs. He was a terror on the basepaths swiping a franchise-high 431 bases and rating 26.0 BsR for his Braves career.
HOFer Rabbit Maranville is 3rd among Braves SS in fWAR and makes this selection very difficult. He broke into the majors in 1912 with the Boston Braves and quickly became a star. In ‘21 he was traded to the Pirates for three players and an impressive $15,000, which is approximately equal to $214,000 today. He spent time with four other franchises before being traded back to Boston in ‘29 to close off his career. He retired in ‘35 as a 43-year old legend and was elected to the Hall in ‘54. Rabbit was a below average offensive player, managing only two full seasons with a wRC+ over 100. However, he was consistently awesome in the field. In his first stint with the Braves, ‘12-20, he was worth 123.6 Def which was 4th in the league. In 1914, the year they shocked the A’s in the World Series, he saved 35.6 runs, the 12th most valuable defensive season in the history of the league.
Blauser was easily the most productive offensive player in the list but he didn’t compare in the field with Long, Logan, and Maraville. Rabbit’s HOF pedigree is hard to ignore but he just didn’t produce offensively as much as Logan or Long. The two “L’s” present a very similar resume and Long’s is just a little bit better, so he’s the guy.
SS – Herman Long
Two of the greatest to ever lace it up at 3B were Braves. The top-5 are Bob Elliott, Darrell Evans, Chipper Jones, Eddie Mathews, and Billy Nash.
Evans, Eillott, and Nash all had fine careers – but it’s between Eddie and Chipper.
Eddie Matthews was the 3B for the 50’s Braves (who have already provided Adcock, Crandall, and Long with more to come). He is the only Brave to play in Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta as he started in ‘52 and left after the end of the ‘66 season. He was an offensive juggernaut. During his career in Atlanta he was the 4th most valuable hitter, generating 528.5 Off. Over that stretch he trailed only Willie Mays in HRs; his 493 are 2nd in franchise history. He went to the All-Star game every season from ‘53-62 save ‘54. He was the runner up in the NL MVP race both in ‘53 and ‘59. He led the league in HRs 2x, BBs 4x, and OBP in ‘63. He exceeded 135 wRC+ every season from ‘53-63 save ‘58. In ‘53, he had a league-high 47 HRs, 135 RBIs, slashed .302/.406/.627, a 167 wRC+ worth 59.8 Off. He was also a proficient defensive player, his 68.9 Def over his Braves career is 6th among 3B over that span. Mathews is on the short list of the greatest 3B of all-time, his 96.1 fWAR trails only Mike Schmidt.
Larry Wayne Jones was the first pick in the 1990 first-player draft. He briefly debuted in ‘93 and was slated to be a key part of the future in Atlanta starting in ‘94. He tore his ACL in his left knee delaying his start for a season and perhaps costing him some career milestones. From ‘95-12 he was the best player on the “Team of the ‘90s” and one of the greatest switch-hitters the game has ever seen. He is the all-time RBI leader for 3B with 1623 and is 3rd in franchise history with 468 HRs. He was an All-Star 8x and lost out the ‘95 ROY vote to Hideo Nomo and the voters should be ashamed of themselves. He had six top-10 MVP finishes and was the 1999 NL MVP. He had 45 HRs, 110 RBIs, slashed .319/.441/.633, a 165 wRC+ worth 65.3 runs. He won the ‘08 battling title with a .364/.470/.574 slash and through June 1st he was hitting .405. His “peak” extended from ‘96 all the way to ‘08 only dropping below 4.0 fWAR in a pair of injury shortened seasons. His knees also contributed to a steady decline defensively as well but he was never an elite gloveman like Mathews. Jones was as well-rounded a hitter as any in the history of the game. Of players with 10,000 PAs only seven finished their careers with a slash of at least .300/.400/.500, Frank Thomas, Stan Musial, Mel Ott, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, and Jones with his .303/.401/.529 career slash. Jones also hit .300+ from both sides of the plate and is the only switch-hitter to reach the .3/.4/.5 benchmark. Being a member of the 90s dynasty meant lots of playoff series. Over his 21 series, he slashed .287/.409/.456 with 13 HRs and only struck out 61x. For a player of the modern era, one of the most astounding aspects of Jones’ career was his lack of strikeouts. In 12 of his 19 seasons he walked more times than he struck out and he finished with a 103 walk advantage 1512-1409. I contend that his offensive production from both sides of the plate make him the greatest 3B in history. Chipper Jones is my favorite player of all-time, but he’s not the starting 3B of the All-Braves. He was drafted as a SS and competed for the 2B job early in his career. In ‘03, the Braves signed 3B Vinny Castillo and had Chipper move to LF for a season – a self-less move which resulted in one of the many consecutive division titles he was a part of. That flexibility makes his All-Braves roster spot a guarantee and makes room for Mathews to start.
3B – Eddie Mathews
The Braves OF candidates are as stacked as the rest of positions and include yet another player with one of the greatest resumes in league history. They are Hank Aaron, Wally Berger, Rico Carty, Hugh Duffy, Billy Hamilton, Tommy Holmes, Andruw Jones, David Justice, and Dale Murphy.
All ten All-Braves candidates achieved 25.0+ fWAR while with the team. 90s playoff hero David Justice and 60s star Rico Carty were right on that line with 25 and 25.1 fWAR respectively. HOFer Billy Hamilton spent the 2nd half of his career with Boston, and had some stellar seasons, but his 26.8 fWAR doesn’t quite threaten a spot.
Hugh Duffy played alongside Hamilton in Boston. He came to the Beaneaters in 1892 and left in 1900 with some impressive offensive seasons behind him. In 1894, Duffy logged one of the greatest seasons in the history of the game. He slashed .440/.502/.694, a 169 wRC+ worth 82.4 Off. Those are video game numbers. His 237 hits, 51 doubles, and .440 AVG all led the league and place among the leaders in each category. He wasn’t a defensive standout but his fWAR over his career was 6th among OFers during that span.
The 40s weren’t one of the Braves’ strong decades but Tommy Holmes made an impression. He debuted in Boston in ‘42 and was a Brave until ‘51 before a partial season in Brooklyn finished his career in ‘52. He had an uneven career that was highlighted by one dominant season. In ‘45 he had a 37-game hitting streak (setting the NL record at the time), slashed .352/.420/.577, led the league with 224 hits, 47 doubles, and 28 HRs, had 117 RBIs and was the runner-up to Phil Cavarretta in the NL MVP race. Over his Braves career, “Kelly” was the 5th most valuable OFer behind HOFers Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Ralph Kiner. His 34.2 fWAR is 5th among Braves OFers and makes a strong case for an All-Braves roster spot.
A decade before Holmes, Wally Berger was the Braves’ star. He did nothing but hit from when he entered the league in 1930 till when he left Boston in ‘36. His Braves career slash was .304/.362/.533, a 139 wRC+ worth 232.6 Off. He popped 199 HRs with 726 RBIs and had 36.1 fWAR – 4th among OFers over that span. Berger went to four-straight All-Star games and finished 3rd in the ‘33 MVP race. His best season was ‘35 when he slashed .295/.355/.548, a 144 wRC+ worth 36.3 Off while leading the league with 34 HRs and 130 RBIs. Berger’s consistent production puts him in a good position to make the All-Braves team.
One of the most beloved Braves in history was the star of the 80s, Dale Murphy. Murph entered the league as a Catcher in ‘76 but the team decided he’d be more valuable in the outfield and he was. In 1980, Murphy broke out with 33 HRs, a .281/.349/.510 slash, 132 wRC+ worth 22.3 Off. In ‘81 his season was cut short but then he bounced back and won back-to-back NL MVPs. In ‘82, he slashed .281/.378/.507, a 144 wRC+ worth 34.9 and in ‘83 he slashed .302/.393/.540, a 151 wRC+ worth 44.5 Off. He continued with similar potent offensive production through to ‘87. From ‘82-87 he was the 5th most valuable hitter behind Mike Schimdt, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, and Tim Raines. His production tailed off and he was traded to the Phillies in ‘90. He belongs in the HOF, and he is the starting LF for the All-Braves.
In the 1996 World Series, a fresh-faced 20-year old from the Dutch Carribean island Curaçao blasted a home run and became the youngest player to send one out in a World Series. Andruw Jones slashed .400/.500/.750 in that World Series and the career of a legend began with a blast. From ‘96-07 Jones patrolled CF like few players ever have. He was the best defensive player in the league during his time in Atlanta, saving 290.1 runs. He is the only OFer in history to save over 200 runs, he won 10 straight Gold Gloves, and was a never ending source of highlight catches. He added to that all-world defense a potent bat. He smashed 368 HRs as a Brave, peaking in ‘05 with 51. If Murphy belongs in the HOF, Andruw should’ve been first-ballot. His post-Braves decline was steep, but his career numbers are bonafide legendary and he is the starting CF for the All-Braves.
Of all the great players in Braves history, from Herman Long to Brian McCann, Chipper Jones to Dale Murphy, the greatest is hands-down Henry “Hank” Aaron. Playing all but the last two of his 23-year career with the Braves, Aaron achieved some extraordinary numbers. He finished his career the All-Time HR leader (755), RBI leader (2297), and total base leader (6856) the last two he still holds. As a Brave, he slashed .310/.377/.567, a 156 wRC+ with 883.2 Off. He led all players in Off over that span, and in HRs, RBIs, and runs scored. He was also an elite base runner with 240 SBs and 25.6 BsR – 2nd behind Willie Mays. He only failed to produce 30+ runs above average 3x in his Braves’ career. He was worth 5+ fWAR every season but those same three. He slugged .500 or greater all but three and hit 25+ HRs all but two. His career high was 47 in ‘71 and he hit 40+ 8x. He was a 21x All-Star (once with the Brewers after he finished with the Braves). He finished in the top-10 in MVP voting 13x and won the ‘57 MVP. That season he had 44 HRs, 132 RBIs, slashed .322/.378/.600, a 164 wRC+ worth 52.2 Off. He finished that season with a dominant performance in the ‘57 World Series, hitting 3 HRs, with a .786 SLG. He led the league in hits 2x, runs 3x, doubles 4x, HRs 4x, RBIs 4x, SLG 4x, total bases 8x and won two batting titles. While it wasn’t as rare in the 50s-70s, he also walked more times than he struck out, 1402-1383. He was elected to the HOF in 1982 and is the All-Braves’ RF.
RF – Hank Aaron
CF – Andruw Jones
LF – Dale Murphy
The NL has no DH so the main options for the position have been listed above. Joe Adcock, Wally Berger, Tommy Holmes, and Chipper Jones are the primary options. Chipper is the obvious choice.
DH – Chipper Jones
The All-Braves carry a standard three position player bench, and this wasn’t easy..
Bench – Joe Adcock, Johnny Logan, and Wally Berger.
Last man off would be Hugh Duffy.
As many great hitters as there have been in Braves history, six of the top-ten in fWAR are pitchers. The ten competing for a starter spot are Lew Burdette, John Clarkson, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Kid Nichols, Phil Niekro, John Smoltz, Warren Spahn, Al Spalding, and Vic Willis.
Vic Willis, John Clarkson, and Lew Burdette all had excellent careers. Willis had 151 wins, and a 2.82 ERA over 2575.0 IP, Clarkson had 149 wins, and a 2.82 ERA over 2092.2 IP, and Burdette had 173 wins and a 3.53 ERA over 2496.2 IP. Those three excellent careers have no chance at the All-Braves rotation.
Al Spalding was elected to the HOF as a pioneer in 1939. He only pitched for seven years, five of them with the Boston Red Stockings of the National Association, 1871-75. He is the All-Time winningest pitcher, in terms of percentage, going 252-65 over his short career for a .750 winning percentage. While with Boston, he led the league in wins every single season, posting totals of 19, 38, 41, 52 and 54. He threw 65 complete games in 1874 over 617.1 innings and appeared in over 70 games in ‘75-76. He had 7 shutouts and 9 saves in ‘75, both leading the league. It was a different game and his career was so brief, that he doesn’t have a serious claim on a spot, but I felt his career was interesting enough to mention.
The 90s dynasty was marked by three of the greatest pitchers in major league history. The lefty of the unflappable trio was Tom Glavine. Glav was the only of the three to be drafted by Atlanta and he broke through in ‘87 with the Braves spending 17 of his 22 years with Atlanta. The five middle years were a short hiatus in New York giving Braves fans migraines as he pitched in a Mets uniform. Glavine is the 3rd winningest pitcher in franchise history, racking up 244 wins in Atlanta with five 20+ win seasons. Every season he made it to 20 wins he also led the league and he also led the league in starts 6x, complete games in ‘91, shutouts in ‘92, was an All-Star 8x, and won the ‘91 and ‘98 CY Awards. In ‘91, he went 21-11 with a 2.55 ERA over 246.2 IP, 9 complete games, and 192 K’s. In ‘98, he went 20-6 with a 2.47 ERA over 229.1 IP, with 4 complete games (3 shoutouts), and 157 K’s. Glavine was best when the lights were brightest. His greatest moment was in 1995 when he tossed 8 one-hit shutout innings in the Game 6 clinching game of the World Series and won the MVP. His 54.7 fWAR is 6th in franchise history.
While Glavine was debuting in ‘87, the Braves had their eye on another young starter. In August of that year, they sent Doyle Alexander to Detroit and acquired righty John Smoltz. The next year he broke into the majors and went on to have a fascinating and dominant career. He won 206 games but only hit 20 games once. In ‘96, he went 24-8 with a 2.94 ERA over a league-leading 256.2 IP with a league-leading 276 K’s winning the NL CY. He tossed 200+ IP 10x but he had a devastating injury in ‘00 which ended up transforming his career. When he returned in ‘01 he only threw 59 IP and appeared in relief 31x. He was so effective that the next three seasons he became Atlanta’s closer and was immediately awesome at it. He saved a league-leading 55 games in ‘02, saved 45 the following year with an ERA of 1.12 over 64.1 IP, and 44 more in ‘04. He is the only pitcher to date with 150+ saves and 200+ wins. After returning to the rotation, he rediscovered his effectiveness, leading the league in wins for the 2nd time in ‘06, albeit only with 16. Smoltz was also a big game pitcher, called upon for multiple Game 7’s in playoff series. Over his 41 playoff appearances, he went 15-4 with a 2.67 ERA in 209 IP with 4 saves. He was the ‘92 NLCS MVP going 2-0 with a 2.66 ERA over 20.1 IP against the Pirates. His 1.19 WHIP is tied for 2nd among the top-10 franchise pitchers and his 69.6 fWAR is 5th.
In the 60s and 70s the concept of a workhorse was defined by “Knucksie” Phil Niekro. His eponymous knuckleball fluttered around bats from his debut in ‘64 to his departure from Atlanta after ‘83 as a 44-year old. He returned for one final start in ‘87 after taking his act to four other cities briefly and then retired with 260 wins and 4467.2 IP in a Braves uniform. As is often the case with knuckleballers, if it was working he was unhittable. Never more so than in August of ‘73 when he tossed the 12th no-hitter in Braves franchise history. Equally so, when it isn’t working, it won’t go well. Niekro led the league in wins 2x but also in losses 4 straight years, losing 20 games twice. Over those same 4 years he led the league in starts and exceeded 30 starts 20 of 22 seasons from ‘65-86. He led the league in complete games 4x, including three straight seasons with 20+. He topped 300 IP 4x in his career, leading the league each time but he also led the league in hits allowed 3x, runs allowed 2x, and HR allowed 4x. Despite leading the lead in ERA in ‘67 and K’s in ‘77 he never won a CY. His closest was in ‘69 when he was the runner-up to Tom Seaver. Uneven production is the lot of the knuckleballer, but Niekro had quite a few excellent seasons, the best of which was ‘78. He went 19-18 over 42 starts with a 2.88 ERA over 334.1 IP worth 8.6 fWAR. Knucksie is the franchise K leader with 2820 and is 3rd in IP, 3rd in Wins, and 4th in fWAR with 72.4.
The original Ace of the franchise was HOFer Kid Nichols. He broke into the majors with the Boston Beaneaters in 1890 and failed to win 20 games only twice, his last two seasons 1900-01. In the 1890s, pitching staffs were small and pitchers were expected to pitch enormous workloads. Nichols embodied this by throwing 400+ IP his first five years and then 300+ every other year of his Boston career except 1900. He won 30+ games a major-league record 7x and finished with 329 before going elsewhere. Had his career not been cut short by injury, it’s very possible pitchers would be competing for Kid Nichols awards instead of Cy Youngs. Nichols led all pitchers in wins, games, starts, and saves from 1890-1901, topping names including Young, Amos Rusie, and many other eventual HOFers. He had many great seasons, but his best was his rookie year, 1890. He went 27-19 with a 2.23 ERA over 424.0 IP with 7 shutouts and 222 K’s. He’s 2nd in franchise history in Wins and IP and 3rd in fWAR with 72.8.
The Ace of the 90s staff, and arguably the greatest right-handed starter of all-time, was Greg Maddux. Mad Dog only spent the middle 11 years of his 23-year career with the Braves but it was his HOF peak. After winning the ‘92 CY with the Cubs, he went to Atlanta as a Free Agent and proceeded to win the next three CYs in a row. He finished in the top-5 in CY voting an additional 4x (three more in a row – meaning a top-5 finish 7 years straight) and won a major league record 18 Gold Gloves, 10 of them with Atlanta. He led the league in ERA 4x, CGs 3x, shutouts 5x, IP 3x, WHIP 4x, and K/BB 3x. He was frighteningly efficient, pitching to contact and never wasting pitches. Completing a shutout in less than 100 pitches is called a “Maddux” because he did it 13x. In seven of his 11 Braves seasons, he had an fWAR above 7, peaking in ‘97. He went 19-4 with a 2.20 ERA over 232.2 IP with 177 K’s, a .946 WHIP and 8.0 fWAR. Over his Braves career he led all pitchers in wins (194) and IP (2526.2), was 2nd in ERA (Pedro Martinez) and 2nd in fWAR (Randy Johnson). His 2523.2 IP is 8th in franchise history, but over that shorter period he managed to compile 72.9 fWAR putting him 2nd in franchise history.
The winningest pitcher in franchise history is HOF lefty Warren Spahn. After a brief debut in ‘42, Spahn went off to war and served his country. He returned to baseball in ‘46 and was a Brave until ‘64 before a rough season split between the Mets and Giants in ‘65 finished his career. Spahn won 20+ games 13x, leading the league 8x including five in a row from ‘57-61. Spahn was also the model of durability, leading the league in complete games 9x, including 7x in a row. He threw the 10th and 11th no-hitters in franchise history, the first in Sept of 1960 and the 2nd in April of ‘61. He led the league in ERA 3x, K’s 4 years in a row from ‘49-52, and won the ‘57 CY, only the 2nd time the award was given out. He went 21-11 with a 2.69 ERA over 271.0 IP with 111 K’s and a 1.177 WHIP. Ironically, that was his worst season in terms of fWAR between the years of ‘47 and ‘62. Over his Braves career he was the league leader in IP, games, starts, Wins, and fWAR with 74.3.
The Braves have an embarrassment of riches in the pitching department. Spahn and Glavine are two of the best lefties in the history of the game while Smoltz, Nichols, and Maddux each have their own spot among the greatest righties ever. Smoltz’s unique flexibility allows me to cheat and get Knucksie on the team as well.
Rotation: Greg Maddux, Warren Spahn, Kid Nichols, Tom Glavine, Phil Niekro
Reminder from the earlier articles this list is as much about what a player contributed to the franchise as it is about being the best so only pitchers used primarily as relievers will be considered for the ‘pen.
The All-Braves already have one bullpen arm set with Smoltz but there are a few other impressive candidates. The 10 are Paul Assemacher, Steve Bedrosian, Gene Garber, Craig Kimbrel, Kerry Lightenberg, Greg McMichael, Mike Remlinger, John Rocker, Cecil Upshaw, and Mark Wohlers.
Craig Kimbrel earned the nickname “Dirty Craig” with triple-digit heat and a physics defying curveball. He made a brief debut in 2010, and then spent the next four seasons dominating the league as Atlanta’s closer. He went to four-straight All-Star games, saved 185 games, and had a stingy 1.43 ERA over 289.0 IP. Despite his short stay he accrued a franchise leading 14.82 K/9 and 11.0 fWAR for a reliever.
The ‘95 World Series clinching game was closed by Mark Wohlers. Another triple-digit flamethrower, Wohlers piled up 112 saves (4th in franchise history) and a 10.18 K/9 over 386.1 IP.
The rest of the bullpen would be Gene Garber (141 saves, 856 IP), Greg McMichael (6.6 fWAR, 2.96 ERA), Steve Bedrosian (29 wins, 2.95 ERA), Mike Remlinger (2.74 ERA, 9.35 K/9), and John Rocker (11.93 K/9, 83 saves).
Bullpen – John Smoltz, Craig Kimbrel, Mark Wohlers, Gene Garber, Greg McMichael, Steve Bedrosian, Mike Remlinger, John Rocker
Results and Lineup
Presenting the All-Braves:
C – Brain McCann, Joe Torre
IF – Joe Adcock, Freddie Freeman, Chipper Jones, Johnny Logan, Herman Long, Bobby Lowe, Eddie Mathews
OF – Hank Aaron, Wally Berger, Andruw Jones, Dale Murphy
SP – Tom Glavine, Kid Nichols, Phil Niekro, Greg Maddux, Warren Spahn
RP – Steve Bedrosian, Gene Garber, Craig Kimbrel, Greg McMichael, Mike Remlinger, John Rocker, John Smoltz, Mark Wohlers
- Hank Aaron 9
- Chipper Jones DH
- Eddie Mathews 5
- Andruw Jones 8
- Freddie Freeman 3
- Dale Murphy 7
- Brian McCann 2
- Herman Long 6
- Bobby Lowe 4
I can probably just quit now since there won’t be a better squad…right?
Let us know in the comments where we went wrong and look out for the other entries in the series coming out soon.