Picking Atlanta’s All-Time All-Stars Isn’t Easy

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Ozzie Albies, here with author Dan Schlossberg, is Atlanta's All-Star second baseman.Courtesy of Dan Schlossberg

By Dan Schlossberg

Since the Braves arrived in Atlanta in 1966, they’ve had more highs and lows than the Coney Island Cyclone. And they’ve had plenty of memorable players too.

That’s why picking an all-Atlanta team across the generations isn’t easy.

Take a look:

Catcher — Joe Torre, the main backstop when the team arrived from Milwaukee, hit a couple of homers on Opening Night and was widely considered the best catcher in the league. But Javy Lopez lasted longer and was even more of a power producer, though Torre hit for a better average.

First base — Orlando Cepeda and Andres Galarraga had their moments but Freddie Freeman stayed 12 years and won both an MVP award and a World Series ring. It’s tough to pick him over clutch-hitting Fred McGriff, a future Hall of Famer, but Freeman gets the call.

Second base — Ozzie Albies, a little switch-hitter with big power, is tops at second during the club’s 56-year stay in Dixie. Sorry, Mark Lemke, but it’s not even close.

Shortstop — Andrelton Simmons had a better glove but Dansby Swanson showed last season that he’s the best all-around shortstop the Braves ever had.

Third base — Okay, so Chipper Jones never won a Gold Glove. But he did win an MVP, a batting crown, and a World Series ring. Terry Pendleton rates a mention but he’s not in the Hall of Fame.

Right field — Hank Aaron was an All-Star a record 25 times and deserved more than one MVP award and a solitary World Series ring. He was wearing Atlanta livery when he became the all-time home run king. His tenure in Atlanta (eight years) was short but his legacy was long, dwarfing the short one (so far) of Ronald Acuna, Jr. Nor should David Justice, hero of the 1995 World Series, be overlooked.

Center field — Andruw Jones had 434 home runs and 10 consecutive Gold Gloves, stamping himself as a strong Hall of Fame contender. Nobody played the position as well, though fellow Cooperstown candidate Dale Murphy won five fielding awards and back-to-back MVP awards in Atlanta.

Left field — Ron Gant, converted from second base, blossomed into an All-Star who had a pair of 30/30 seasons while hitting 147 home runs during a seven-year Braves career kayoed by a dirt bike accident. Ryan Klesko finishes a close second.

Lefty starter — Tom Glavine had five 20-win seasons en route to membership in The 300 Club. Like current candidate Max Fried, he was a World Series hero.

Righty starter — Greg Maddux might have been the greatest free-agent signing ever. He won four staight Cy Youngs, three of them in Atlanta, and ended with 355 wins, most by any living pitcher.

Closer — The only way to get John Smoltz included here is to list him as the No. 1 reliever. After all, he was exactly that during the three years he worked out of the pen. Along with Bobby Cox and Leo Mazzone, he wore a Braves uniform for the entire length of the 14-year title streak (1991-2005).

Manager — Bobby Cox teams topped 100 wins six times and won five pennants, most by any team in the ‘90s. He had two terms, serving as GM in between, and went all the way to Cooperstown.

General manager — John Schuerholz, the sixth Brave from the streak years to reach Cooperstown, was adept at maintaining a winning roster on a limited budget. He simply did it better than anyone else, winning world championships in both leagues.

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has several March booksigning events. The author of 40 books, he covers the game for forbes.com, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Latino Sports, and others. E.mail him at ballauthor@gmail.com.

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