Jansen’s Jump To Atlanta Strengthens World Champs’ Repeat Bid

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Kenley Jansen surprised the baseball world by bolting to the Braves from the Dodgers.Tony the Tiger, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0

By Dan Schlossberg

Kenley Jansen is not related to Larry Jansen, the long-time pitching coach who was the winning pitcher when Bobby Thomson hit “the shot heard ‘round the world” to win the 1951 National League pennant for the New York Giants.

But the newly-signed closer of the Atlanta Braves has similar aspirations.

Larry Jansen, a starter pitching in relief, racked up his league-leading 23rd win in the 157th game, as unscheduled playoff game records were added to regular-season records.

Kenley Jansen, a Curacao native whose brother played in the Braves farm system, is an accomplished closer who averaged 39.6 saves over the past seven seasons. He won his lone World Series ring with the 2020 Dodgers but hopes to win another with the 2022 Braves.

USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale, among others, picks Atlanta to become the first NL team to win consecutive World Series since the Big Red Machine of 1975-76.

Jansen’s arrival, on a one-year, $16 million contract, could be one of the big reasons.

The 34-year-old right-hander, who broke into the big leagues in 2010, fortifies a formidable bullpen already occupied by lefties Tyler Matzek, A.J. Minter, and Will Smith, last year’s closer, along with Luke Jackson, Collin McHugh, Tyler Thornburg, and eventually Kirby Yates, a former All-Star recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Jansen, the starting catcher for the Netherlands in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, switched to pitching when the Dodgers told him his bat was too weak for the big leagues. The move worked.

Like Mariano Rivera, Jansen is basically a one-pitch pitcher; his cut fastball is almost unhittable. He’s also intimidating at 6'5" tall and 265 pounds.

Once a Braves fan, Jansen visited Braves spring training at Disney World to watch his brother, who signed in 1999, along with fellow Curacao native Andruw Jones. He used to idolize former Brave Fred McGriff, like Jones a contender for a berth in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Current Atlanta second baseman Ozzie Albies is also from Curacao, along with former Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons, now with the Chicago Cubs.

“Oh, man, it’s awesome to put this uniform on, to be honest with you,” Jansen told David O’Brien of The Athletic. “It’s exciting because this is where the love started for me, this is where the hope started. It’s an easier transition to becoming a Brave now.”

Ardley Jansen was an outfielder whose minor-league manager was Brian Snitker – the same man who has guided the Atlanta Braves to four straight division titles.

“Right now I’m excited — I’m excited to wear this (Braves) uniform and looking forward for us to compete for another championship.”

Unlike Freddie Freeman, whose negative comments about his unsuccessful contract negotiations contained criticism of his former team, Jansen had only kind words about the Dodgers.

“It’s nothing but great things I can say about the Dodgers – a first-class organization,” Jansen said. “As a young kid from Curaçao, I signed there and (they) taught me to be a man and be a father and be a great husband. And that’s what comes out from the organization. Also, I can say I’m a champion. It’s going to be fun memories, to remember being a Dodger.”

He also remembers where he came from; the pitcher, who wears size 15 shoes, wears No. 74 because that number was his house address in Willemsted, Curacao.

Jansen had several suitors as he explored the murky waters of free agency.

According to O’Brien, Atlanta hitters are happy they won’t have to face him this year. In the playoffs alone, he had 14 strikeouts and one walk in seven scoreless innings. Austin Riley, to cite one example, went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts against Jansen in the six-game NL Championship Series.

Jansen, 34, has a career earned run average of 2.37 with 1,022 strikeouts and 204 walks in 705 innings. His post-season stats, over 57 outings, feature a 2.13 ERA and 19 saves.

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers baseball for forbes.com, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Latino Sports, and others. A popular author and speaker on baseball, he can be reached via email: ballauthor@gmail.com.

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