In an effort to avoid going stir crazy with MLB and every other major sports league shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, I've decided to take a look at the best of the best for each baseball franchise. We're going to have a 30-day series creating an all-time team for each MLB club. We're breaking down one team each day throughout April, continuing today with the Atlanta Braves.
As a (hopefully?) fun twist, I'm making a Baseball Stars team for each. That's right, the old-school Nintendo video game "Baseball Stars," which I still consider to be the best baseball video game ever. It allowed you to create teams and I used to make all-time lineups for prominent MLB franchises. There are the eight position players with four starting pitchers, one reliever and five bench position players on each Baseball Stars squad.
It's time for the now for the roster of the Braves, who came from Milwaukee and previously Boston.
Del Crandall and Javy Lopez had admirable Braves careers worthy of mention, but it boils down to two candidates here: Joe Torre and Brian McCann.
Torre: .294/.356/.462, 154 2B, 142 HR, 552 RBI, 470 R, 130 OPS+, 33.3 WAR
McCann: .275/.348/.469, 236 2B, 188 HR, 706 RBI, 492 R, 115 OPS+, 24.5 WAR
Interesting here is that McCann has four of the top five WAR seasons on Fangraphs with Torre having 3rd, 6th, 7th and 8th. Torre had more consistency throughout his run, but McCann's upside was higher. I'll take the upside. Brian McCann is the pick.
A tip of the cap to Fred Tenney of the dead ball era, Wally Berger of the offensivel -supercharged 1930s and Fred McGriff with some prime years in the '90s, but we're going with Freddie Freeman. He just turned 30 and he's already tied for eighth among Braves position players in career WAR, rocking a career .293/.379/.504 (137 OPS+) slash line.
The choices here aren't great. We could go with turn-of-the-century Bobby Lowe, Glenn Hubbard of the '80s, Kelly Johnson or Marcus Giles of this century. Rogers Hornsby had one excellent season, but it was just one. Ozzie Albies probably gets the nod here in a few years, but ... I'm totally gonna cheat. It's a video game! Someone is moving positions to second. See "third base."
Rafael Furcal, Jeff Blauser and Hall of Famer Rabbit Maranville get looks here (and, frankly, just having "Rabbit" on your team would be fun), but I'm going with Johnny Logan. The four-time All-Star got MVP votes in five seasons through his prime with the Milwaukee iteration of the Braves through the '50s.
Sigh. We can only pick one between two of the best third basemen in baseball history. It's Eddie Mathews or Chipper Jones. But WAIT! See "second base." Executive decision, we're keeping both Eddie and Chipper. Imagine looking at your video game lineup with Glenn Hubbard at second and Eddie Mathews on the bench? Nope. That ain't happening on my watch.
Fun side note: Neither of these guys posted the highest WAR season ever for a Braves' third baseman. That distinction belongs to Darrell Evans, who went nuts in 1973.
It's likely going to eventually be Ronald Acuna, assuming he settles here, but for now I'm going with Dale Murphy. Yes, Murphy only played left field 101 games in his career, but there's a reason I kicked him over here.
Remembering the out-of-shape, late-career Andruw Jones doesn't do justice to the force that he was in his prime with the Braves. There have been arguments that he was the best defensive outfielder in the history of the game. Advanced metrics says there's a case to be made on that front. Meanwhile, from 1998-2006 he averaged 35 homers, 104 RBI and 99 runs per season.
Hank Aaron. Next.
Oh boy. We're loaded here with only four spots (why didn't the video game at least go to six total pitchers?). We start with the obvious trio of Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine. We can't neglect Warren Spahn or Phil Niekro. Kid Nichols did his work in the dead ball era, but it was some serious work. With lots of apologies, it's only going to come down to that six. I'll eliminate Nichols just because it was so long ago. It wasn't even the modern game in many ways.
Maddux is in because he's one of my favorite players ever and it's my team. I'm also taking Niekro because I'd like to believe I can create a knuckleball. I'll also go with Spahn. That leaves Glavine and Smoltz and I'm taking Smoltz. Sorry, Glavine fans.
Craig Kimbrel gets the honors, with apologies to Gene Garber and Mark Wohlers.
Baseball Stars uses six characters for each name. What follows is the Baseball Stars lineup.
- Chipp, 2B
- Eddie, 3B
- Hank, RF
- Freddy, 1B
- Andruw, CF
- Dale, LF
- McCann, C
- Logan, SS
SP: Maddux, Spahn, Niekro, Smoltz
Bench: Torre, David (Justice), Felipe (Alou), Acuna, Albies
As always, feel free to hit me up on Twitter with your own team (@MattSnyderCBS).