Tuesday, January 15, 2013

January 15- Atlanta Braves

I was a bit surprised that the Atlanta Braves didn’t point this out before the season started, but then again, how often does one celebrate the lifetime of a style of hat. Back in 1987 the Braves made a uniform and color switch; donning the old red and navy which dates back to their earlier days in both Boston and Milwaukee. The hat, on the other hand, hasn’t really gone through much of a change, logo wise, since 1981, but the current game/home style celebrated it’s 25th birthday this last year and has been a constant best-seller during that stretch.

A few days ago I had posted about the Toronto Blue Jays and how they had altered their uniforms and colors numerous times over a 17-year period and was met with minimal success on the field despite a higher win probability in correlation to a team changing its look. Oddly enough, the Braves fell into a similar hole for the first four years after making the switch. From 1987-1990 the Braves were on of the worst teams in baseball. Seriously! Look it up. The Chuck Tanner/Russ Nixon-managed Braves couldn’t buy a win if they tried, even in spite of Dale Murphy’s dominance at the plate in ’87 when he blasted 44 home runs and batted an impressive .295. However, the “Power Ally” era came to an end after the 1990 season, which coincidentally is the same time the Braves established their dominance in the National League Eastern (then Western) Division. So with that, I had to roll the dice with a few guys that wore this cap and personified the Atlanta Braves over the last quarter century. And who better than Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz?

#31- Greg Maddux: Unless you’re a dedicated Braves fan, or baseball fan, Maddux didn’t start his career with the Braves until the 1993 season. The Braves had all ready flirted with greatness in 1991 when they matched up against the Minnesota Twins in the World Series, but fell to them in a grueling (in a good way) series which lasted all seven games. The Braves, needing another solid starter, picked up a solid started from the Chicago Cubs before the start of the ’93 season. Maddux had flirted with a Cy Young in 1989, but finished third in the voting after going 19-12 with a 2.95 ERA. He lost to San Diego Padres closer Mark Davis and Houston Astros ace Mike Scott in case you were wondering. In 1992 though, he took home the prize after going 20-11 with a 2.18 ERA and 268.0 innings under his belt. Baller!!! So, with a new team and a fresh season in front of him, Maddux took the mound for the Braves and had a pretty decent showing. And by decent I’m totally kidding. Dude pal won three more consecutive Cy Young Awards; winning 55 games and losing 18 in those three years. Glavine also won a ridiculous (in a good way) amount of Gold Glove Awards during his tenure in the South; a record 18 for his career, but an impressive 10 straight for the Braves. He only missed out in one time in his final year as a Brave in 2003. His punk of a teammate, Mike Hampton, robbed him late year. Aaaaaaaaand he also won a World Series ring in 1995, but that’s really not that big of a deal.

#47- To talk about Tommy Glavine, one can’t help but start with the 1984 NHL Entry Draft. That’s right; TG was a solid hockey player in his youth and was selected in the 4th round, 69th overall by the Los Angeles Kings. Even more impressive, Glavine was selected two rounds ahead of Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille (both of whom were inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame in 2009). So, needing a real challenge, Glavine opted to play baseball instead, and made his debut during the 1987 season. In 1988 Glavine lost a MLB-high 17 games for the Braves, but quickly turned things around toward the end of the 1990 season when Bobby Cox took over as manager. From 1991-1993 Glavine won at least 20 games and took home his first Cy Young Award for his effort during the ’91 season. Unfortunately, some computer nerd-looking guy (Maddux) kept him from getting his second Cy Young until 1998 where he went 20-6 with a 2.47 ERA. Oh yah! He also won a World Series ring in 1995. No big deal.

#29- The youngest of the three, John Smoltz had the unfortunate luck of playing alongside Maddux and Glavine, therefore didn’t have much of an opportunity to win much hardware. But, he scored big in 1996; going 24-8 with a 2.94 ERA and a League high 276 strikeouts. Smoltz was extremely dominant during his 21-year career, and was the only one of the three who dealt with possible career-ending injuries. After sitting out the 2000 season, Smoltz faced the harsh reality that he may not be able to be used as a starter again. Wanting to play, Smoltz took on the role as closer during the 2001 season and did a fair job. In 2002; however, he played out of his mind. Smoltz saved a MLB season high 55 games. Did I say season high? Sorry, I meant NL single season record. Smoltz defied the odds and continued to play through 2009. He also rotated back to a starting spot in 2006 where he went 16-9 with a 3.49 ERA. I think he also won a World Series ring in ’95 as well, but that’s not important.

As a youngling I only recall seeing the Braves play in this hat with the aid of TBS: The Superstation. So, I had to go with I know. And one thing I know is that Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz truly personified the Atlanta Braves organization for a generation of baseball fans. Well, except for Glavine. He really should have stuck with hockey. Kidding. :D

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