Atlanta Braves’ All-Time Team

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Saying that the Atlanta Braves have an extensive story is an understatement. This being the case, there’s certainly no shortage of incredible players in the aforementioned history. According to Baseball Reference, the top ten players in Braves history have a combined WAR of 878.2. Nevertheless, the question of who the greatest is remains. This can be debated over and over until the end of time, but here we will not endeavor to answer that question.

This list is different. It is not categorized by means of all-time statistics; rather, these are classified positionally. All nine positions on the diamond are represented here, along with the designated hitter and four pitchers. This writer also firmly believes in the impact that a manager can have as an extension of his players and their positions on the field. So, we will be diving down that rabbit hole as well. Without further ado, let’s go ahead and get started!

Braves All-Time Catcher: Del Crandall

The Braves have had many terrific catchers over the years. Names like Brian McCann, Javy Lopez, and Joe Torre are instantly recognizable. However, one tops them all and is criminally understated. Del Crandall played catcher for all except 33 games in his 16-year career. His overall WAR of 26.9 is the highest out of any Brave who played catcher as much as he did. He picked up eight All-Star appearances in a Braves uniform, with four coming consecutively. His best overall season was in 1960, when he hit .294 with 19 homers, 77 RBI, and a career high 158 hits.

Braves All-Time First Baseman: Freddie Freeman

The first of many obvious choices on this list, Freddie Freeman has become the face of the franchise. After being drafted in the second round in 2007, Freeman quickly made a name for himself in the minors. It wouldn’t take long before he established himself as one of the premiere first basemen in the big leagues. He’s made five All-Star teams, and won the 2020 MVP Award. He already ranks in the top ten in team history for offensive WAR, OBP, slugging, and OPS. His 271 career dingers rank him sixth in Braves history and his 367 doubles are third. For a franchise that’s often struggled to find consistency at first base, Freeman has provided a very reliable solution. Only time will tell where he goes next.

Braves All-Time Second Baseman: Glenn Hubbard

Glenn Hubbard just barely edges out Marcus Giles for this spot, one of the weaker in Braves history. A rare Major League player born in Germany, Hubbard was drafted in the 20th round in 1975. Three years later, he was called up after hitting .336 in 80 games for Triple-A Richmond. Thus began ten years where he was a fixture on the Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium diamond. While he never posted an OPS+ above league average, he did manage a respectable 16.9 overall WAR. His best season came in 1983, when he was selected to his only All-Star team. He hit .263 while setting career highs in homers (12), RBI (70), hits (136), and slugging (.402).

Braves All-Time Third Baseman: Eddie Mathews

There’s nothing that can be said about Eddie Mathews that hasn’t been said already. A career .273 average with the Braves is supported by 493  homers and over 1,300 RBI. He made nine All-Star appearances, with eight coming consecutively. His 94.0 WAR is second among position players in team history. He was also excellent at getting on base, leading the league in walks four times as a Brave. His career walk and strikeout percentages are almost identical, which, in today’s game, is unheard of for a player who hit as many dingers as he did. A Hall of Fame induction in 1978 sealed his legacy as the greatest Braves third baseman of all time.

Shortstop: Herman Long

Herman Long posted a 35.3 WAR, the highest of any Braves shortstop ever. He was picked up before 1890 and didn’t leave Boston until 1903. During his time as a Brave, he hit .280 with a few more than 1,900 hits. From 1894-97, he hit .326 with 642 hits, 109 doubles, 36 triples, and 324 RBI. He also holds the distinction of being the all-time Braves leader in stolen bases (434). While his glove could be somewhat suspect at times, his bat and his speed never were. Owing to his overall value as a player, he is definitely worthy of his position here.

Left Fielder: Dale Murphy

Dale Murphy ranks fifth in Braves history in WAR among position players. He was drafted fifth overall by Atlanta in 1974, but wouldn’t play his first full big league season until 1978. Once there, his power shone as he swatted 23 dingers that year. He’d go on to hit 371 homers as a Brave with 2,111 hits, 1,143 RBI, a .478 slugging mark, and an OPS+ of 125. He collected seven All-Star appearances and was named league MVP in 1982 and ’83. Despite his struggles with strikeouts and being a categorically horrible defender, Murphy definitely deserves his spot on this list.

Center Fielder: Andruw Jones

Andruw Jones was the defensive keystone of the Braves during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. His ten Gold Gloves and 26.6 defensive WAR as a Brave speak to this. The ability he had in the outfield is not easily matched. Not only that, but he could flat out crush a baseball. His 368 home runs puts him fifth in Braves history. He’s also the only Brave ever to have a 50 home run season (2005). True, this powerhouse offense slid way downhill towards the end of his time in Atlanta. However, the combination of a lightning bat and incredible glove made him one of the most feared center fielders in the league for years.

Right Fielder: Henry Aaron

This one’s a no-brainer. Henry Aaron leads the Braves in 31 of Baseball Reference’s 44 all-time offensive categories. He only missed one All-Star game in the 21 years he spent with the Braves. His 733 homers, 3,600 hits, 2,202 RBI, 600 doubles, and staggering 6,591 total bases are all tops in Braves history. He’s an MVP and a three-time Gold Glove winner as well. He also never struck out more than 100 times in any one season. This writer doesn’t think anything more needs to be said. Hank Aaron’s place on this list is not only earned, it’s practically the catalyst for the whole thing.

Designated Hitter: Chipper Jones

Chipper Jones was to 2000’s era Braves fans what Mathews was to 1950’s era Braves fans. Simply, he had a massive piece of lumber on his shoulder with a reliable glove to boot. The Hall of Famer spent his entire 19-year career in Atlanta. He won the MVP Award in 1999 while hitting .319 with 45 homers and 111 RBI. Much like Aaron, Jones knew his way around the dish. He walked 1,512 times in his career with a walk percentage of 14.3. Add to that great defense and a penchant for coming through in big moments and you have one of the greatest Braves of all time.

Pitchers: Kid Nichols, Warren Spahn, Phil Niekro, & John Smoltz

Kid Nichols holds the highest WAR of any pitcher in Braves history (107.4). He won 330 games in a mere 12 seasons with Boston and won 30 games five times. He also holds the all-time Braves record for complete games. Next, we have Warren Spahn. He won 356 games during his 20 years in Milwaukee with a 3.05 ERA and a 120 ERA+. From 1957-1961, he led the league in wins every single season. He’s a three-time ERA champion as well as a Cy Young Award winner.

Third in our rotation is Phil Niekro, the master of the knuckleball. He won 268 games in 21 years with the Braves, posting a WAR of 89.6, third in team history among pitchers. He picked up an ERA title in 1967 to go along with four All-Star appearances. Finally, we have John Smoltz, the product of one of the most retroactively lopsided trades in baseball history. During his 20 years with the club, he produced 210 wins and 154 saves. He’s the 1996 NL Cy Young winner, during a season in which he won 24 games and posted a .750 winning percentage.

Honorable Mentions: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Craig Kimbrel, & Fred Tenney

In 11 seasons with the Braves, Greg Maddux won 194 games with a 2.63 ERA, picking up three Cy Young Awards. Known for his near perfect mound defense, he garnered ten Gold Gloves as a Brave. He’d be selected to six All-Star games as well. He won 244 games with the Braves with a 121 ERA+. Five 20-win seasons and two Cy Young Awards cement his legacy as a member of the “Big Three.”

Craig Kimbrel burst onto the scene by winning Rookie of the Year in 2011. During his five years in Atlanta, he saved 186 games. His 1.43 ERA and 266 ERA+ are staggering and he’s definitely earned his spot as the greatest relief pitcher in Braves history. Then there’s Fred Tenney, who had a 15 year career in Boston. He hit an even .300 with 1,994 hits and 260 stolen bases during that time.

Manager: Bobby Cox

Bobby Cox managed the Braves from 1978-1981 and then again from 1990-2010. Over those seasons, he amounted 2,149 wins, five pennants, and a World Series title. He was a four-time Manager of the Year and played an integral role in the Braves’ surprise 1991 campaign. He’s the winningest manager in Braves history. Not only that, he ranks just behind John McGraw, Tony La Russa, and Connie Mack in all-time managerial wins. Despite some polarizing decisions, Cox remains a beloved figure for Braves fans everywhere. He’s definitely the right one to manage this team.

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Players/Managers Mentioned:

Brian McCann, Javy Lopez, Joe TorreDel Crandall, Freddie Freeman, Glenn HubbardMarcus Giles, Eddie Mathews, Herman Long, Dale Murphy, Andruw Jones, Hank Aaron, Chipper Jones, Kid NicholsWarren SpahnPhil Niekro, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Craig KimbrelFred Tenney, Bobby CoxJohn McGraw, Tony La Russa, Connie Mack