Seventeen Years Later, Braves Ensure Pirates Won’t Return to Playoffs

Big news coming from the Braves today.  First, they released future HOFer, Tom Glavine.  Next, they called up super pitching prospect Tommy Hanson who will make his major league debut on Saturday against the Brewers.  Finally, the Braves announced they reached a deal to acquire Nate Mclouth from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for pitching prospects Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke, as well as outfield prospect Gorkys Hernandez.

The first news to come out of Braves camp was rather bittersweet for me.  First off, I understand that it made complete baseball and business sense to let Tommy go.  He was due a $1M bonus once he made the major league roster and would be due bonuses for being on the club after 30 days and 90 days.  It would be naive to believe that the money factor had nothing to do with this decision.  The worst case scenario is that Glavine came up, kept himself healthy, but was ineffective and essentially plugged a roster spot that would be better served for Tommy Hanson or another of our young arms.  The problem is the timing of this.  Glavine just made two serviceable rehab starts at AAA-Gwinnett and A-Rome and appeared ready to make the jump to the big club.  For all intensive purposes, he worked his butt off to get back from his injury and deserved a shot.  The club decided to go a different direction and Glavine obviously disagreed and asked for his release.  It’s tough for me because I really started following Braves baseball around the time Glavine was originally called up in the late 1980’s so he’s been a major part of my life as a sports fan.  I suppose it’s like our grandparents seeing Willie Mays struggling with the Mets or Johnny Unitas struggling with the Chargers at the end of their respective careers.  We don’t want to let go of our heroes the same as they don’t want to let go of their careers, but in the end it’s probably better that they go out before embarassing themselves.  Either way, Tommy is going to be missed by me and I hope this doesn’t ruin his relationship with the Braves after his playing career like the way I think the relationship with John Smoltz was ruined.

The second news story that came out was only made possible by the release of Glavine.  The Braves intend to move Kris Medlen into the bullpen and Tommy Hanson will make his major league debut against the Brewers on Saturday at Turner Field.  Hanson has been turning heads ever since he was drafted by the Braves.  Last fall he became the first pitcher to ever win the Most Valuable Player Award for the Arizona Fall League.  He has been fairly dominant at AAA-Gwinnett (although Medlen had better numbers) and it was a matter of time before he came up.  Truthfully, the holdup in bringing up Hanson is the same reason a lot of top prospects won’t be coming up until this summer and it has to do with becoming arbitration eligible.  From Tom Verducci on 5/29/2009:

I said this in spring training: Once we get past Memorial Day, watch for the promotion of top prospects. Generally, if a team waits until after Memorial Day to start the major league service clock of a player, he won’t qualify as a “Super Two” and get into the arbitration system a year earlier than he otherwise would — a tactic that saves millions of dollars for the club. Next up: Tommy Hanson. The Atlanta pitching prospect has been dominating Triple-A hitters, and could be promoted as soon as Sunday.

While I’m excited to see what Hanson can bring, it is still bittersweet that it took releasing Glavine to make it a reality.

Thirdly, the Braves made what might turn into a great move by acquiring Mclouth.  Although the batting average is low right now, .256, he has hit 9 HR’s and 34 RBIs on the season.  He has an OBP of .349 with a slugging % of .470 for an OPS of .819.  Anyone that has watched or followed the Braves this season realizes that the outfield has not exactly been producing at the plate.  The other primary outfielders this season; Jeff Franceour, Garret Anderson, Jordan Schafer, and Matt Diaz (I’ve excluded Gregor Blanco since he only came up yesterday) have combined for 10 HR’s, 64 RBIs, and have an average batting average of  .251, average OPS of  .311, average slugging % of .344, and average OPS of .655.  Essentially, Mclouth is hitting for higher average, one HR less than the combined efforts of the current outfield, single handedly more than half the RBIs of the rest of the Braves regular outfield,  and has better numbers the other major batting statistical categories than the rest of the Braves regular outfield.

Briefly speaking, he automatically brings a bigger bat to the outfield which the Braves have desperately needed as they’ve gotten nearly zero production from their outfield.  They gave up Charlie Morton who has been in the bigs but struggled, Jeff Locke – a pitching prospect that has been struggling with his control in the minors this year, and Gorkys Hernandez – an outfielder acquired in the Jair Jurrjens/Edgar Renteria deal that the Braves were very high on, but was essentially blocked by having Jordan Schafer in front of him.  Of the three, Hernandez is obviously the biggest blow, but as stated earlier he is blocked by Jordan Schafer similar to Jared Saltalamacchia when he was traded in the Mark Teixeira deal a few years ago.  In the end, this was a move that needed to be made and should help get the Braves to contender status in the chase for the Phillies and the Mets.

Now to celebrate the Braves further rape and pillage of the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise after we essentially ended them on that glorious night in October 1992, here’s a classic call from Skip Caray.  Rest in peace, Skip.

Update:  Michael adds his two cents.  I strongly agree with his assessment that while these moves gave the Braves a great day for on the field performance, this definitely damaged them in the public relations department as it relates to the Tom Glavine situation.

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3 responses to “Seventeen Years Later, Braves Ensure Pirates Won’t Return to Playoffs

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