Ironic Jersey Omnibus: Atlanta Braves

Continuing our examination of fashion sense for the intellectually demanding fan, we move on to Atlanta, home of the Braves since 1966.  Of course, when we think of Atlanta Braves baseball, most of us immediately think of the playoff streak, and the triumvirate of Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz.  Older fans will remember Aaron’s charge at 716.  Between these eras, there was Dale Murphy and not much else.  It’s strange that the modern Braves, after these peaks and valleys, have been so nondescript in comparison.

Still, there’s plenty of irony to be had in the baseball jerseys of the Atlanta Braves.

1966 Eddie Mathews: I am not a Braves fan, but I find Mathews fascinating.  Overshadowed by Aaron most of his career, Mathews feels like a afterthought Hall of Famer, the kind of guy people forget when they play Sporcle.  And yet you’ve got teams who don’t have a Hall of Famer at all, much less a dominant one.  Mathews played one year in Atlanta near the end of his career, and played well, making this a good jersey choice for the ironic and the unironic at the same time.

1978 Pat Rockett: The Braves of the latter half of the 1980s are remembered for their ineptitude, but the teams of the late seventies were equally horrific.  The team finished in the basement four consecutive years, partially because they gave plate appearances to guys like Pat Rockett.  The 10th pick of the 1973 draft, Rockett managed to be worth a career -4.7 WAR in only 152 games, accomplishing this by combining a .036 ISO with a -38 TZ.  Truly, he was a dual threat.  How could anyone guess that a guy named Rockett could be bad at baseball?

1980 Bob Horner: One of the great softball-body athletes of our time, and one of the better first overall picks of the draft.  Horner probably never had the career he could have, thanks to his conditioning and the injuries that arose from it, as well as that always-brilliant strategy teams use of skipping the minors. Jersey should only be worn in a size that starts with an X, and it helps if you both bleach and cut your own hair.

1981 Al Hrabosky or 1985 Bruce Sutter: It goes without saying that beards, real, fake, or hand-drawn, must accompany these jerseys.  The Mad Hungarian was overrated, especially in a 1981 season in which he garnered a 1.07 ERA good for a whopping 0.4 WAR.  Sutter was a free agent flop whose contract was restructured in such a way that he’s still on the team payroll nearly thirty years later.  Both pitchers helped the ascension of the save, one of those statistics that’s said to be bad for baseball.

1988 Gerald Perry: Gerald Perry was once a Donruss Diamond King.  So was Glenn Hubbard.  Because the Diamond Kings (like All-Star rosters) required a player from each team, they make an interesting statement about a franchise in time.  Perry played six seasons for Atlanta and was an exactly replacement level player.  His wikipedia article is about as long as Pat Rockett’s.  Thanks to a reputation as a pinch hitter, Perry has become the Reggie Sanders of batting coaches, which is nice.  Best worn by people of average height, build, and attractiveness.

1991 Steve Avery / 1997 Denny Neagle / 1998 Kevin Millwood

Any of these jerseys make an excellent statement about the Braves of the 1990s; each pitcher had a shining moment or two in pursuit of this division title or another.  Avery still ranks fifth among pitchers in WAR as an Atlanta Brave, and Millwood is right behind him.   These guys remind people that greatness doesn’t need to be long-lasting in order to be appreciated.

2005 Jeff Francoeur: Almost too easy.  But not quite too easy.

2010 Yunel Escobar: This is about as dangerous an ironic jersey as it gets. New jerseysare tough to pull off anyway, but then when you take an unpopular player who left in an unpopular trade… this is not easy to pull off.  But it’s not as though you’re wearing a John Rocker jersey, barely.  Think of the Escobar as a protest statement, something to break out of the closet in case of emergency.

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Patrick Dubuque writes for NotGraphs and The Hardball Times, and he served as former Bill Spaceman Lee Visiting Professor for Baseball Exploration at Pitchers & Poets. Follow him on Twitter @euqubud.

15 Responses to “Ironic Jersey Omnibus: Atlanta Braves”

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  1. Chummy Z says:

    No love for John Rocker? I don’t think you could possibly get more ironic than that.

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  2. Chummy Z says:

    Nevermind, my utter stupidity had me miss that last bit. Still, I’d love to see someone wearing a Rocker uni.

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  3. Ferris says:

    I’m gonna be that guy and point out that Ruth had 714, 716 was just the first bit of icing on the cake.

    But this series is fun. Bob Wickman would be another great ironic ATL jersey.

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  4. GTwill says:

    The Braves sold a ton of Frenchy jerseys. A lot of people will be able to make that statement.

    For my money, gotta be 2003 Mike Hampton. Everyone thinks pitching when they think of the Braves but no one thinks Mike Hampton. (No one thinks of the Braves when they think about Hampton either). He actually won the gold glove and silver slugger that year. Easily more dangerous than an Escobar jersey too. No way you could get a Brave fan to say something nice about him.

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    • yaboynate says:

      Great call with Hampton. I remember the game when he hurt himself walking out to the mound during warmups.

      I have to put Bob “The Blob” Wickman as my frontrunner for this. It tickles me to recall how he had an intro video of him walking into a barn when he took the mound to close. One week and 3 blown saves later, they no longer played his video.

      One more player I would submit is the last Brave to hit for the cycle. On a club that has recently featured such hitters as Chipper and McCann, one Mark Kotsay has secured his place in Atlanta Braves lore.

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  5. Daniel says:

    How is Otis Nixon not on this list?

    My roommate has a Rocker jersey, always gets a good reaction

    def love the Wickman and Hampton suggestions too

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  6. No love for HairFelDruslamacchia?

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  7. One of the guidelines I’ve tried to operate under in this series is that, barring extreme circumstances, a given player should only be aligned with one team. That’s why I left off Hampton, who’ll get his due relatively soon. That said, Hampton might be one of those rare exceptions, because the irony is completely different in Colorado (high priced bust) as opposed to Atlanta (body of glass). Let’s add him retroactively.

    Running numbers for hours also didn’t give me the appreciation of Bob Wickman that a five second google image search provided. When I think of Bob Wickman, all I remember is the Yankees offering him straight up for Randy Johnson in 1993. He’s in too.

    Nixon is tough because he’s remembered more as a personality than a player, and even though his best years (relatively) came in Atlanta, I don’t know if the Braves version of his jersey is particularly ironic. Maybe I’m missing something.

    Saltalamacchia: First round bust, yes, and a hell of a lot of letters. But he was overshadowed by Feliz and Andrus in the Teixeira trade, and I have a suspicion there’s still some legacy, somewhere, to be made. We’ll see.

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  8. EdwardM says:

    He didn’t play for the Braves in the 70’s or late 80’s but, c’mon, the name alone rates at least one fan: Wade Blasingame

    Cito is friends with Cox, was a poor player on bad Braves teams, and beat them in the ’92 WS.

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  9. Deaner says:

    I’ve got to give some love to 1989 Zane Smith. It’s been established that W-L doesn’t mean a whole lot, but when you go 1-12, that’s bordering on futility of generational, if not historic, proportions.

    This jersey wouldn’t simply be special for the pathetic record, but also for the fact that 1989 also happened to be the year the Braves were able to unload Zane on another NL team, who apparently didn’t have the budget for a pro scout (and my team at that….uggh.)

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  10. Geoff says:

    As a Braves fan, I’ve always thought it’d be great to own an Andy Messersmith “Channel 17” jersey.

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  11. Kenshin Kawakami says:

    My jersey will be featured soon enough!

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  12. The Ted, Section 437 says:

    Scott Proctor is making a strong charge at ironic immortality this year.

    Kenny Lofton deserves a mention for his stellar contribution and subsequent exit. Mark Teixeira, same story.

    But I think some left fielders from the last couple years deserve some serious not-love: Garret Anderson and Melky Cabrera, DON’T come on down!

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  13. Nu? billy bar oooo says:

    Jason Marquis. Nuff said.

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