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.
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.