It’s hard when you have a famous father and you’re not as good as he was. Things worked out fine for Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr., but it’s a different matter for Jose Cruz Jr. or Tim Raines Jr. — or Gary Mathews Jr. He’s a solid enough fourth outfielder burdened with excessive expectations brought on by a man who shares half his genes. Sarge had his best year playing for the Braves in 1979; a quarter century later Little Sarge hopes to be the Braves’ fourth outfielder.
He’s played for five teams (and the Padres twice) already but most were bad teams with bad outfields and gaping holes in center. He was never able to hold onto those jobs, but he’s a pretty good defensive outfielder, runs okay, and has a little power. He’s also a career .242 hitter, which is his real problem. If he could hit .270, with his peripheral skills, he’d put up an OPS in the 750 range and be able to hold onto a centerfield job somewhere. Instead, his OPS is sub-700 and he moves around hoping to catch fire.
Matthews will replace Darren Bragg and backup in the outfield. His playing time largely depends upon two things — J.D. Drew’s health and Eli Marrero not winning a job elsewhere. Last year, he was much better (in only 129 AB) as a righthanded batter, so a platoon with Drew — if the latter’s health is is question — is a possibility. As an outfielder, Marrero’s been a better hitter than Matthews (though it’s not an open-and-shut case) and the Braves would probably use him more if he’s not busy elsewhere. We’ll see what happens.