Stewing over some things going on in the comments…
1. There is a tendency — we all have it — to create dichotomies. One case are the beliefs that Bobby Cox either doesn’t play young players, or that he does play young players. The fact is that the truth lies somewhere in between.
In 2001, I wrote that Bobby, after the initial burst of 1990-91 when he turned the roster over, would
usually get about one [first year] player a year into the lineup. Javy Lopez, Ryan Klesko, Chipper Jones, Jermaine Dye, Andruw Jones, and Rafael Furcal were among the hitters, Kevin Millwood, John Rocker, Kerry Ligtenberg, and Jason Marquis among the pitchers.
Since then, you can add Marcus Giles and Adam LaRoche to the hitters, plus a failed attempt with Mark DeRosa, and Horacio Ramirez, Damian Moss (briefly), and Kevin Gryboski to the pitchers. (My standard is at least a 2/3 of the time role in the lineup, a spot in the rotation or as the closer, or a reliever spending several years in the bullpen.)
Now, most of those hitters are players with obvious star ability. I think that all except DeRosa and LaRoche have made at least one all-star team, and LaRoche might make one under the right circumstances though he really isn’t the “all-star” type of player. (DeRosa, meanwhile, was sort of a “default” player who only got the third base job because there wasn’t anyone else.) That’s where the line is. “Bobby” — meaning, really, the Braves’ brain trust that includes Schuerholz, probably Frank Wren, and one or two others — will give a job to a young player with star ability. They generally won’t to a player who will merely be average to good, preferring to go with a “known” commodity.
Also, the team has been very careful with players they think will be regulars, preferring to get them regular playing time in AAA rather than part time work on the major league bench. As I also mentioned in the 2001 article, the Braves don’t sit young players on their bench unless it’s September or a player they think of as a long-term bench player. Hence, Kelly Johnson stays in AAA. This may be bad news for Ryan Langerhans, evidence that they think of him as a fourth outfielder. What this all means is that it’s not particularly surprising that the Braves would go with a Jordan and a Mondesi, despite their obvious faults, at the expense of a player like Langerhans.
10. Why does Rafael Furcal get (generally) a free pass, while anything dealing with Andruw turns into the Battle of Stalingrad? It makes no sense. Furcal, not Andruw and not even Mondesi, has been the biggest drag on the Braves’ lineup this season. Obviously there’s a difference between a shortstop and a centerfielder (even a mediocre-to-poor shortstop and a gold glove centerfielder). But Andruw’s OPS is more than 100 points higher than Furcal’s and all his elements are higher too: .247/.324/.433 for Andruw, .239/.287/.354 for Furcal. (Andruw actually has the second-best OPS in the everyday lineup after Marcus’ slump.) But Andruw got kicked down the lineup, while Furcal’s still up there making outs at the top of the order. Jordan and Mondesi have been slightly worse than Furcal overall, but they aren’t leading off. And while Langerhans has struggled, Pete Orr, the top infield reserve, is hitting .304/.333/.478. I don’t think he’s really a better hitter than Furcal, but right now he is.
11. There seems to be general agreement that the Braves need to ditch a reliever. It’s a little less pressing if Chipper’s back in the lineup. When he was out, the Braves were stuck with one infield reserve and one outfield reserve, because he couldn’t play the field and the rest of the bench was one guy who only plays first and one guy who only plays catcher. While I’d like for the Braves to call up Kelly Johnson and give him right field, if it’s a bench role they had in mind either Billy McCarthy or Scott Thorman would be a better choice. Johnson can sort-of play several different positions, which is a good thing to have on your bench, but I think he’s a long-term regular and so not someone you want sitting around.