No. 41: Claudell Washington

claudell washington.jpgLefthanded Hitting, Lefthanded Throwing Outfielder
Seasons With Braves: 1981-1986
Stats With Braves: .278/.339/.435, 67 HR, 279 RBI, 347 R.

So, I guess Robert wins… I originally didn’t consider Claudell a candidate, but looking at it, he was the only player who had (a) an above-average offensive career with the Braves, and (b) a career of more than three years of full-time duty with the Braves, who (c) was not part of the original list. When I ejected Neagle, I felt that I had to add Washington, even though I am not a fan. Claudell Washington was basically what Andruw Jones’ detractors say Andruw is.

Washington was undrafted in 1972 for some reason, signed by the A’s as a free agent; he was in the majors (originally just as a pinch-runner, but soon enough as a regular) in 1974, at the age of 19. Just after turning 20, he went 4-7 in the World Series. In 1975, he hit .308/.345/.424, made the All-Star team, and even received a few MVP votes. But he never reached those heights again, and apparently he was extremely annoying. The A’s sent him to the Rangers during spring training 1977. Early in 1978, the Rangers got tired of him and sent him to the White Sox. In 1980, the White Sox traded him to the Mets for a minor leaguer who never played in the majors.

So the Braves are thinking, “We have got to get some of that.” Now, Claudell was a good hitter; his .278/.326/.452 in 1980 was pretty good for the time and just about the same as he’d had in 1979. But he wasn’t considered one of the elite players available in the 1980-81 free agent market. His agent’s negotiations with the Braves are the stuff of legend. Literally: a legend has grown up that Ted thought he was negotiating with Reggie Jackson’s agent. This is probably not true, but it is true that Washington’s five-year contract was considered far out of whack at the time.

So for the first three years of the contract, the Braves got an rightfielder with a slugging percentage in the low .400s. He did play well in the stretch drive in 1982 and go 3-9 in the NLCS, but it was a lot less than what they were paying for. Finally, in 1984, he had a big year, hitting .286/.374/.469 and making the All-Star team, though he missed 42 games. (He may have been platooning.) He fell off a little in 1985, but it was the second-best year of his Braves career. Early in 1986, he was traded to the Yankees for Ken Griffey.

There are some positives in Claudell’s Braves career, and his numbers were decent enough at the time. But he wasn’t supposed to be decent — he was supposed to be the third guy to Murphy and Horner, and instead he was just a support player. I know I just came off singing the praises of solid players, but it’s different when you’re paying for superstar and get solid.

Anyway, Washington had a couple of decent years with the Yankees, left as a free agent to the Angels, washed out, and wound up his career with the Yankees again in 1990.

Claudell Washington Statistics – Baseball-Reference.com

19 thoughts on “No. 41: Claudell Washington”

  1. I always liked Claudell, though I guess now it’s just nostalgia. I was too young at the time to really know or care much about whether he was a nice guy or a great player. He seemed like a good player. 1981-82 are my first real memories of the Braves so those guys will always be favorites. I may try to write a ‘special bonus entry’ on Bruce Benedict.

  2. I remember Skip talking about a movie that Claudell had invested in. I want to say Caddyshack but I am probably wrong. Ah those were the days. Skip talking to Pete about a player’s investments, the incessent ticking of the news ticker in the background, the vast sea of blue empty seats, me wondering what the hell was so fascinating about this sucky baseball team. I mean if Claudell Washington is your 3rd best player you really suck.

  3. Man this guy wore out his welcome on a bunch of teams pretty quickly. I am in the same boat, I discovered MLB and the bravos in the late 70’s and Washington kind of was just there, nothing special nothing bad. It was liking watching Kevin McReynolds in his prime if that existed.
    I am compliling my top braves bust / bum list, Its pretty neat seeing those old schmoes. I am up to Brad Komminsk and looking at Ken Smith and Drew Densen and there certainly will be room for Marty Clary and the great chubo mexican German Jimenez that was to right that ship in the late 80’s

  4. Claudell was the author of one of my alltime favorite baseball moments. Claudell gets hit by pitch, walks to first. Claudell waits rwo innings to bat again. Bat “slips” out of Claudell’s hands into infield towards first. Claudell jogs out to retrieve bat, makes left turn, charges mound from 10 feet away. Brilliant!

  5. Pete used to say nobody ever looked better in a Braves uniform than Claudell. Juan Encarnacion reminds me of him as a player, though Claudell was better.

  6. So, I guess Robert wins…

    Yes!

    Claudell was another guy I always liked, of course I never personally dealt with him so that probably helped. He was a solid enough player, it’s not his fault that Ted overpaid him. Anyway, glad to see him on the list. He belongs.

    Mac, why weren’t you a fan? Because he was a big money disappointment?

  7. Probably. But as I’ve said before, cocaine was remarkably prevalent among wealthy young men in that time period. I think most baseball players at least tried cocaine, and out of any group of people that try coke some of them are going to get addicted.

  8. I liked Claudell too. After the disastrous trade of Brett Butler, the Braves made Washington their leadoff hitter in 1984 and he played well.

    Mac mentioned the injuries, I remember him having hamstring problems. For some reason, I think of him as a Bake-McBride-type. Wasn’t the line on McBride that he went on the DL if he got soap in his eyes?

    We all remember Otis Nixon’s catch of Andy Van Slyke…Claudell had a similar type catch against the Cards in 1983 up against those old plexiglass walls at Fulton Co.

  9. Put me in the Claudell fanclub as well, I read all the detractors for years, but when he was a Brave, he played hard. I like that. Plus he had huge nostrils.

  10. Nostrils, huh. Surprised to see no mention of the rumor that Claudell also had a very large penis. Not sure how those types of rumors get started, but I’d like to know…

  11. I liked him, but I was a kid and I liked just about any player that was around year after year. The Braves of my youth always included Claudell Washington. For me, all I knew were the Braves and especially the regulars. I knew little or nothing about the rest of baseball, other than tidbits I’d pick up from my dad’s comments about the other team.

  12. To me he reminded me of Paul O’Neil who before he played for the Yankees. I think had he played for them or the Red Sox, he would have done well.

    He brought out the best memory for me. The Braves were down 3-2 in the 9th with two outs against the Reds at home, Brett Butler on second and Rafael Ramirez on third. Claudell hit a screamer off lefty, Joe Price that nearly tore his head off, toward center. Rafy scored easy, picked up the bat, and saw Brett coming home. The throw got to Alex Trevino, Reds catcher before Brett reached home, and I still remember, Raffy flailing with both arms with the bat on his right, telling Brett to dive. And Brett slid around the tag and was called safe.

    I know people will talk about the 1995 World Series and Sid Bream’s slide off Francisco Cabrera’s bat. But this one really got Atlanta rolling. Because I was in 3rd grade, we all played kick-ball or soccer because that is what the teacher told that is what we can do until 5th grade or on Friday’s. But when the girls started to talk about having a crush on Brett Butler and wanting to marry him. The guys started to get out the bats and bases. Teachers didn’t say nothing. Braves fever started by Claudell Washington’s hit.

    Oh, his daughter Camille looked cute as well. I went to school with her at Trinity when she was in the 5th and I was in the 6th.

  13. Claudell wouldn’t have made it very long with the team during the 90’s. I started watching in the early 80’s and I just remember him charging the mound everytime he was pitched inside. I think the reason he wasn’t drafted was because he didn’t play much growing up. He was a track star that could fly and that’s how the A’s discovered him.

    I’m almost over the “Len Barker Fiasco” (mentioned above). I would say the trades for McGriff, Smoltz, and Jurjens have made up for that one.

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