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.