Best Trades in Atlanta Braves History: Charlie Leibrandt

It was December of 1989, the Atlanta Braves were coming off of their 6th straight losing season. 5 of those 6, the Braves finished last or next to last in their division. It was a glum time to be a Braves fan, but hope was on the horizon as David Justice, Ron Gant, Jeff Blauser, and Lonnie Smith formed a formidable offensive core while youngsters Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery were the future of the rotation. The Braves were stocking up the Minors with visions of a long run, and with the worst record in the Majors, there was a #1 overall draft pick coming in 1990. The young pitchers in the rotation needed a veteran to lean on and in his final year as a GM before going back to the dugout, Braves GM Bobby Cox made one of the Best Trades in Atlanta Braves History: Charlie Leibrandt.

Best Trades in Atlanta Braves History, Charlie Leibrandt: The Trade

On December 15th, 1989, the Braves swung a deal with the Kansas City Royals:

Braves received Charlie Leibrandt and Rick Luecken from the Kansas City Royals for Gerald Perry and Jim Lemasters

Both Perry and Leibrandt were on 1-year deals and provided veteran presence fulfilling a need for the acquiring clubs. Luecken played a few years in the bigs, but only found small sample success in the year prior to the trade with the Royals. He then fizzled out and bounced between the MLB and MiLB for a few years before hanging it up. Lemasters never graduated from the minors. Gerald Perry continued the Major League trend of the 80’s into the 90’s of first base mediocrity. But Leibrandt…good ol’ Charlie…was brilliant in a Braves uniform.

Charlie Leibrandt’s Walk Year

While he didn’t pitch until June, Leibrandt was brilliant in a Braves uniform in 1990, throwing 162.1 innings with a 3.16 ERA. While the results didn’t come for the team in 1990, Leibrandt proved he belonged and John Schuerholz signed him to a new multi-year deal.

Charlie Leibrandt, 1992 and 1993

Over the next 2 years, Leibrandt would pitch 422. 2 innings with a solid 3.43 ERA. He was 2nd on the depth chart behind Tom Glavine in the 1991 season, and 4th on the depth chart in 1992 behind Glavine, John Smoltz, and Steve Avery. In 1993, Leibrandt’s contract was not up, but his time with the Braves was as the team needed his 3 million in salary (to pay some guy named Maddux) and shipped him off to the Rangers for Jose Oliva.

While Charlie will always be remembered by Braves fans for serving up Kirby Puckett a gopher ball in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series, maybe he shouldn’t be. And just maybe, collecting 10.4 WAR over the course of 3 years when the expectation was a 1 and done veteran presence for a young staff, should be what we should remember. Mac sure did.

Charlie’s tenure with the club is probably the shortest of any player on the list, three years. He’s on the list for the simple reason that the Braves would not have won the division in 1991 without him. Of course, when you win by only one game that’s true of basically everybody, but a lot of guys were replaceable. Leibrandt, as the team’s one veteran starter, was a steadying influence on a very young staff; I think his role as a mentor to Glavine and Avery is unappreciated.

Mac Thomason

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Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

39 thoughts on “Best Trades in Atlanta Braves History: Charlie Leibrandt”

  1. JC’d…

    BraveMarinesays:
    May 5, 2020 at 9:33 pm

    I’d forgotten how long a career Jason Marquis had until I just looked it up. Pitched in 15 major league seasons and retired with 124 wins, a winning record and an All Star game. Not too shabby. But it’s also hard to say he is a trade we should regret. All of the above and he still retired with only 6.8 WAR. That’s remarkable too. And similar to others you mentioned he had his chances in Atlanta and probably needed a change of scenery.

    Timosays:
    May 6, 2020 at 12:47

    I think Korean baseball will be a good blueprint to see how they will deal with infections.
    People will get tested positive. If you catch it early, it doesn’t necessarily mean to shut the team or the sports down. Other team sports are starting up again in Europe as well. They all have the same challenge as MLB. If MLB is aiming at a mid June spring training II, they will have a good experience how other countries/sports have dealt with the challenge.

  2. Completely agreed. When GMs try to get veterans to round out their lineup, they hope for something exactly like what Leibrandt gave us.

    Across three seasons, he made 91 starts (11 complete games) and twirled 585 innings with a 3.35 ERA (3.31 FIP), which even in those offensively depressed days made for a 116 ERA+.

    He managed to do that because even though he didn’t strike anybody out, he had a very low walk rate, and even though he pitched at the Launching Pad, he didn’t give up home runs. If you can keep the ball in the park and limit the free passes, you can win. And when he took the mound, we did.

    Heck of a pitcher.

  3. Thanks for this post. Huge Leibrandt fan. He was woefully miscast as a late-inning, post-season reliever with the game on the line. Not one of Cox’s best decisions. But his work as a starter in 1991-1992 was stellar.

    One thing to note about Leibrandt: Though he didn’t win a World Series ring with Atlanta, he did have one from the 1985 series with KC.

    And a personal note: In the 90s, I waited tables at a sports bar in Atlanta and was thrilled to see John Smoltz, Greg Olson and Charlie Leibrandt stroll in with their wives and take a seat at one of my tables. Good times.

  4. @4, that’s so cool! So, is Smoltzie a ranch dressing guy with his wings? Or honey mustard?

  5. I have always understood that Glavine’s circle change either came from Charlie or was greatly improved by interaction with Charlie. Assuming that, then yeah, Charlie had a BIG impact on the streak.

  6. @6, I think you’re right.

    Plus, according to a comment I posted back in 2009, referring to a Yahoo Sports article that’s been wiped from the web, Glavine and Leibrandt still went golfing together, nearly two decades after they started playing together! That would suggest that the two of them seriously bonded over pitching.

    That said, Leigh Montville wrote in SI in 1992 that Glav found his changeup by accident, though that’s the kind of “too good to check” story that sports journalists have been cranking out for centuries.

  7. Book Review

    The Hot Hand, by Ben Cohen (Custom House)

    Back in 1985, a group of cognitive scientists released a study in which they concluded that hot streaks -‘one of the most avidly contested phenomena in sports -and elsewhere’- were a myth. While Einstein for example had his annus mirabilis in 1905 (E =mc squared, the photo-electric effect), Shakespeare, homebound no doubt by the plague of 1605, fleshed out three new plays.

    The question arose as to whether ‘streaks indeed reflect heightened abilities’ rather than chance and circumstance but Cohen astutely observes that belief in them ‘transcends their places in the world.’

    And of course the reverse is true. Cohen’s plans for a sequel, ‘The Cold Hand’ have been greatly accelerated by his receipt from an anonymous, heart stricken source in Georgia that he feels almost defies belief but provides him at the same time with an instant definition of his new theme.

    A cold hand is a hitter coming to the plate in a one run post season game, one run down, bases loaded, twice, back to back. All 6 base runners were left where they stood, inconsolable. Any ball in play in either at bat would have tied the game. ‘ Unbelievable’ said Cohen. ‘Are you really sure this happened?’ ‘Fuck, yes’ said his source. ‘Fifty years from now there will still be tears down this way.’

  8. Been driving to Pensacola this AM for our dog’s last checkup after having an eye removed, and get back to some wonderful discussion and comments. I cross-post to get exposure to the site, but am here for what’s always made this site beautiful: the locals.

  9. I concur that Charlie Liebrandt is unfairly trodden upon for giving up the home run to Kirby Puckett. He was a huge factor in at least the 1991 division title. I guess you could say we probably win the ’92 title without him, given he was down to the No. 4 starter and we won the division by such a wide margin…but as Mac pointed out, we don’t win ’91 without him. When you couple that with the fact that he almost certainly played a big role in the development of Tom Glavine and Steve Avery, two fellow lefties, and he should be closer to the Terry Pendletons and Sid Breams of the world in people’s minds than he is.

  10. So, how about Brandon Lowe of the Rays did a shoutout to the best dang nurse in Tampa Bay, Mrs. Jessica Copenhaver. Cool stuff!

    Fast forward to 35 seconds.

    He didn’t butcher our name too. Pretty cool.

  11. @5, Ha ha! I forget what they ordered. I remember they tipped me 20%. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) It was either the day before or day after the Braves had an “old timer’s” game, or maybe a 1991 team reunion or something. It was either ’96 or ’97.

    I recall also keeping my enthusiastic Braves fandom in check until they were getting ready to leave. But I did phone my roommate and best friend (and also a fellow Braves fan) once I had a moment. The conversation went like this: “Dude, I’m waiting on Smoltzie, Leibrandt and Greg Olson. I need you to do something. Go into my bedroom closet. On the top shelf there’s a board game box. It’s a game called Strat-O-Matic Baseball. There’s bundles of cards each wrapped in a rubber band. One for each team. Find the ’91 Braves. Bring the Smoltz, Liebrandt and Olson cards to me.”

    Sure enough…right as they were leaving, my buddy arrived with Strat-O-Matic cards in hand. I confessed my adoration for the Braves and gushed all over Liebrandt which made Smoltz laugh really hard. Of all of them, Smoltz took the most interest in his card; he seemed familiar with the game and how to assess the card. And they all signed them for me.

    Like I said, good times.

  12. It’s a beautiful morning in Ryan’s neighborhood. Y’all be safe and keep up the good work.

  13. We had a crazy wildfire in our area that burned 700+ acres last night and we had to evacuate our house, then evacuate the the house we evacuated to…yeah, that kind of night. The wind died down right before it reached our neighborhood and we are all good, but exhausted.

  14. Was there a time where someone important (even a respected writer) said there wasn’t going to be a season? Or was it just a general concern amongst fans?

  15. Wow Ryan, as a former Forest Service Hotshot before I was a Marine I know how fast, unpredictable and scary wildland fires can be. Glad you are safe. Maybe like McGriff in ’93 this signals the start of a great hot streak for you and the Braves!

  16. Ryan, is it really dry where you guys at? Any idea how the fire spread so easily?

  17. @20

    There was never any credible report that there was serious specific consideration of not having a season, just a lot of reading the tea leaves back in March/early April and observing that it was possible the entire season would be canceled, as there was a lot to figure out. Nothing concrete, but back when they were floating somewhat cockamamie plans about playing the entire season in Arizona (which was never gonna happen), I think it was fair to wonder.

  18. Interesting article by Grant Brisbee in The Athletic, highlighting the All-“Wait-they-were-on-that-team?” Team for each major league franchise:

    https://theathletic.com/1516315/2020/05/06/the-all-wait-they-were-on-that-team-players-for-every-mlb-franchise/

    The Braves team is as follows:
    Rotation – Cy Young, Gaylord Perry, Bartolo Colon, Wes Ferrell, Ben Sheets
    Bullpen – Mike Marshall, Roberto “Boom Boom” Hernandez, Bruce Sutter, Stu Miller
    C – Ted Simmons
    1B – George Sisler
    2B – Brandon Phillips
    SS – Ozzie Guillen
    3B – Graig Nettles
    OF – Lloyd Waner, Ducky Joe Medwick, Babe Ruth
    DH – Enos Slaughter

    Brisbee goes onto exclaim that we may win this exercise, as we have washed-up versions of both Babe Ruth and Cy Young.

  19. Seconding Nick’s review. This is a great article for BRef geeks, and fits in very nicely with our one-year-wanker series, though with a somewhat different focus. And it’s pretty well written, too. But I’d definitely take Jim Wynn over Lloyd Waner.

  20. Fire ecology is a funny thing. Most of the coastal plain in the southeast has an ecology historically driven by fire cycles. We humans have spent the last 70 or so years not only suppressing fires but also building up the areas where they will occur, resulting in much more powerful fires that are far harder to contain (don’t get me started on northern California). What would have been a fairly localized and mostly harmless even in 1950 is now devastating. We really are putting our lives in the balance. Thankfully your family escaped unharmed!

    If there is one silver lining to this fire, take heart in the recovery, as plants and animals that disappeared a generation ago will return to the area.

  21. @24. Very interesting. Really surprised Rogers Hornsby didn’t make the Braves list for his one season in Boston

  22. @Snowshine and @BraveMarine

    We have regular controlled burns in this area and normally get a TON of rain in April, but it rained 2 days the entire month and hasn’t rained in May yet. We’ve also had a problem during the lockdown of teenagers galavanting all night in the forest, lighting campfires, and not properly putting them out. An update just came out and this fire burned 2000 acres of dry forest. It’s still going but mostly controlled for now. It was full-on blazing toward our home and then the wind died down and the firefighters were able to lock it down.

  23. I live a bit west of where Ryan is and our area was not threatened. But as Ryan says, it has been very dry and yesterday was extremely windy. Dangerous conditions for fire spread. Glad you guys are safe Ryan!

  24. I can’t remember — was Lloyd the Little Poison or the Big Poison?

  25. @23

    That makes sense.

    I know that MLB is too large of a ship to turn like that, but it would have been neat to see some really whacky ways of playing out the season, like having all of the games in Arizona.

    I’m still hoping for something really weird to this season, other than the negative things like there only being 90 games. A different imbalance of the schedule, re-alignment, playing in neutral locations, etc. With that said, a 90-game schedule will have its own oddities as it is.

  26. @28 Excellent use of the word “galavant”.

    That’s scary stuff. Glad the Cothran’s are safe.

  27. Lloyd Waner was Little Poison and by most accounts among the least deserving members of the HOF. Jimmy Wynn was a much better player.

  28. Belated thanks to Ryan for reminding us how crucial Leibrandt was to the turnaround in 1991.

    And the Bisbee article is quite fun (his stuff usually is). BraveMarine is clearly right that Rogers Hornsby is the second sacker for this Braves team—which by itself should vault the Braves over the Dodgers to the top spot.

  29. The rumor on the far west Bay County beach was that a citizen was burning trash, and the fire got away. Word is he has been identified, fitted for a dunce cap and placed in a vat of deep kimchee.

  30. @22

    Contractor had a “controlled burn” get away from him because of the low humidity and high winds.

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