Nick Markakis, boy how things have changed. As a fan, I used to really like Nick Markakis. He was a very steady and reliable presence throughout the doldrums of The Great Rebuild. Was he overpaid from 2015 to 2018? Probably, but oh well. And in his contract year of 2018, he was one of our most valuable players, made the All-Star team, played in 162 games, and we were happy to have him back for a heavily discounted rate in 2019 and 2020. Did he give us a Hometown Discount? Sure seems that way. The decline was inevitable in 2019, so I can’t hold that against him.
But in 2020, everything fell off the table for Kakes. Some additional regression was extremely likely, but the man become a major disappointment and liability. On July 6th, after Freddie Freeman tested positive for COVID and actually had symptoms to boot, Markakis opted out. But on July 9th, he opted back in. The Braves attempted to sign Yasiel Puig, but Puig tested positive for COVID, so that idea was out. I’m unable to find the source (maybe it was a tweet?), but apparently the Braves begged Markakis to return. I question how ready someone is to compete at the highest level if they have to begged to return.
So without the benefit of any sort of physical preparation, Markakis grabbed a bat and stepped in. His first three weeks were incredible: a .368/.429/.596 line in 63 PAs. But if you expected his .417 BABIP to continue, then you were disappointed. Because when the clock struck midnight in August and the calendar turned to September, he turned into a pumpkin: .164/.218/.233 in 78 PAs. The playoffs brought no resurgence as his .216/.237/.324 line in 38 more PAs became a millstone around the neck of the Atlanta offense in October.
Nick Markakis was a good Brave at a time where there weren’t many good Braves. His first half in 2018 went beyond the stat line to help wake the Braves up out of The Great Rebuild. Personally, I think his career is over, and for good reason. This is a man who has played 2,154 games — the most career games for someone who never appeared in a World Series — because he chose to play his entire career for 2 teams within 3 hours of his house. And when almost every single Atlanta Brave returned to the team for a potential World Series-winning year, Nick Markakis uniquely decided to stay home. He probably should have continued to stay home, and I hope he stays home next year as well.