10 for 00’s — The 2005 Atlanta Braves

This was the year of the Baby Braves. With the Braves run of division titles running on fumes, some trades and free agent signings gone wrong that left some holes in the roster, and pretty much the only time of the decade where the Braves actually had good, young players throw at these holes, the Braves would ultimately call up 18 rookies to get them through this season.

For them having the distinction of making their debut with one team in one season, it’s a pretty good list: Brian McCann, Jeff Francoeur, Ryan Langerhans, Kelly Johnson, Wilson Betemit, the late Andy Marte, Macay McBride, Blaine Boyer, Kyle Davies, Joey Devine, Pete Orr, Brayan Pena, and Chuck James, and guys that logged little big league mileage like Anthony Lerew, Frank Brooks, Matt Childers, Roman Colon, and Jorge Vazquez. This was at the beginning of my time following the Braves’ farm system. I was convinced Andy Marte and Wilson Betemit would be the left side of the Braves infield for years. They would not. Betemit looked like he was beginning what would be a great career (.281/.341/.432 line in 4 seasons of limited duty as a youngster for the Braves), but he never built on that success after being traded to the Dodgers and was ultimately out of baseball by 31. Andy Marte has to be one of the biggest busts of this century for Braves prospects. He was ranked as the #9 prospect in all of baseball with Baseball America going into the 2005 season, but simply was never able to put the bat on the ball, retiring with a 52 OPS+. Sadly, he passed away in a car crash at the age of 33 in 2017.

The Baby Braves joined what was actually already a fairly young team at that point with young homegrown players Adam LaRoche, Marcus Giles, and Rafael Furcal, and veteran homegrown players Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones. Ryan Cothran, when he was at Walkoff Walk, speculates that it was during this season that the Braves might have had one of the few (if not only) completely homegrown lineups. It could have happened quite frequently that year if Brian McCann started at catcher over Johnny Estrada, because if you went around the diamond, you would have LaRoche, Giles, Furcal, Chipper, Kelly Johnson, Andruw, and Frenchy, all of which made their way through Danville, Macon, Greenville, Richmond, et al.

Speaking of Johnny Estrada, this is the beginning of the bad news: some of these players fell of a cliff very quickly. Estrada, for instance, was involved in a collision at home plate with noted red ass and “play the game the right way” enforcer Darin Erstad. Estrada made the All-Star game the year previous, but after his collision with Erstad (which I would say was as dirty as any collision I have seen), his bat and glove both drastically deteriorated to the point where he was forced to retire at the age of 32 after not having a single productive season since that collision. Coincidence? Maybe, but Johnny Estrada now has a service dog to cope with brain injuries, and had at least two public anger episodes before that, one of which involving domestic violence and another for shoving an umpire during a youth baseball game. So, screw you, Darin Erstad.

And we know of the rest of the Baby Braves. Frenchy could never learn what was a strike or a ball, Kelly Johnson had a long, respectable career, but many of these guys would enjoy maybe a couple good seasons and for a variety of reasons not sustain an entire career’s worth of success.

Unfortunately, the pitching side didn’t get the memo that the Braves were on a youth movement. Veteran Mike Hampton would get injured for what seemed like the 17th time in an Atlanta uniform, and veteran John Thomson would come back to earth after having an unexpectedly excellent 2004 season. John Smoltz was his usual self at the age of 38 and back in the rotation, Tim Hudson had an excellent first season in Atlanta after being magically acquired for almost nothing, and 21-year old Kyle Davies would fill the fifth spot in a very average way.

The bullpen, intending to be anchored with Dank Lob, I mean, Dan Kolb, would have mixed results. Kolb was acquired in the offseason to be our closer, but all we got from Milwaukee was pain and suffering at the hands ole Danny boy. He was so bad closing out games that Mac Thomason gave us incredible content on the man, including a great list of nicknames. Kolb ended up with a 5.93 ERA, which is actual worse than I even remembered. So the Braves went to Chris Reitsma, who was no closer and really no better, but that did inspire yet another great entry into our glossary for the term “Reitsma Room”, which means you need more than 3 runs (a normal save situation) to be comfortable bringing in Reitsma in the 9th.

So with the help of Braves Journal and Mac, the shenanigans in the bullpen made for some fun times, and the Baby Braves helped the product. But this was yet another very flawed team, and this would be the third year in a row that the Braves would lose to the Astros in the first round, and the last time the Braves would win their division until 2013. With only 90 wins, this is another division title win that was largely the product of getting through a weak East division, not the accomplishment of a playoff-caliber ball club.

46 thoughts on “10 for 00’s — The 2005 Atlanta Braves”

  1. From last thread:

    Schuerholz trading a solid first baseman for a relief pitcher, only to give up the farm for another first baseman less than a year later, was absolutely idiotic.

    If I recall correctly, Gonzalez had elbow trouble even before we traded for him and then of course he promptly had Tommy John to start the year. Just an absolutely brutal sequence that really tarnished my opinion of Schuerholz.

    Alex Remington (Another Alex R.)says:
    For whatever reason, Bobby and JS seemed to have soured on LaRoche. It may have been the perceived lack of hustle that made him a pariah among many on this board, as well.

    Also seems clear that JS viewed first base as somewhat of an afterthought, which is why he filled it with also-rans from Robert Fick to Rico Brogna to Julio Franco (and Bobby Bonilla, and Ken Caminiti…). In general, that seems reasonable — first base is at the extreme end of the defensive spectrum, so it makes sense to fill it last.

    Despite the fact that it should have theoretically been easy to find a league-average hitter who could catch the balls that Chipper threw at him, far too often, the stiffs they plugged in were dead in the water. It was definitely a blind spot for JS.

  2. LaRoche was a lot like some of these Baby Braves. They helped win a crappy division for a while, but these were not elite players. LaRoche, Giles, Langerhans, KJ, Frenchy, etc. would never be better than top third of the league at their position for more than a couple years. There just comes a point, it seems, where you need to pick at the top of the draft unless you can kill it in the international market. Atlanta did neither.

  3. This is another interesting tidbit: after Kevin Millwood, who was the next Braves pitcher they drafted and developed that produced 15 bWAR for them? So that excludes Adam Wainwright. I think it’s Julio Teheran. Even if I lower that to 10 bWAR… I think it’s Julio Teheran.

  4. The problem with Folty is that he could conceivably get his act together and easily become great again. Some people just need more time in life and maturity to take their health seriously, and it seems like that’s the problem with him. I’m rooting for him, hope he does it, but hope he does it for someone else.

  5. I am not sure that New York will be the best fit for Folty’s “issues”, but as long as it isn’t in Atlanta…

  6. I wish the Braves were interested in Folty as a reliever. IMO, it’s the best position for his personality.

  7. Teheran wasn’t a draftee, he was an international free agent. The Braves arguably had more success there than they did in the draft.

  8. I liked this team and the excitement around it. I knew it was a little flawed.

    If the young pitching core was as strong as the young position player core, the division streak could have continued to play along. But, then you don’t get Heyward.

  9. I have now reached the point where I am irritated at FO for not getting a bat. It may work, but it looks like a thread the needle, now. Get ‘er done.

  10. We’re going to sign the 2021 version of Robert Fick or Garret Anderson to fill the LF void probably.

  11. Can you imagine the routes that Pablo would take to balls in the OF? That would almost be worth the runs given up to watch that for a few weeks just for the comedy.

  12. I doubt we sign anyone with as proven a track record as Garret Anderson. Anderson’s #1 comp for his career is Steve Garvey, BTW. He hit .270 13 and 61 as a Brave at 38 years old.

  13. Fat Panda hasn’t been a regular in 7 years. If his signing is expected to be more than filler at Gwinnett then ownership/front office isn’t being serious.

  14. @17
    You left out a .303 OBP and some of the worst defense the Braves saw for the decade.

  15. Braves signed Chipper to be a part time coach. I’d never go on Twitter to say this, but I just don’t think he’s going to be a good coach. Seems a bit set in his way to success rather than meeting players where they are.

  16. I think it’s very possible that Chipper is only going to be good with a certain type of hitter but I think that’s often true with hitting coaches — I think that it’s good for the organization to more or less stockpile these kinds of specialists to try to unlock the potential of various prospects. I don’t know if Chipper could improve Riley, but maybe he could help Dansby, or Drew Waters. Just like Otis Nixon helped Rafael Furcal improve his basestealing, or Glenn Hubbard helped Marcus Giles improve his fielding.

  17. I don’t think there is any downside to having Chipper around to give advice.

    Switch hitting Ozzie Albies seems like another guy who Chipper could help.

  18. The talking points will start coming out soon that Kyle Garlick just needs an opportunity that he has never gotten before.

  19. @20 Why can’t you say that on Twitter? Do people not take well to opposing viewpoints on that there website?

    We’ve had Fred McGriff as a coach. I would think good all-around but mostly power hitters like the Crime Dog and Chip, to Alex’s point, can have an impact on a certain type of hitter. Plus, he can teach mindset and other more intangible types of coaching. And you never know who’s going to say something in such a way that might click for one guy, and then it’s all worth it. I don’t think Chipper comes in with some sort of bad message to the guys, though there was that one debate on Twitter one day between Chipper and Donaldson where Chipper seemed to be anti-launch angle. But it’s not like Chipper was anti-launch angle as a player, so I don’t know what that was all about. Perhaps he felt like Donaldson was sending a bad message to players without elite power that they should swing for the fences, which Chipper also never did as a player even though he did have elite power.

    I do think it’s also good for organizational health when your alumni come back and re-invest. Chipper loved the Braves, and took A LOT less money to remain a Brave. I liked hearing in Chipper’s book trying to spin it as he still got close to max value, but he still couldn’t help but say that he was going to stay a Brave one way or the other. I’m glad he’s back. It was cool to see McGriff back in uni in Spring Training, and it’ll really be that way with Chipper.

  20. Garrett Anderson would be the guy that Chief would mistake for a cromulent player because the BA, round trippers and ribbies didn’t look terrible. That guy had a .705 OPS at a corner outfield spot that he still couldn’t cover at a time where Chief himself could have probably mustered a .800 OPS.

  21. You all might not remember this but chipper had a pretty large argument with Josh Donaldson about hitting. Put it this way, Chipper does not buy into the launch angle revolution. He believes in backspin.

  22. Glad to see the team hire Chipper, and it does seem like a good sign of organizational health. Also seems like something Chipper would enjoy. In 2016 we treated our son to the BP experience at Turner, where you stood on the field behind a white picket fence during BP and had a chance to get autographs (Mallex Smith was very friendly to our son). Chipper was hanging out around the cage and was having fun talking with Flowers and Francouer, among others.

    Even if Riley’s a different kind of hitter, there might be something Chipper can tell him that would click, and Riley seems like he would listen to Chipper. Who knows, maybe he can help Ender. It’s not like he could hurt Ender any, and he’s not going to try to make Acuna switch-hit.

    @21, didn’t Hubbard help several of our 2Bs, not just Giles, improve their fielding by a lot? He’s the one coach we’ve had who I (possibly mis-)remember thinking was credited with having a big impact various times over the years.

  23. @james

    You’re missing Ron Washington and Seitzer who both get rave reviews from their players.

  24. @28, absolutely. IIRC, he also was credited with helping Kelly Johnson a lot.

    Don Baylor seemed to be a very good hitting coach, too.

  25. Apologies to Rob. I didn’t read the whole thread before posting.

    The new Hammers design is on its final stages and I can’t wait to share it with all of you. It’s really going to be a beaut!

  26. I think it’s not coincidental that the Chipper assignment comes directly on the heels of both Aaron and Niekro passing away. Aaron, in particular, was a distinctly Braves icon and Chipper is the same (of course in a different way). I think the team values the publicity presence of a HOF icon and I don’t think there is anyone left but Chipper that can fill that role. I’m sure he can help some guys but I’m betting his presence is as much ceremonial as functional.

  27. Great news re. Chipper. Call me naive, but this may help getting it done with FF5’s next contract.

  28. 2005 was Mac at his peak! Dank Kolb or Dan KolBB.

    Now that we have Chipper, can we hire his dad too?

  29. @34 I thought that too. Does he say something to Freddie about the value of playing your entire career with one franchise? If Freddie extends, he becomes a Braves legend. Maybe he values that, maybe he doesn’t.

  30. @33 That can’t be good for Alderson who hired both of those guys. That may cost him his job as well.

  31. Opening a topic for a post to any Braves Journaler. In looking at the lack of positive communication between the owners and the MLBPA, would anyone like to write a piece comparing the 1995 work stoppage to what we could see in 2022 and what needs to happen to avoid another work stoppage?

    This is above my pay grade as there’s too much legality that I have 0 idea how to navigate. Shoot me an email at cothrjr at gmail dot com if you are interested.

  32. @37, I think Sandy skates, unless anyone can offer any information to suggest that he turned a blind eye to specific information. No one wants to be punished for negligence as every team in baseball knows they don’t do this kind of due diligence.

    Basically, there’s a strong incentive not to know, because as long as you don’t ask any questions, you can plead ignorance, and thus far, that has been an entirely successful defense — just look at Luhnow with the Houston cheating scandal. Until there’s a precedent established that the buck actually stops with the leadership, they’ll be able to keep getting away with just punishing the small fry.

    (UPDATE: Poorly worded above. For clarity, I know that Luhnow’s out of baseball. But he was punished by the owner. Baseball only suspended him, and it seemed like a light sentence given what was handed down to Coppolella. Owner Jim Crane was widely perceived to have largely escaped major punishment for his club.)

  33. Callaway’s alleged conduct isn’t all that shocking, so Alderson’s head won’t roll. There’s no allegation of assault.

    But it does make me wonder… they’re saying this was baseball’s worst-kept secret. Wouldn’t that have given cover for the victims to come forward sooner? It’s very different from the Porter situation.

  34. Did we ever get an explanation why they never tried Newcomb as a reliever again?
    Start 2019: Began as starter, was bad.
    End 2019: Moved to reliever, was great.
    Start 2020: Tried him as starter again, was predictably bad (I thought this was kooky at the time, as he only has 1.5 pitches and had been great out of pen).
    End 2020: Send to minors and never heard from. Just made him an un-person like Mandy after West Wing season 1.

    Why did they never move him back to the bullpen where he had been great? If any of this was reported by media, I missed it.

  35. Andrelton Simmons just opened up about his fight with depression, and shared that last year he struggled with suicidal thoughts. Good for him for being willing to share publicly. Breaking baseball’s taboos around discussing mental health is one of the best things to happen in the sport in the last few years, and it’s entirely thanks to stars like him coming forward.

    I hope that opening up like this will help him to find all the resources he needs to prioritize his health going forward in his career, and wish him many more years of health and success. I’ll always root for him.


  36. If they won’t pay 4/88 for a guy that hits like that then they really are just trying to be competitive, not win. And yes I know they made it to the NLCS last year.

    Get. It. Done. LF defense is almost meaningless. I mean, defense overall except at SS and CF is but I digress.

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