With the end of a decade drawing near, this post kicks off a series that'll be ongoing for the next few weeks, looking back at Braves baseball in the 2000s. There were some good years, and some lean years in this Braves decade, so there should be plenty to look at, remember, and discuss. Don't worry...we'll be getting to the best players of the 2000s, but for now, let's start with a look at the worst Braves of the last ten seasons.
I'll start with a brief discussion of what I mean by "worst" Braves. This was admittedly a tough list to pick, because there's a balance between guys who were merely "bad" but who played for longer, and guys who were so awful that the plug got pulled on them pretty quickly. This list contains some of both.
The list is based only on performance while the player was with the Braves, so there are three things that weren't considered: first, I didn't look at what the player did before or after his time in Atlanta; second, there's no consideration of future potential, or "disappointment factor" (i.e., was he merely worse than we thought he would be?); and third, there's no leeway for mere "bad luck," so no BABIP or FIP or any of that. It's just straight up who performed the worst between the lines pver the course of the last ten years.So here we go, the most cringe-worthy, bad-taste-in-your-mouth Braves of the last decade:
(Dis)Honorable Mention: Royce Ring, Rico Brogna, Shane Reynolds, Elmer Dessens, B.J. Surhoff, Raul Mondesi
10. Scott Thorman (2006-07): .222/.260/.407 with 16 HR, 50 RBI and 2 SB in 175 games.
Thorman was pretty much the sole reason why John Schuerholz decided to sell the farm for a year and a half of Mark Teixeira. Thorman was a first-round pick back in the day (2000), but there wasn't a whole lot to suggest that he was ready to be handed the starting first-base job going into the 2007 season after Adam LaRoche was dealt to Pittsburgh. He'd played in 55 games the year before, spotting in left field and at first base, and a .701 OPS was hardly inspiring.
Sure enough, with more playing time, he performed even worse, posting just a .652 OPS before Big Tex relieved him of duty -- and the Rangers relieved the Braves of Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus and Jarrod Saltalamacchia for the privilege. At least Thorman had pretty good power and quality defense; those two factors kept his name from appearing even higher on this list.
9. Andy Marte (2005): .140/.227/.211 with 0 HR, 4 RBI and 0 SB in 24 games.
There was some excitement when Marte was called up in 2005, to see what the Braves' #1 prospect could do in The Show. He was just 21 and had raked in AA, but he only had a few games under his belt at Triple-A, and his inexperience showed. He only played in 24 games (just 13 starts), and Bobby Cox never played him enough to let him get into a rhythm, but when he did play, he was some kind of awful: just eight hits in 57 at-bats, and just three extra-base hits. UZR isn't great for small sample sizes, but when you get out a number like -80 runs per 150 games, you can bet that something was going very wrong.
And that was just the beginning of his continually disappointing career; after four more big league seasons and almost no production, Marte's most noteworthy for the players he's been traded for: the Braves got Edgar Renteria and cash from the Red Sox, later traded Renteria for Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez, and later traded Hernandez to the Pirates in a deal for Nate McLouth. (And almost as soon as they received Marte, the Sox turned around and traded him for Coco Crisp.) Marte still hasn't done anything in the majors, but the Braves are still profiting from his formerly elite prospect status.
8. Chris Woodward (2007): .199/.252/.279 with 1 HR, 8 RBI and 1 SB in 92 games.
The ghost of Keith Lockhart came back to haunt the Braves in a very ugly way in December 2006, when the Braves looked to "bolster the bench" by adding ex-Met Chris Woodward on a one-year deal worth $850,000. Woodward had had some decent years as a do-everything utility type, as he posted a respectable .730 OPS while playing every position but pitcher and catcher in 2005. But by '07, he'd clearly lost his mojo, and yet Bobby Cox just kept on using him.
Woodward set a career high in games played despite managing just eight extra-base hits in 151 PAs, and posting an OPS+ of 39 -- among players with at least 150 PAs, it was the 34th-worst OPS+ of the decade -- and not really playing very good defense at any of the four positions he was asked to play. (The following year, $18 million dollar man Andruw Jones had a 35 OPS+ in 238 PA in Los Angeles, 22nd worst of the decade.) No one in Atlanta was upset when the Braves let Woodward sign with the Yankees the following winter -- nor were they surprised when the Yankees released him two months later, just before before Opening Day.
7. Bobby Bonilla (2000): .255/.356/.397 with 5 HR, 28 RBI and 0 SB in 114 games.
Bonilla was actually signed with the Mets for the 2000 season, due $5.9 million in the final year of a four-year, $23.3 million pact. The Mets were so eager to be rid of Bonilla and his contract that they agreed to defer his salary into payments of more than $1 million per year for 25 years, starting in 2011. Meanwhile, the Braves had traded Ryan Klesko to the Padres, and they wanted some bench insurance with Andres Galarraga returning from treatment for cancer. Enter Bonilla: the Braves signed him to a minor-league deal that would pay him a league-minimum $200,000 if he made the club out of spring training, which he did.
His offense wasn't horrible for a part-timer, with an OPS+ of 90 in 278 PA, but at that point in his career he was a DH masquerading as a corner outfielder, with the reflexes of a dying opossum. He made 66 starts for the Braves, 63 of them in left field, where the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Bonilla made 4 errors in just over 400 innings, good for a Total Zone rating of 12.6 runs below average. (Prorated to a full season, his Total Zone rating was -45 runs.) Bonilla signed with the Cardinals the following winter, where Tony La Russa wisely limited him to first base duty. It was his last season in the big leagues.
6. Charlie Morton (2008): 4-8 with a 6.15 ERA and 48 K's in 74 2/3 innings (5.8 K/9, 4.9 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9).
Morton is just the first of three formerly "top pitching prospects" to make this list, and he ranks here simply for lack of opportunity, since he only made 15 starts in a Braves uniform before not making the team in 2009 and then being shipped off to Pittsburgh along with Gorkys Hernandez for Nate McLouth. Known as a head case with killer stuff but no confidence, Morton spent 5 seasons muddling through the Braves' low minors before catching the team's attention in 2007 with a strong late season run -- though he'd finish the year in AA Mississippi with a 4.29 ERA (3.74 FIP), he had a 3.00 combined FIP in 39 1/3 innings in July, August, and September, then a sparkling 2.57 ERA in the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League that Tommy Hanson dominated the following year. He then posted a 2.05 ERA in 12 starts in AAA in 2008, and appeared to finally have his act together.
On the basis of his strong work and their weak rotation, the Braves brought him to the big leagues just a year after he'd posted a 4.29 ERA in AA, and his lack of maturity showed. Just five of Morton's games were quality starts (6 IP or more, 3 ER or less), but six were disaster starts, with more earned runs than innings pitched. In five of those shellackings, he had to be pulled before the end of the fourth inning. He may yet turn into a back-end starter, but his case looks like just one more of the Braves knowing when to trade their young players.
Stay tuned for the five worst Braves of the decade...but in the meantime, discuss away...