Guerry Clegg commentary: Hank, Murf, Chipper lead the way as your Braves' favorites

sports@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 13, 2013 

The voting response was slightly less than the #VoteFreddie campaign on Twitter. OK, significantly less. Even so, we asked you to give us your favorite -- and your least favorite -- Atlanta Braves, and you responded.

Many names were as expected. Hank Aaron. Dale Murphy. Chipper Jones.

Wrote one reader: "There's only one: DALE MURPHY! All time greatest center fielder and good guy!"

As one who covered the Braves every homestand for parts of three seasons, I will confirm that Murf is the genuine deal. Those were some bad teams he played on. Losing ate at him. But he never took his frustrations out on the media. I've never seen a player in a clubhouse more personally respected than Murphy.

The responses crossed generational lines. Lots of love for Joe Torre as the catcher getting the slight edge over Brian McCann and Javy Lopez. Evan Gattis received one vote, but I don't think it had much to do with baseball.

Dawn wrote, "Evan Gattis. He better hurry up and recover. Women need a reason to watch baseball. Thankfully he's older than my kids (barely)."

It's quite all right, Dawn. One of the rules was that you could establish your own criteria.

One criteria was to fill out a full team -- starting lineup, a utility player, a five-man rotation and a closer. Most people didn't follow that, so we don't have a consistent vote tally. A lot of readers didn't list their least favorite players, which is OK because the intent here isn't to embarrass anyone. But piecing it together, here's how readers responded, followed by my picks.

Catcher -- Torre, followed McCann and Lopez.

First base -- #VoteFreddie did get a little support. But so did Chris Chambliss and Andres Galarraga. But the slight edge went to

the Crime Dog, Fred McGriff.

Second base -- Any surprise here? The Lemmer, Mark Lemke. Local fans here might remember Lemke agreeing to write a diary for our paper -- as told to staff writer Evan Grant -- during the 1991 postseason. Great timing for us, since Lemmer hit .417 in the World Series. Then Evan brought him down to the Ledger-Enquirer for an autograph and meet-and-greet with the fans.

Martin Prado also got a few votes, though some mentioned him as their utility guy.

Third base -- Chipper by far, but it was not unanimous. There were a few votes for Bob Horner, and even one for Clete Boyer. Eddie Mathews got some mentions, and while he was technically an Atlanta Brave, his prime seasons were in Milwaukee. Interestingly, there were a couple of anti-Chipper mentions.

"Chipper great but hated his arrogant grin," wrote one fan.

Actually, there was another adjective that had to be deleted for print.

Shortstop -- The least response here, probably because the Braves haven't had much production at shortstop. Rafael Furcal was a fan favorite when he played for the Braves, but signing with the Dodgers as a free agent erased much of that. Still, he gets the edge by default.

Outfield -- There's really only one spot up for debate with Aaron and Murphy taking two of them. Andruw Jones made both lists, favorite and least favorite. "Hated his smirk. What a waste of talent."

That third outfield spot ran the gamut, from Ralph Garr to Claudell Washington to Ron Gant and David Justice.

Even Chipper got a mention for left field. But the one outfielder who had a slight edge over the pack was Otis Nixon.

Utility player -- This is one spot many of you overlooked, but Prado was a near-unanimous pick.

Starting pitchers -- Other than a few curious mentions for Warren Spahn -- he retired a year before the Braves moved to Atlanta -- the top five were virtually unanimous: Phil Niekro, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Tim Hudson.

Closer -- The big surprise here is that Al Hraboski received more mentions than Craig Kimbrel. But the one who received the most was Mark Wohlers.

So that's the readers' response. Here's mine, but I'm including my least favorites. I put the emphasis on producing and playing the game right.

Catcher -- McCann, mostly because his pitchers trusted him more than Lopez's pitchers did. Least: Ozzie Virgil. King of the meaningless solo home run.

First base -- McGriff was clutch, humble, classy. Least: Robert Fick. Will never forget him swatting Cubs first baseman Eric Karros' hand trying to reach first base in the 2003 playoffs. Bush league.

Second base -- Lemke. Least: You may be expecting me to say Dan Uggla. It was tempting. But the dude does play hard. That's more than you could say for Damasco Garcia.

Shortstop -- Since this is "favorite" and not best, I'll go with Rafael Belliard, because his defense was a big part of the Braves' turnaround in 1991. Least: No contest. Andres Thomas. Huge talent, no heart.

Third base -- Chipper, with an asterisk. Terry Pendleton played a huge role in the 1991 season, which is why he won NL MVP. Chipper's Hall of Fame career has overshadowed Pendleton's contributions. Least: Bob Horner. Loved his powerful stroke. But largely wasted his talent.

Outfield -- Aaron, Murphy and Garr, with consideration to Marquis Grissom and Ron Gant. Least: Deion Sanders (selfish egomaniac), Dion James (break a sweat, will ya?) and B.J. Surhoff (nicknamed B.J. Surly).

Utility -- Prado, because that's what he really was. Very close second goes to Omar Infante. Least: Chico Ruiz, but only because I saw him refuse a kid an autograph.

Starting pitchers -- Same favorites. Least: Only one. Doyle Alexander. Not the friendliest chap.

Closer -- Wohlers over Kimbrel, because he recorded the final out of the 1995 World Series. Least: Gene Garber. Not only was he frustratingly inconsistent, he also wasn't the most likable guy to talk to.

There you have it. Your favorites and mine. Wonder whatever happened to Biff Pocoroba.

-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at sports@ledger-enquirer.com. You can also go to the Ledger-Enquier sports page on facebook to comment on the story there.

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