The first-place Braves have come to believe in Santa Glaus

Chipper Jones gives Troy Glaus some RBI-inspired love. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Chipper Jones gives Troy Glaus some RBI-inspired love. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

From worst to first — in two weeks. Even the legendary worst-to-first Braves of 1991 didn’t manage that.

“That’s true,” Tom Glavine said, then the National League’s best pitcher, now an interested observer with two children in tow on Memorial Day. “We were slow and methodical.”

From worst to first in two weeks. From being the team that couldn’t manage an earned run against a Philadelphia starter during a three-game set here in April to the one that led 2-0 after three batters this star-spangled holiday. From being Frank Wren’s rent-a-wreck to wresting the division lead from the league’s flagship team.

The reversal has transpired, as reversals do, for many reasons, among them Jason Heyward and a lockdown bullpen and the continuing excellence of Martin Prado. But the biggest reason the Braves will greet June in first place is because of a general manager’s offseason reach.

Worst to first? Well, yeah. Troy Glaus was the worst player you’ve ever seen in April; he’ll surely be the National League’s player of the month for May.

Said Brian McCann: “He’s been unbelievable.”

Said Chipper Jones: “Twenty-eight RBIs in a month — I’ve never had a month like that.”

On May 1 Troy Glaus was hitting .194 with more strikeouts (21) than hits (14). On May 31 Glaus hit a three-run homer to clinch the game that lifted the Braves to the top of the NL East. The guy we couldn’t wait to bench — I described the Glaus of April as having undergone Greg Norton surgery — has become one of the two men (Heyward being the other) these Braves can’t do without.

Obvious question: What changed? Glaus’ answer: “It didn’t feel any different in April. It’s the results that are different.”

Glaus has been around. As an Angel, he was the MVP of the Rally Monkey World Series in 2002. Last December he became Wren’s greatest reach: A 33-year-old coming off shoulder surgery who was being asked to play first base, a position mostly foreign to him. So how did it feel, coming to a new city and playing on the other side of the diamond and hearing boos from the first week on?

“It wasn’t a whole lot of fun,” Glaus said. “I thought I was having good at-bats — obviously some bad ones, too — but this is a result-oriented business. At some point you’ve got to say, ‘I need to get a hit now.’ ”

In April he couldn’t buy a hit with American Express. In May he batted .330. And the reconfigured first baseman who’s making $1.175 million has driven in more runs in 2010 than the Phillies’ first baseman, and Ryan Howard just signed a contract extension for $125 million. Funny old world, huh?

“I’m not here for numbers,” Glaus said. “I’m here to help the team win. That’s been the goal from Day 1. For the first 3 1/2 or four weeks, it didn’t work out that way.”

But now it is. The Braves’ much-derided first baseman has become the run-producing engine on a first-place club. Said Jones: “That’s what happens when you get a hitter whose confidence is up and you get runners on base in front of him.”

The Braves were reborn when Prado became the leadoff hitter and Heyward moved into the No. 2 hole.  Even though Jones and McCann haven’t had great hitting seasons, they’re still among the league’s top 10 in on-base percentage. And the guy who seemed to strike out in every key at-bat in April was recast as Old Reliable in May.

Glaus: “It’s about having opportunities. The guys at the top [of the order] have been on base a bunch.”

But the Glaus of April had RBI chances, too. He just didn’t avail himself of them. Now he is. And now his team is in first place. You wouldn’t have bet on either thing occurring, but here we are. A team has gone from worst to first. A player has gone from pitiful to potent. And the man who brought him here? He’s not doing so bad himself.

Said Chipper Jones: “Troy Glaus is making Frank Wren look pretty good right now.”

211 comments Add your comment

Bobby Cox

May 31st, 2010
6:04 pm

First!? Nah prob. not. I’ll just go back to sittin in my mom’s basement waiting for a new article to be posted….tis’ the life

Don B

May 31st, 2010
6:06 pm

He has been unbelieveable in May. And not bad with the glove at first base. What a steal!!!!

Overspray

May 31st, 2010
6:07 pm

First…place for the Braves !

Marcel Marceau

May 31st, 2010
6:12 pm

I’m speechless.

UGA ALL THE WAY

May 31st, 2010
6:15 pm

Mark, thanks for being the only writer who seems to be able to write a story. Seems like your the only one who is still giving us readers something to read. Thanks again.

#22=MANBEAST

May 31st, 2010
6:15 pm

That was a nice read MB. Thanks. Go Braves!

Gman

May 31st, 2010
6:23 pm

Astonishing turnaround. The collapse of the Phillies and the great play of the Braves seemed impossible 3 weeks ago. It’s been like old times watching this team-good baseball is a lot of fun to watch.

Need to kick Philly while they are down and win this series. June is a pretty brutal schedule as the Braves play the Tigers, Twins, Dodgers and Devil Rays. They start with 11 straight on the road after the Phils. If they are in first place (or close) on July 1st, this season could be a lot of fun.

NCBravesFan

May 31st, 2010
6:23 pm

Nicely done, Mark! Good to see a guy who some of us (including me) wrote off after that horrible April. It will be interesting to see how the Braves follow up in June.

wxwax

May 31st, 2010
6:26 pm

“Santa Glaus”

Excellent!

I was just thinking the same thing, the man is starting to come alive and justify Cox’s faith in him. This is why players love to play for Cox.

Herschel Talker

May 31st, 2010
6:27 pm

Kudos to Glaus for turning it around. Let’s enjoy this while we can. As we all know that Bobby’s idiocy will doom us at some point.

Nikola Tesla

May 31st, 2010
6:29 pm

I’m shocked.

Geezer

May 31st, 2010
6:31 pm

Promote Medlin and get rid of Kawakami and we might have a decent rotation.

Let's Go

May 31st, 2010
6:34 pm

I have to admit I wanted Bobby to bench him and start Hinske at 1st base in April because it wasn’t that he wasn’t hitting he was striking out almost every at bat. Whatever was wrong he got it fix’d and I want to know how long before Bobby moves Troy to the 3 spot and hits Chipper 5th. Also, Bobby can’t go with Nate too much longer in CF if he doesn’t get out of this funk he is in. Melky is hitting the ball much better now and you got to get him in there more.

AKT163

May 31st, 2010
6:40 pm

Santa Glaus. Genius.

paw paw

May 31st, 2010
6:42 pm

All we need is to hit THE BALL. A little help on the picting would be nice. Braves CAN compete.Chipper needs to pick it up a notch.Brave haters need to root for another team!!

Mark Bradley

May 31st, 2010
6:52 pm

Thanks, UGA All The Way. And also to you, #22=Manbeast. We missed you on today’s little live chat.

Mark Bradley

May 31st, 2010
6:53 pm

Kudos to Bobby Cox, who has been ejected from 153 games but never first in this space.

Mark Bradley

May 31st, 2010
6:59 pm

And Don B is correct: Glaus has become an OK first sacker. The 3-6-3 DP he started on Ryan Howard’s grounder in the first inning was a big play in this game.

Rocky Balboa's Jock Strap

May 31st, 2010
6:59 pm

Get Nate McLouth out of the line up!! Are they only playing him cause he makes $5 mil a year?

"Chef" Tim Dix

May 31st, 2010
7:00 pm

You should have listened to me in April about Troy.

Yeah right.

Mark Bradley

May 31st, 2010
7:02 pm

I think the reason Cox sticks with McLouth is that the team is winning and that he’s the best defensive center fielder. And those are two pretty good reasons.

"Chef" Tim Dix

May 31st, 2010
7:03 pm

I’m waiting on the bench clearing brawl (probably from a Prado beaning) to see what Troy can really do.

BKP

May 31st, 2010
7:03 pm

Mark, why don’t they bench McClouth, put Cabrerra in center and Hinske in LF?

Brave New World

May 31st, 2010
7:04 pm

For all of us (me included) who were ready to write Bobby Cox off for his stubborn loyalty to his players, I’ve got just 2 words: “Troy Glaus.”

"Chef" Tim Dix

May 31st, 2010
7:04 pm

Better defensive CF than Jordan S., Mark?

Mark Bradley

May 31st, 2010
7:04 pm

You know, Chef Tim, I was wondering if the Philly pitchers might plunk somebody after Glaus hit the homer and the game was out of reach. Just to stir things up.

Mark Bradley

May 31st, 2010
7:05 pm

I think it would be hard to take a guy who was demoted last season, who has been injured and who’s hitting .171 in Class AAA and make him the everyday center fielder on a first-place team.

Michael

May 31st, 2010
7:06 pm

Mark Bradley, about the ejection thing: Every time Bobby gets ejected now someone in the national media mentions it and cites it as the all-time record, tells us how many, etc. But I’ve NEVER had a problem with Bobby’s ejections, because too often I’ve seen them fire up the team, or keep a player IN the game, or at demonstrate his support for a player. But it seems that is very seldom mentioned. It’s not like he’s one of the clowns who’s kicking dirt and spittle all around the field. I don’t think his ejection record receives the respect that it should..

"Chef" Tim Dix

May 31st, 2010
7:07 pm

Had their Mgr.not already been shown the door you might be right.

Mark Bradley

May 31st, 2010
7:07 pm

I give the ejection total the utmost respect, Michael. Indeed, I hope Cox gets tossed from nine more so he can make the claim that he was tossed from a full season’s worth of games.

And you’re right about the method of his thumbings: He doesn’t do it to show the umpires up. He does it because he’s fighting for every call.

Rocky Balboa's Jock Strap

May 31st, 2010
7:09 pm

Mark, do you ever think some of these people who live to be “FIRST!” need to get a hobby or get a girl friend? Enough with the first stuff already…….

aswingruber

May 31st, 2010
7:10 pm

Go back and read comments from the denizens about Troy Glaus in DOB’s April blogs to get a good idea of why you should never put stock in what fickle bloggers have to say.

J-Man

May 31st, 2010
7:12 pm

I want to be the first to say I WAS WRONG!!!!!! And I’m glad the Braves proved me wrong after that 9 game losing streak and being in last place I thought the season was over. Glaus has turned it around, but I thought he still was recovering and I think he is now full strength. His bat speed earlier is the season was “snail-slow” but he seems to have recovered and got his bat to 2002 levels. I’m impressed especially considering we have had no offensive play from CF, LF, 3B mostly and SS. Glaus is a true #4 hitter now and hopefully Escobar and Chipper will tear it up and McCann will get back to form if that happens then we will be super dangerious

IlliniBrave

May 31st, 2010
7:12 pm

I’m actually in the minority in wanting to stick with McLouth – he is by far the best glove in the OF. Melky scares me to death sometimes. I kinda like the Milk-toast platooning with Hinske. Like you said, MB, It’s working and we may not want to change anything.

Money Ball Is For Losers

May 31st, 2010
7:14 pm

Bradley, McClouth doesn’t suck in CF but did you see the route he took Saturday when he played a double into a triple? If you’re not hitting…. you have to play FLAWLESS defense. McClouth doesn’t.

Mark Bradley

May 31st, 2010
7:17 pm

McLouth isn’t great at going back on the ball. I didn’t see Saturday’s game but I remember him misplaying a ball earlier in the month — against the Mets, maybe.

JTH

May 31st, 2010
7:19 pm

“I’m not here for numbers,” Glaus said. “I’m here to help the team win. ”
-Troy Glaus

I like his attitude.

BKP

May 31st, 2010
7:22 pm

Well, numbers help the team. He wasn’t getting the numbers in April, and he is in May and we’re winning. Kind of a dumb thing for Glaus to say IMO.

Herschel Talker

May 31st, 2010
7:23 pm

MB:

The funny thing about McLouth is that if you look at his numbers over his first 6 seasons, they are undeniably better than Francoeur’s. Not that Frenchy is lighting it up with the Mets, but that is still pretty surprising. In all seriousness, what do you think has happened here? How could it be anything other than TP’s inability to get him straightened out after falling into a slump. Curious to your thoughts.

HT

GTSteve

May 31st, 2010
7:24 pm

I was actually afraid today that the Phillies would come alive when Manual got ejected….wasn’t it last summer when the Braves had won the first game against the Yankees and had them down in the 2nd game when Girardi (sp) got ejected and they came back to win and went on a roll…

Mark Bradley

May 31st, 2010
7:25 pm

I’ve heard it suggested, Herschel, that the Pirates believed McLouth was in decline and were therefore eager to move him. Don’t know if that’s true.

Erik in Carolina

May 31st, 2010
7:28 pm

Mark – love your writing, but you wrote several columns earlier in the season — including at least one trashing Glaus — that I think you need to do a mea culpa on. I think you were the leader of the charge at the AJC to deride the current Braves roster (or at least a number of its key ingredients) and, most importantly, whether the sum of its parts would enable the Braves to win this year. Let me know when you’ll be posting that story admitting you were too quick to judge. Thanks and keep up the good work.

"Chef" Tim Dix

May 31st, 2010
7:29 pm

Nate’s biggest problem? The Braves have an effective #1 and two. His speed is not complementary in the 8 spot.

Mathman

May 31st, 2010
7:29 pm

Update from Myrtle Beach. Julio Teheran pitched 8 innings today in a victory: 8 IP- 6 hits-0 ER– 0 BB’s– 14 K’s. Teheran is on the fast track, 20 years old and has already been in Rome this year. Look for Teheran to finish the season at Miss, go to the Arizona Dev League, and be in the ML camp next March with a chance to make the team in 2012.

Stats: MB– 21 IP– 14 hits– 1 ER– 4BB’s– 28 K’s– W 2 L 0.
Rome: 39 1/3 IP– 23 hits-5 ER– 14 BB’s– 73 K’s–W 2 L 2

Totals: 60 1/3 IP– 37 hits– 6 ER– 18 BB’s– 101 K’s–Won 4 lost 2.

As for KK, he is not as good a pitcher as Medlin period. Doesn’t matter if it is the bullpen or starter. Medlin is better period. I have said it before and I will say it again. If you get KK a one run lead, he will lose it. If he gets a 2 run lead, he loses it. He cann’t keep his team the lead. He also leads the staff in homers allowed. Very expensive mistake for Wrenn. Resop could do much better NOW.

Don’t think you can blame TP for McLouse’s performance unless you are going to give credit to him for Escobar coming out of his slump, Glaus, Melke hitting better, etc. Do you also give credit to TP for Hinske having 20 Rbi’s and hitting over .300 in limited at bats and hitting much better than he has in years? Do you credit TP for Ross’ big weekend? Why not just admit the truth? McLouse simply can’t hit and is not going to hit. He probably should just try to drag bunt at least once a game and hope for a walk in the other at bats.

In Attendance on April 8, 1974

May 31st, 2010
7:30 pm

If McLousy has not turned it around by the all-star break, they’ve got to let him go. The guy is an automatic out at this point. And his defense is mediocre at best. 4 more weeks to turn it around or he’s gone, and he only gets that much time because they’re paying him 5M this year.

GTSteve

May 31st, 2010
7:30 pm

I think the reason that they parted ways with Mclouth, is because of McCutchen

"Chef" Tim Dix

May 31st, 2010
7:32 pm

I’m still riding the horse that says Jordan S. D, overrides Nates’ right to be at the show.

I was right about Troy wasn’t I?

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley and Shannon Moore, George Hassell. George Hassell said: RT @MarkBradleyAJC: The first-place Braves have come to believe in Santa Glaus http://bit.ly/djn2Bv [...]

"Chef" Tim Dix

May 31st, 2010
7:35 pm

McCloud rode a horse didn’t he? On the streets of NYC?

Bobbi Dud

May 31st, 2010
7:36 pm

Won’t last!! Frenchy was a had to trade battin 200 but McLouth must have pictures of TP and Bobbi or something!