There’s a new leader in the clubhouse, and he’s Brian McCann

B-Mac at work: A homer on Sunday, another on Monday. (AP photo)

Brian McCann at work: A homer on Sunday, then another on Monday. (AP photo)

A torch has been passed. It wasn’t supposed to happen quite so soon, but a grab-and-whirl-and-throw one dark night in Houston revved the timetable. We’re seeing the team that for more than a decade has belonged to Larry Wayne Jones Jr. being shouldered by Brian Michael McCann.

On Sunday he hit the walk-off homer against Florida. (OK, actually a stop-at-second-and-wait-a-bit walk-off. Still counted.) On Monday he hoisted another home run, this one a no-doubter, and also dropped an actual bunt single against the Mets. Since the All-Star break, McCann is hitting .311 with 10 homers and 33 RBI’s, as opposed to .267 with 10 and 37 before it. And his team has needed every blessed hit.

The guy who has carried the Braves for more than a decade was lost to a torn knee ligament. The guy who carried them through May and into June, the stopgap Troy Glaus, has been dispatched to Class AAA. Jason Heyward is an undeniable presence — he had four hits and four RBI’s Monday night — but he’s also a rookie. With so much in flux this wild season, the Braves needed someone of both seasoning and gravitas to light the way. On cue, B-Mac has become the beacon.

It just isn’t that he’s the most accomplished Brave still standing; it’s that McCann has grown into his role in a way we weren’t always certain he would. He was considered the lesser of the famous Gwinnett duo when he arrived in 2005, the famous Jeff Francoeur being the shining light and Sports Illustrated star, and the younger McCann seemed disinclined to offer more than boilerplate responses to the media. Put simply, he didn’t act as if he wanted to be The Man.

But now he is, and he’s wearing it well. He’s more forthcoming, more of a spokesperson. Clearly he has learned from being around Chipper, whose locker sits just across the doorway at the far end of the clubhouse, that a player of such portfolio bears certain responsibilities off the field as well. Even before Chipper was lost, McCann had become the junior spokesman, and now he’s the senior man. Indeed, he’s the last healthy everyday Brave (meaning a non-pitcher) of uninterrupted tenure to have played when last this club graced the postseason.

“You’ve got to know your place,” said McCann, speaking after Monday’s walkaway victory. “When I first came up, mine was to show up on the field and keep my mouth shut and play the game … When you’re young, you’re supposed to be seen but keep quiet.”

And now? “As you get older, you feel a little more sure of yourself. And you can be a little more yourself with [the media].”

Evidence to the contrary, McCann isn’t ready to pronounce himself a leader. (He’s still just 26, we must note.) “We’ve got so many great players in here,” he said. “Derrek Lee has won a World Series. Tim Hudson has been a great pitcher. I’m still learning this game from them. I look up to those guys.”

That said, there’s no active Brave who commands more respect among his mates. McCann plays the toughest position, gets some of the biggest hits and stands now as the constant in a lineup that has undergone monthly alterations. Again, he doesn’t see it that way: “We’ve got Martin Prado and Jason Heyward and Omar Infante, who could win a batting title.”

The theme of this happy season has been that the Braves are a team of No Stars. But Brian McCann is a star. If these Braves play their way into the World Series, it’s McCann — whose bases-loaded double made the National League a winner and him the All-Star Game’s MVP — who ensured that it will commence at Turner Field. It’s McCann who stands as the finest catcher in his league, McCann who ranks with Minnesota’s Joe Mauer as the best in the business.

Someday this will be Jason Heyward’s team, perhaps in joint ownership with Freddie Freeman, but for now it belongs to the big man with the blond beard, the man who stepped up when the great Chipper Jones went down. It belongs to Brian McCann.

297 comments Add your comment

Big Kev

August 30th, 2010
11:03 pm

Darryl Blackberry

August 30th, 2010
11:05 pm

shawn

August 30th, 2010
11:06 pm

First…what a great night all around..especially J-Hay

Big Kev

August 30th, 2010
11:06 pm

Joe Mauer* not Maurer

kurula

August 30th, 2010
11:06 pm

well said. great article.

Willy

August 30th, 2010
11:10 pm

What? Did someone just suggest I’m hearing voices?

Rimfire

August 30th, 2010
11:11 pm

B Mac a is Rock to the entire group.
Go Braves!

Mark Bradley

August 30th, 2010
11:12 pm

Kudos, Big Kev. And thanks for copy-editing.

Remarkable

August 30th, 2010
11:13 pm

The Braves needed a new voice now that Chipper is hurt. It had to be an everyday player. It had to be someone who has been with the team more than a year or two. It had to be Brian. Right?

McCann's the Man

August 30th, 2010
11:14 pm

For the first time, I can honestly say that I enjoyed every word of a Mark Bradley article. I just hope this doesn’t jinx the season or make the world come to an end or a blackhole open…you know something terrible

renegade#1

August 30th, 2010
11:14 pm

Brian McCann ; I reckon he’ll do til they find someone better.Probably take a while though. Who ya gone find better?

nate dawg

August 30th, 2010
11:15 pm

excellent article mark. I couldn’t agree with you more. Mac at this point in his career does sound deferential, which I believe is a good thing! He’s still a kid, and over time, this will be his team along with J-Hey. Here are the three the leaders that I think of with regards to this year’s team:

Starting Rotation: Huddy

Bullpen: Wags

Lineup: Mac

Truthiness

August 30th, 2010
11:16 pm

McCann is what a ballplayer should be. Nicely said.

Darryl Blackberry

August 30th, 2010
11:17 pm

FYI, everyone: Kuroda’s pitching a no-no against the Phils through five. :-)

Headley Lamar

August 30th, 2010
11:19 pm

HR for the Dodgers.

3-0

Mark Bradley

August 30th, 2010
11:20 pm

Going to listen to it now, Darryl Blackberry.

Thanks again for hanging with me, folks. A long good night was had … at least by me.

Headley Lamar

August 30th, 2010
11:22 pm

Heath

August 30th, 2010
11:22 pm

Gotta catch up on my Kathleen Turner movies.

kreedham

August 30th, 2010
11:25 pm

A few years ago both McCann and Franceour were both playing for the Rome Braves. All the talk was about Jeff so I asked a Rome Brave employee I knew something about Frannie…he said no, McCann was the star and would be the best (on that Rome team) as a major leaguer!

robdawg08

August 30th, 2010
11:27 pm

Derrek Lee please take extra bp er sommin’ you are plain awful ! Wednesday won’t come soon enough so freeman can get a shot at 1B.

Great game for Heyward. We need more of that more often from him.

I guess Oliver Perez is the Mets version of Kenshin Kawakami ?

robdawg08

August 30th, 2010
11:29 pm

Halladay pitching for Phillies too.

Innocent Bystander

August 30th, 2010
11:30 pm

Nicely written, Mark. Will this run in the print version? I think my parents would really enjoy this article, but they aren’t as keen on the “dot-com” version of the AJC.

Chris from the Rock

August 30th, 2010
11:32 pm

Nice piece, Mr. Bradley. Go Braves!

Chris from the Rock

August 30th, 2010
11:34 pm

Robdawg, that’s an insult to KK. He’s much better than Ollie, and he makes $5MM less a year I might add.

Jerek Deter

August 30th, 2010
11:35 pm

Perfecto long gone, but the no-hitter is intact through six against the Phillies in L.A….

robdawg08

August 30th, 2010
11:42 pm

Perez & KK are identical. Both were starters and both have been relegated to not pitching (29 days for Perez until tonight). Both were highly paid. Both suck.

Turtsnap

August 30th, 2010
11:52 pm

No-No through 7…. SWEET!!

ScottBravesfan

August 30th, 2010
11:54 pm

I have to say this is the best thing that I have read by Mark Bradley. Awesome job Mark.

Christopher Chance

August 30th, 2010
11:56 pm

Kuroda, the Dodgers starting pitcher who had not had a hit all season long, gets his first hit of the season.

Meanwhile, Kuroda hasnt given up a hit through 7 innings.

Red Clay Bulldogs

August 30th, 2010
11:57 pm

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American Bulldog puppies

100% Johnson Bloodline Breeding
5 Pups Total:

3 Males and 2 Females:

Herschel Talker

August 30th, 2010
11:59 pm

MB:

Have you given up on the possibility of Jeff Francoeur ever being the clubhouse leader?

HT

GovClintonTyree

August 31st, 2010
12:02 am

Enter your comments here

Mark Bradley

August 31st, 2010
12:02 am

It should run in the print edition, Innocent Bystander.

Christopher Chance

August 31st, 2010
12:05 am

Here’s an ironic fact. For all the ripping that Jeff Francoeur got for turning down the Braves long term contract……….Francoeur only made $325K less than McCann did in 2009….and only $700K less in 2010 than McCann.

McCann is scheduled to make $6.5 mil in 2011. With Beltran slow recovering from his knee injury and the uncertain status of Jason Bay…..chances are Jeff Francoeur will be tendered a contract by the Mets for 2011. Given that he’s making $5 mil this year, if Francouer can finish the year with a decent September, then he will be in line to get a raise through arbitration that will push his 2011 pay past the $6.5 mil that McCann will be making.

Brian McCann is easily twice the player that Francoeur is. Yet Francouer is getting paid like he’s on McCann’s level.

Bat Masterson

August 31st, 2010
12:14 am

Good call on Heap Mark. That’s what I said about him a month ago.

Bat Masterson

August 31st, 2010
12:15 am

Good work too, by the way.

Harpie

August 31st, 2010
12:20 am

Prado for “team leader”; if we have to have a leader, let’s have someone who’s in shape, not a fat -ass (who also can’t catch and can’t throw )…

rekingball

August 31st, 2010
12:36 am

Very good article MB. I think that McCann is probably the, no IS the best all-around catcher in MLB today.

Just think how good he is going to be, when he finally gets his eyes fixed, and he can SEE again.

rekingball

August 31st, 2010
12:40 am

Phillies lose.

rekingball

August 31st, 2010
12:45 am

Phillies 3 back now. Lose 3-o. The jaggernaut got 1 hit.

russell yow

August 31st, 2010
12:54 am

yes, yes and more yes !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Stanley Crowe

August 31st, 2010
1:00 am

It was very encouraging to see the Braves play tonight — they played with real intensity, and you saw it on the base-paths. Jason and Omar were electric — that score from first on a single: that’s the kind of thing that makes you think we’ve got something here. Jurrjens didn’t have his best stuff, but he hung in and got the tough hitters out. Now I see that the Phillies lost — Halliday out-pitched by Kuroda. I look forward to Minor’s effort tomorrow — with perhaps a little pressure off him.

Selleck Waterfall Sandwich

August 31st, 2010
1:26 am

Things that are great:
1) Selleck
2) Waterfalls
3) Sandwiches
4) Atlanta Braves
5) Brian McCann
6) This article

Brave Filipino

August 31st, 2010
1:28 am

I have been waiting for this moment for more than 3 years. Go braves.

Trey

August 31st, 2010
2:00 am

Good article, Mark. Too bad Clusters isn’t here to enjoy. ;)

wade

August 31st, 2010
2:05 am

Glad to have a leader like Brian. He is a very classy person. He will be one of the greats. This team is special. Like Diaz said a team of Destiny.

Mike

August 31st, 2010
2:08 am

If McCann made 325K and 700K more money in ‘09 and ‘10 than Jeff (Prima Donna) Francoeur then he will make more than 1M more dollars than the Prima Donna. That is significant money in my book. Francoeur will never be the ballplayer nor will he ever make as much as McCann. The Prima Donna will be lucky if he is still in the majors in 5 years. Already shown his true colors. That’s why the Braves got rid of him.

John Leonard Omar233

August 31st, 2010
2:52 am

This Braves team “Could go all the way”

Ross

August 31st, 2010
3:24 am

Oh please – if he’s leading this team then I’m 3 homers from Bonds. He’s a mediocre defensive catcher, he goes on these mini-streaks about 3 times a season, in between the mediocre hitting spells that last weeks upon weeks. His problems, to be sure, are mental – giant cuts, inability to grip a bat that is too big for him to swing and frequently ends up in the stands as a result, head all over the place – yes he connects occasionally and for some reason, when it seems to matter most – but the team would be better served if he’d forget long balls, get a smaller bat that he can swing with speed, and practice practice practice throwing out runners at second, not to mention third.

tjhook

August 31st, 2010
3:41 am

McCann is the man for this reason: Everyone TRUSTS him. Rare are the times that we see Brian batting with men on base and don’t think he will do something good. Only Prado and Heyward give us anything comparable. I believe Heyward will be the bigger star, but mcCann helps ground the team. I hope he knows that.