Brian McCann: A great player who’s an even better teammate

Chipper Jones salutes one of his two favorite teammates. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Chipper Jones salutes one of his two all-time favorite teammates. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

He carried the team at the end of last season, and he’s carrying it again. He’s at worst — at worst – the second-best player at the sport’s most demanding position, and he’s about to play in his sixth consecutive All-Star Game. And yet somehow Brian McCann remains …

Underrated.

“Around here he’s not,” said pitcher Tommy Hanson, meaning within the Braves’ clubhouse. But outside it?

“I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves,” Hanson said. “And it’s not only his hitting — it’s his catching, too. It’s the way he works with us. He takes a lot of pride in trying to get us through the game.”

Said David Ross, McCann’s understudy: “He gets All-Star votes, but I don’t think he has the reputation [nationally]. He’s kind of seen as a complementary piece.”

He’s more than that. He’s the centerpiece. He’s at worst — at worst — the second-best everyday Brave of the past two decades, and he has become the leader of a team that has the potential to win the World Series.

Said manager Fredi Gonzalez: “If we were in New York or Chicago, he’d be on every billboard. But I think people who are into baseball know how good he is.”

How good is he? McCann leads the Braves in batting (.305), home runs (13) and RBIs (43). His on-base percentage is .380, tops among regulars. He went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer Wednesday as the Braves swept Toronto on their way out of town.

There are great players who aren’t necessarily good teammates. (Barry Bonds comes to mind.) Brian McCann is a great player who’s an even better teammate. Ask Chipper Jones, the finest everyday Brave of the past 20 years, to name the best Brave he has played alongside, and the answer comes without hesitation.

“He’s my favorite,” said Jones, meaning McCann.

But then … a moment’s pause. “He’s either that or second to [former catcher and current bullpen coach] Eddie Perez.”

Then, smiling, Jones said: “Obviously McCann’s a better player than Eddie was.”

A slew of distinguished figures have come through this clubhouse, some of them bound for Cooperstown. Not one has been more respected than the blond catcher from Duluth. McCann didn’t arrive in the big leagues trailing a coattail of hype, but he got here in the summer of 2005 and has made his own quiet noise ever since.

The closer you watch him, the better he gets. He could always hit, but he has gotten more selective over time. He has become a deft handler of pitchers. And where once McCann seemed content to let Chipper handle the big moments, he now seems to revel in them.

Jones: “He’s on the cusp of doing some things offensively that catchers rarely do.”

Ross: “To me, there are two really good catchers in baseball — Joe Mauer [of Minnesota] and Mac. Buster Posey [of San Francisco] has come on the scene and he’s a good player, but he’ll have to have a few more good years to be in that class. Yadier Molina [of St. Louis] is definitely a great catcher, but he can’t hit [like Mauer and McCann].”

Hanson: “He cares about his teammates. He’s fun to be around. He’s got the whole package.”

Jones: “He’s a great person. He’s a cut-up. He plays all-out … If you ask him, I think he’d say the only thing he cares about is being respected by his teammates and the fans.”

There are times, however, when it’s possible to wonder if even we Atlantans know what we’re watching. Sustained excellence can sometimes have a numbing effect. When we consider the Braves, we tend to think of them as the team of pitching and Chipper, but in truth this whole operation has come to hinge on McCann.

“Chipper’s the face of the team because of how long he has been here,” Ross said. “But Mac gives you power and average at a position where either is a bonus. He calls a good game. And he’s a great dude on top of that.”

It has been instructive to watch McCann’s progress from shy and wary rookie to assured and accomplished veteran. There was a time when you wondered if he had within him the drive to become more than just a complementary piece, but there can be no wondering now. He’s there. He’s among the very best handful of players in his sport. Among Braves, he’s The Man.

By Mark Bradley

104 comments Add your comment

rawdawg

June 22nd, 2011
5:19 pm

first at will

Mark Bradley

June 22nd, 2011
5:19 pm

Kudos on demand for rawdawg.

Jamaaliver

June 22nd, 2011
5:22 pm

McCann has remained the one constant these last few years. And grown into the role of leader and all-star.

He’s one of my top 5 favorite Braves of all time.

Jamaaliver

June 22nd, 2011
5:25 pm

And Mark, I wish you wouldn’t keep encouraging these guys who have absolutely nothing to add to the conversation and probably don’t even read the column.

What else is new?

June 22nd, 2011
5:30 pm

I love McCann, but better than Justice and Andruw in their prime?

TruthSeeker

June 22nd, 2011
5:33 pm

McCann should be a legitimate MVP candidate. He may not have the numbers of a Prince Fielder or Matt Kemp, but he’s got pretty darn good numbers at the most physically demanding position in the game and he’s gotten countless big hits. If the V in MVP means anything, then I don’t know of anyone that beats Brian.

Wink

June 22nd, 2011
5:35 pm

Just a question, but will ever get to make these same comments & references to Joe Johnson? “It has been instructive to watch McCann’s progress from shy and wary rookie to assured and accomplished veteran. There was a time when you wondered if he had within him the drive to become more than just a complementary piece, but there can be no wondering now. He’s there. He’s among the very best handful of players in his sport. Among Braves, he’s The Man.

A little cross town sport’s paralell personality.

bruce

June 22nd, 2011
5:35 pm

great story about a great player and a very nice man

Herschel Talker

June 22nd, 2011
5:36 pm

MB:

McCann is the man. A true asset. Nice column.

HT

Brent

June 22nd, 2011
5:38 pm

McCann is an obvious reason that we have the best pitching staff in baseball and he doesn’t get enough credit for that. Thanks for the recognizing his extraordinary talents MB.

Darryl Blackberry

June 22nd, 2011
5:39 pm

I know he probably won’t win an MVP while he’s in the same league as the likes of Kemp, Reyes, and Fielder, but as long as he wins the All-Star vote this year, I’ll be happy.

DE Braves Fan

June 22nd, 2011
5:40 pm

Love McCann. Given how good he is at a premier position and if he plays for an extended period of time at his normal level I would not shy away from HoF. He is easily one of the top 2 catchers in the game. His one hitch is his defense and that has improved for the most part to me.

Chief pitchanono

June 22nd, 2011
5:45 pm

Great story on Mcann and he deserves it. He’s been getting the allstar attention, but he came up when the Braves were kinda dropping out of the playoff picture for a while. If we can make it back again and hopefully go a little deeper, everyone in the country will know him. Go Braves!!

Jack McKeon

June 22nd, 2011
5:47 pm

Now I see why the other guy quit and Fredi got himself canned. This place sucks!

ghost_brave

June 22nd, 2011
5:48 pm

Amen.

McCann is THE man. He just keeps getting better and never gives up. That game where he hit the two pinch-hit home runs exemplifies the kind of guy he is (not that I know him).

BlahBlahBlah

June 22nd, 2011
5:54 pm

Nitpicking – I wish his defense would improve. Lots of wild pitches/passed balls and too many dropped balls on plays at the plate.

But the offense, game calling and leadership easily make up for it. He is well on his way to a HOF career.

The Listener

June 22nd, 2011
6:04 pm

Chipper’s the face; McCann’s the heart.

McCann Fan

June 22nd, 2011
6:15 pm

My brother works for Delta and was present when Delta gave a celebration for Bobby Cox last year before the team took off for an away stretch of games. McCann was standing in line next to my brother and talked his ear off about how great a coach Bobby is and how well the team was doing at that point in the season. Brian talked to my brother as if he were a teammate and had a great sense of humor. He acts like a regular guy but he is a superstar in my book. Go Brian!

Remarkable

June 22nd, 2011
6:30 pm

Glad that this is the face of the Braves for the future!

jfreak13713

June 22nd, 2011
6:35 pm

The Braves are in a great position right now to really be a player the in the playoffs and Mac, the pitching staff, and their defense are the reasons why. I know we can’t hit and Uggla looks terrible but in spite of injuries and guys really performing below their averages (Uggla and Heyward) this team still wins. Once and if they start hitting to their averages they will make a run at Philly and I think will be darn ready come October to beat anybody.

Amber

June 22nd, 2011
6:40 pm

Always a great thing to see more B-Mac love!!

Come on Guys

June 22nd, 2011
6:45 pm

What else is new, Justice was an all-star, McCann is a hall of famer.

The Grinch

June 22nd, 2011
6:48 pm

The second best Braves regular of the past 20 years might be a bit hyperbolic, but he’s an excellent player, a superb teammate and a fine human being no doubt.

Business Man

June 22nd, 2011
6:55 pm

Mark: Nice article, but a little pathetic that it took six all-star selections for you to notice that Mac is the man. What sports have you been watching. GO HOOS!!!!!!!!

Charles

June 22nd, 2011
6:56 pm

Most deserved. I am proud to be the second best left handed hitting catcher to come from Duluth HIgh School. Brian is a great young man from a humble family. Howie does not get enough credit for Brian’s success, even from Brian. Glad he is in ATL and hope he stays for his whole career.

indigo

June 22nd, 2011
6:59 pm

And to think I thought he was just brought up to be Jeff Francouer’s roommate.

Dennis Reynolds

June 22nd, 2011
7:00 pm

We know what we have in him. Its a shame Atlanta isn’t like Philly or NY or Boston as far as the enthusiasm from the fans, but there are still plenty of die hard Braves fans around here who appreciate what he does.

"Chef" Tim Dix

June 22nd, 2011
7:12 pm

Chipper is the Face: It’s McCann’s club.

Not bestoed, but earned.

Attempted to bunt twice today? That’s respect!

Najeh Davenpoop

June 22nd, 2011
7:20 pm

“Said manager Fredi Gonzalez: “If we were in New York or Chicago, he’d be on every billboard. But I think people who are into baseball know how good he is.””

Atlanta has plenty of billboards. No reason the Braves can’t spend a couple of bucks extra to market their team better. Same problem the Hawks have.

UGA 93

June 22nd, 2011
7:21 pm

He is agreat player and i am sure a good guy. I just wish he would not yell the F word at the top of his lungs every time he pops up or strikes out. I have to mute the TV so that my young son will not hear this.

dinkdunk

June 22nd, 2011
7:27 pm

Too bad Francouer didn’t pan out-we’d have the nucleus of a great team of homegrowns.

jon

June 22nd, 2011
7:40 pm

How bout he should be the leading vote getter today, for National League MVP! seriously!

mccann fan

June 22nd, 2011
7:43 pm

I realize it is too early to talk seriously about the hall of fame for bmac, but given his current trajectory, very strong chance. Six all star appearances in basicially 6 seasons? I am too lazy to do the research, but any catchers who’ve been that consistently, and perennially an all-star without making, or headed to the HOF?

tmc

June 22nd, 2011
7:48 pm

Love B-Mac!
but all these comments about how good he is defensively?
Sorry, i don’t see that at all.

I’m sure he calls a great game for the pitchers, but technically he is not sound at all. Don’t be mistaken, i love the guy…offensively and his consistency are tops on this team. But i worry about his defense late in games. I don’t when Ross is behind the plate.

jim

June 22nd, 2011
7:48 pm

Was at the game today and loved it. McCann is a very special player. Go braves.

Brave Fan

June 22nd, 2011
7:50 pm

I think McCann is a good hitter, by far the best one the Braves have especially while Prado is out. He is a good receiver behind the plate with an average arm but you can tell the pitchers are really comfortable and confident with him back there. Even though he doesn’t run well, he’s probably the best baserunner we have. The best thing to me though about Mac is that he is the best position player competitor on the team by far!!!

The guy is a joy to watch because he always gives everything he has. I can’t recall ever thinking to myself during a game that McCann loafed..Several of the current Braves need to watch and learn(Not the skill, although that would surely help, but the effort).

Sonny Clusters

June 22nd, 2011
8:09 pm

Brian should have a potato chip commercial and somebody should let him drive a car for free. We don’t understand why Heyward and Uggla got Bobblehead Nights and Brian didn’t. Sometimes life is not fair. If we was Frank Wren we’d make it up to Brian right away.

Sonny Clusters

June 22nd, 2011
8:14 pm

If Chipper is the face of the ball club, who is the adductor? The oblique? We think Brian may be the face of the Braves by now and we think it’s a good thing. Somebody needs to tell Delta to sign Brian up for some commercials like they did with Francoeur awhile back. If Delta is not ready . . . sign him up with Southwest since they are coming to town. They can paint his face on the tail of the plane and he can become famous for that.

country boy

June 22nd, 2011
8:15 pm

Hello Marky boy. You are at worst…at worst …the best writer of the AJC.

1eyedJack

June 22nd, 2011
8:38 pm

Great things can happen when you lay off the cheeseburgers and pizza.

Worm

June 22nd, 2011
9:06 pm

McCann is a good player bordering on being a Very Good player..Great-NOT

sidslid

June 22nd, 2011
9:30 pm

McGriff was second best of last 20 years. Justice’s numbers after 93 were pedestrian. I think Andruw was juiced the year he hit 50. McCann is in that league but we went to 3 WS with McGriff leading and would have gone in 93 if we hadn’t burned out from the pennant race

athdog

June 22nd, 2011
10:04 pm

First, to what else is new…Andruw spent the majority of his career underachieving. Amazing talent/potential and never lived up to it outside of the one year he hit 51 homers.
I was at the Ted the night he was called up, his parents were sitting in front of us and were so excited they were giddy, as one would expect. Talking with them, it’s easy to see where he gets his demeanor, his character and his pleasant personality. He is, without question, one of the all time great Braves. One of the two greatest? Who knows, the larger point is he is definitely an all time great to wear the uniform of the Braves.

Skip should be in the HOF

June 22nd, 2011
10:06 pm

Mac is as good as they come. Good man, good leader, good player, comes from good stock.

I Love Baseball.

June 22nd, 2011
10:23 pm

The American League’s “Designated Hitter” Rule Should Burn in Hell.

By the way, it makes me smile to see fat people run the bases.

Isn’t McCann leading the team in stolen bases?

McCann's a Throw Back

June 22nd, 2011
10:58 pm

He’s one of my favorites. Plays hard. Loves the Braves. Loves the fans. No steriods. Just a great player to lead your team. Enough said. We need more like Brian!

braves fan forever

June 22nd, 2011
11:30 pm

While McCaan is a great player he needs to improve on defense.He doens’t block pitches that well and drops the ball a lot when there is a throw to the plate and also drops the ball when trying to throw to second,but I think he will get better with time.

PMC

June 22nd, 2011
11:41 pm

He’s won what 5 silver sluggers already, He essentially won an AS game on his own and he’s been to 5 of those too.

Whatever It is, McCann has it in spades.

SSA

June 23rd, 2011
1:38 am

I Love Baseball.:
Schafer leads the team in stolen bases.
Also, its pretty evident that McCann is setting himself up for a decent contract extension.

Joshua

June 23rd, 2011
2:49 am

I love McCann, but better than Justice and Andruw in their prime?

========

Umm…Yes.