Judy Garland used to sing about “The man that got away.”
The Braves can relate.
They need a bunch of things to end a three-year skid out of the playoffs. Instead, the list of those coming to the Braves this season before going (or staying) elsewhere is long and ridiculous.
In reverse order of significance, here is that list.
Andruw Jones (7): The Braves are young throughout the outfield. By going back to the future, they would have acquired a veteran backup in Jones. His Gold Gloves haven’t suffered much with time. His Louisville Sluggers? Ouch. He eventually signed with the Texas Rangers, and they’ve spent the spring watching Jones threaten to obliterate the Grapefruit League record for striking out.
Mike Hampton (6): You can’t get enough pitching. That said, you can get enough of Mike Hampton’s aches and pains. With the Braves, his injuries ranged from his chest to his forearm to his elbow. He decided to skip a return to the Braves to sign with the Houston Astros.
Ken Griffey Jr. (5): Who wouldn’t want a guy with 611 home runs? He was perfect as the left-handed-hitting platoon in left field with Matt Diaz. Then again, so is Garret Anderson, the free agent that the Braves signed after Griffey chose Seattle over Atlanta. In fact, Anderson’s recent hitting numbers are better than Griffey’s, and Anderson has had fewer injuries.
A.J. Burnett (4): Did I say you can’t get enough pitching? This was a tough loss. In addition to Burnett’s 18 victories last season with the Toronto Blue Jays, he led the American League in strikeouts. You need strikeout pitchers in the playoffs (just thinking ahead). Worse, the dollar-friendly New York Yankees didn’t spend that much more to get him.
Jake Peavy (3): The Braves just had to get Peavy, who also strikes folks out, and he throws a lot of innings. Better yet, his ERA was 2.88 or lower in four of the past five years. Chipper Jones said he was “a perfect fit” for the Braves. The San Diego Padres tried to give Peavy away, but the Braves were one move from making it happen. Which brings us to …
Rafael Furcal (2): If the Braves have Furcal for a second time, they have two things: A leadoff hitter and Peavy. They’ve lacked a prolific leadoff hitter since Furcal bolted after the 2005 season. Plus, with Furcal back at shortstop, the Braves place Yunel Escobar in a package deal for Peavy and actually get the pitcher. So much for dreaming. Furcal opted to stay with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
John Smoltz (1): You just can’t lose Smoltz, prolific as a starter and as a closer through the years. He spent 21 seasons in the franchise as a Hall of Famer on and off the field. Now, after a contract dispute or something, he is with the Boston Red Sox. Then again, this is the same Braves franchise that didn’t keep the following for their entire major league careers — Hank Aaron, Dale Murphy, Phil Niekro, Eddie Mathews. Warren Spahn, etc.