COMMENTARY | Did you know? The most widely held theory for the origin of April Fools' Day goes back to 1582. Pope Gregory XIII issued a new calendar which changed New Year's Day from April 1 to Jan. 1. Since some people still foolishly celebrated the wrong spot on the calendar, April 1 would soon get reassigned as the holiday we know today. And here I always thought the day was in commemoration of the time St. Foolishtine first traded away a .300 hitter for a bag of baseballs and two roles of athletic tape.
As the only holiday celebrating the numbskulls and blockheads among us, April Fools' Day lends the perfect segue to talk about some of the foolish -- and downright boneheaded -- decisions the Braves have made over their franchise's 137 years in baseball.
Hindsight is always a luxury in these situations, but Atlanta Braves fans would have hoped the front office would have been able to project their own players a little better than they did in the infamous Mark Teixeira trade.
The Braves traded Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and four minor leaguers, to the Texas Rangers for Teixeira and Ron Mahay in 2007. Unfortunately for Atlanta, three of those four minor leaguers turned out to be All-Star shortstop Elvis Andrus, All-star left-handed starter Matt Harrison and All-Star closer Neftali Feliz.
The Braves then compounded their mistake a year later by trading Teixeira to the Los Angeles Angels for Casey Kotchman and minor leaguer Stephen Marek. The Braves failed to make the playoffs either season "Tex" was on the roster. It hurts a little more when you consider that Andrus, Harrison and Feliz helped the Texas Rangers reach back-to-back World Series in 2010 and 2011.
It may surprise some casual fans to hear the names of players who have been in the Braves' system. In 1996, Jermaine Dye was a young up-and-coming prospect who hit .281 with 12 home runs. After only one season in Atlanta, Dye was traded to the Kansas City Royals for Keith Lockhart and Michael Tucker.
Dye would go on to be an All-Star, a World Series MVP in 2005, and post 10 seasons with more than 20 home runs. But who really needed the 44 bombs and 120 RBIs Dye hit in 2006? Ryan Langerhans belted seven dingers and 28 RBIs for Atlanta that year.
Just two games prior to shipping Dye to the Royals, general manager John Schuerholz moved David Justice and Marquis Grissom to the Cleveland Indians for Kenny Lofton and Alan Embree. At the time, the move was deemed as a positive trade. Kenny Lofton was coming off of a year during which he stole 75 bases, and David Justice had been hurt for much of the 1996 season.
However, after just one season in Atlanta, Lofton returned to the Indiana in free agency. After leaving the Braves, David Justice went on to be an All-Star for the Indians in 1997 and hit .284 with 144 home runs over his next six seasons.
If there is a trend emerging in these terrible trades it is that the Braves have routinely let great future talent leave in exchange for veteran players who turn out to be one-year rentals. The same thing happened again when the Braves traded, first-round draft pick, Adam Wainwright, along with reliever Ray King and starter Jason Marquis, to the St. Louis Cardinals for J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero.
Drew had a solid year for Atlanta in 2004, when he hit .305 and cracked 31 homers, however, he out the door one year later and the Braves lost Wainwright, who is now the Cardinals' ace. Braves fans are left to wonder what an Atlanta rotation of Adam Wainwright, Matt Harrison, Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, and Tim Hudson might look like today.
After posting a 15-10 record with the New York Mets in 2000, Mike Hampton was naturally awarded the richest contract in baseball history by the Colorado Rockies, eight-years, $121 million. Hampton pitched two lack-luster seasons in the Mile High City, going 21-28, before the Braves thought he was just the type of risky, overpaid pitcher they needed to bring to Atlanta.
The Rockies, Florida Marlins and Braves performed a little financial wizardry, and, in the end, Atlanta got Hampton for six-years, $48.5 million. But thanks to the fact that Hampton's deal was back loaded, the Braves ended up paying him $28 million for two seasons during which the often-injured left-hander did not throw a single pitch.
Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter based in "Braves Country." He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.
- Sports & Recreation