COMMENTARY | Through the history of the Atlanta Braves organization many great players have come through, especially when reaching as far back as the Milwaukee and Boston days.
As everyone is getting pumped up for March Madness, here's a tournament style take on the top eight greatest players in Braves history.
The players are seeded like this:
1. Hank Aaron
3. Greg Maddux
4. Phil Neikro
5. Dale Murphy
6. Warren Sphan
7. Eddie Matthews
8. Tom Glavine
1. Hank Aaron versus 8. Tom Glavine
It's hard to compare hitters to pitchers, and it's also hard to try and compare anyone to Hank Aaron. Glavine spent 17 years in Atlanta where he won 244 of his 305 wins earning two Cy Young awards and one World Series title along the way. He's arguably the greatest left handed pitcher in Atlanta Braves history.
But none of those accolades compare to the home run king. Aaron finished in the top 10 of MVP voting 13 times, winning it once in 1957 when the Milwaukee Braves won their first World Series. He was voted to 21 straight All-Star games and finished his career with the most home runs in the history of the game with 755. To many that is still the ultimate mark for home run hitters.
Hank Aaron advances.
2. Chipper Jones versus 7. Eddie Mathews
This is a better matchup than our modern day audience might suspect. Mathews finished with 512 home runs and 1,453 RBIs, while Jones had 468 home runs and 1,623 RBIs. Mathews finished in the top 10 of MVP balloting three times -- highest was second in 1953 and in 1959. Jones won the crown in 1999 and finished in the top 10 six times.
Jones was invited to eight All-Star games and Mathews to nine. The big difference here is that Jones finished with a career batting average of .303, which is 32 points higher than the .271 average Mathews finished with. Both players won a World Series for the Braves.
Chipper Jones advances.
3. Greg Maddux versus 6. Warren Spahn
What a great first-round matchup between two of the greatest pitchers in franchise history. Spahn spent 21 years pitching for the Boston Braves and Milwaukee Braves accumulating over 5,000 innings, 356 wins, 2,493 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.05 during his time with the organization. He finished in the top 10 of MVP balloting five times, was a 14-time All-Star and finished in the top three of the Cy Young voting five times, winning it once in 1957 when the Braves won the World Series.
Maddux, however, won four straight Cy Young awards (three with Atlanta), including one in 1995 when the Atlanta Braves won the World Series. He also finished in the top five in voting five other times. He spent 11 years in Atlanta winning 194 of his 355 games with an ERA of 2.63.
Greg Maddux advances.
4. Phil Niekro versus 5. Dale Murphy
Again, hard to compare a pitcher to a hitter, but these two are undoubtedly some of the best players in Braves history. Murphy just finished his last year on the Hall of Fame ballot and was once again not selected, but he's still a hall of famer in Braves' history. For 15 years he was perhaps the Braves' best player winning two MVP awards and going to seven All-Star games. With Atlanta he hit 371 home runs and drove in 1,143.
Niekro is quite possibly the greatest knuckleball pitcher ever. During his 21 years in the Braves organization he won 268 games with a 3.20 ERA pitching over 4,600 innings. He finished in the top six of Cy Young voting five times.
Still, Murphy carried the Braves through the 1980s, and in so doing he pulls off the upset.
Dale Murphy advances.
1. Hank Aaron versus 5. Dale Murphy
To be quite honest, this one isn't even fair. But comparing anyone to Hank Aaron isn't quite fair. This might be the biggest blowout you'll see in a Final Four game. The only thing Murphy has on Aaron is the one extra MVP award. Aaron also played five more years than Murphy, which gives him the huge edge in numbers. Still, this is an easy win for Aaron.
Hank Aaron advances.
Chipper Jones versus Greg Maddux
This is a great matchup and one I'd love to see debated between two guys who think very highly of each other. Both guys helped the Braves win a title, Jones during his rookie year. Maddux is viewed as one of the top 10 best pitchers in baseball history. But his 10 years with the Chicago Cubs and stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres hurt his case as one of the Braves' greatest.
Chipper on the other hand spent all 19 of his big league seasons with the Atlanta Braves becoming the face of the franchise for almost two decades. He is considered one of the top 50 greatest hitters in baseball history and one of the best switch hitters ever. While Maddux may have won all the Gold Glove awards, Jones was an underrated defender his entire career and should have won at least a couple.
Chipper Jones advances.
1. Hank Aaron versus Chipper Jones
The day Chipper Jones retired my immediate thought was, does he take the position of Hank Aaron as the most celebrated Brave in the history of the organization? Chipper is easily the most likeable player in franchise history. He was also one of the most respected players in his era -- an era tainted by guys using performance enhancing drugs -- earning the respect of every other organization, which you could see throughout his last season when he visited other parks.
But you can't take away what Aaron was able to do under such scrutiny. Taking the torch from Jackie Robinson and representing African Americans in baseball with such class and dignity. Sure a lot of his stats are due to his longevity in the game -- he played four more years than Chipper and had 3,327 more plate appearances. But staying healthy is part of the game. In my eyes he is still the home run king with 755 and a true ambassador for young African American baseball players, as well as for the Atlanta Braves organization and community.
Hank Aaron is your champion of the Atlanta Braves bracket.
Jake Mastroianni has written for several websites pertaining to the Braves and baseball in general. He also has experience working in media relations for minor league baseball, as well as at the collegiate level.
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- Chipper Jones
- Greg Maddux
- Dale Murphy