Atlanta Braves Should Look to Bench for Everyday Players

Kevin MarkumCorrespondent IMay 4, 2009

ATLANTA - APRIL 10: Infielder Kelly Johnson #2 of the Atlanta Braves is hit by an inside pitch against the Washington Nationals April 10, 2009 at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Loyalty has to take a backseat to winning.

The Braves are one of the more storied franchises in all of baseball. Certainly, it is nice to see a guy like Chipper Jones set himself up to play his whole career as a Brave.

I'd like to have seen it for Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine, too.

The fact is that the Braves have the talent to be a World Series-caliber team.

They probably sport the best bench in all of baseball, in fact:

Omar Infante is batting .367 with a .407 on-base percentage. Martin Prado is batting .308 with a .400 OBP. Dave Ross, the Braves backup catcher, is batting .286 with a .405 OBP.

These guys really make up the core of the Braves bench as they are able to cover every position. Prado can play first, second or third base.  Infante can play second base, shortstop, third base, and every outfield spot when called upon. Dave Ross is obviously a formidable backup option at catcher.

Sounds great, right?

Kelly Johnson, our "starting" second baseman, is beginning to fall from glory.

I've tried to have faith in Bobby Cox's experiment with Johnson at second, but now I'm getting tired of it.

Johnson is only batting .219 with a .313 OBP. He isn't even what I would consider a slow starter. He's extremely streaky.

One day he's hitting homers and line drives to the gap, and the next day he is a completely different hitter.

Defensively, he's really nothing spectacular. He's not a liability defensively, but he's not doing enough to make up for the poor performance at the plate.

Infante and Prado would be starting on most other major league clubs. Why can't they start over Kelly Johnson?

Matt Diaz is also beginning to get on my nerves. The guy is a hitting machine, as long as he is pinch-hitting.

Diaz will never be a great everyday player, and he doesn't need to be, either. I'd love to start Infante in left field. I'd even be okay with experimenting with Prado out there every day.

Diaz is extremely valuable as a pinch-hitter.  Why not let him shine in the role he plays so well?

Infante has proved to be effective as a leadoff guy; he doesn't need to be on our bench.

Prado is also a great talent. Why not start him at second, or at least platoon him with Johnson?

I want the Braves to do what they can to be the champs. If they do everything they can to win, but fall short, I'm okay with that. However, if they lose when they could have made some moves to win, I'll hold the management accountable for that.

I'm not even going to start with why Jo-Jo Reyes is still on the 25-man roster while Tommy Hanson is sitting at Triple-A Gwinnett.