All Chopped Out: The Ten Biggest Busts In Recent Atlanta Braves History
I have heard some grumblings while riding on the Atlanta Braves' bandwagon about Derek Lowe and his rather tepid performance as a starter since signing his 4 year, $60 million contract.
However, I tend to disagree. Although his ERA has been over 4 both of the years he has worn a Braves uniform, he has been an innings eater, has tended to strike batters out well (5.1 K/9 in 2009, and 6.2 K/9 this year), and has usually had a good strikeouts to walks ratio (1.76 in 2009 and 2.09 this year).
Basically, he has struck out 2 batters for every walk. So, with that being said, I feel it is necessary to present to you the Top Ten Biggest Busts in recent Atlanta Braves history.
Just when you thought Derek Lowe was bad, just remember...
10. Ken Caminiti
A three-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner, as well as the 1996 NL MVP and Silver Slugger winner, the Braves acquired Caminiti with the hopes that he would provide good defense and a powerful bat.
What followed was a major flop. "Cam" wound up hitting .222 with 6 HR and 16 RBI in 171 AB. He also struck out 44 times in 64 games... not a good way to impress a team looking for power and consistency at the plate.
In his defense, the Braves acquired him in 2001, when he was past his prime, and was on the decline due to drug use.
In a sad footnote, as many fans may be aware, Ken Caminiti passed away on Oct. 10, 2004 (which happens to be my wedding anniversary) in the Bronx, N.Y., as a result of a drug overdose. He was 41 years old.
My prayers still remain with the Caminiti family and I will say a prayer this year on Oct. 10 that his family continues to cope with the loss.
9. Jo-Jo Reyes
Originally selected in the second round of the 2003 draft, Jo-Jo Reyes was phenomenal in the Gulf Coast League in 2003.
In 2004, he started his descent downhill. He wound up injuring his arm, requiring Tommy John surgery, and ended missing the rest of 2004 and the first half of 2005.
He never fully recovered. Shaky in his confidence, the Braves attempted to work him and give him chances. He would do well in the minors but blow up when brought to the majors.
Fed up, the Braves traded him to the Blue Jays along with Yunel Escobar in 2010 for SS Alex Gonzalez.
8. Wally Joyner
The first baseman who, as a rookie in 1986, created a sensation by making the All-Star team and finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting, had moderate success the rest of his career.
By the time he arrived in Atlanta in 2000 with Quilvio Veras in a vastly lopsided trade that included Ryan Klesko, he provided very little for a basically decimated team.
Joyner only managed 5 homers and 32 RBI in 119 games, his only bright spot being his .281 average. Joyner was so-so with the glove but was basically here for veteran leadership.
Sadly, veteran leadership doesn't put runs on the board and he left the following offseason, spent an utterly fruitless year in Anaheim, and retired.
7. Jeff Francoeur
As a rising prospect and hometown boy, the affable guy with the powerstroke and the golden arm made his way to the big leagues.
A three-sport athlete for Parkview High School in Lilburn, Ga., Francoeur made an instant impact, belting 14 homers and 45 RBI in just 70 games.
He made the sports world fall to its knees with images of him gunning down runners on a line. Yet, the glitter fell off eventually.
Francoeur wound up overthinking everything and his offensive numbers dropped as a result. He went from batting .260 with 29 homers and 103 RBI in 2006 to 19 HR and 105 RBI and a .293 BA in 2007 to a .239 BA, 11 HR and 71 RBI in 2008.
His mechanics were noticeably off and the Braves tried, unsuccessfully, to get them back on track. He was traded in 2009 to the Mets for Ryan Church and upped his numbers slightly, hitting .311 with 10 HR and 41 RBI for the Mets after getting traded.
Yet, the next season, he was back to his old ways, hitting .237 with 11 HR and 54 RBI before being traded to the Texas Rangers for Joaquin Arias, a skilled shortstop with questionable fielding abilities.
He also was touted to have excellent speed, which never panned out on the field in Atlanta. Maybe Frenchy can get it right, but he sure left a sour taste in the mouths of Atlanta's front office.
6. Kenshin Kawakami
Why do teams keep trying to sign washed up Japanese stars in hopes that they will be good? Another failed experiment is Kenshin Kawakami.
When he came over last year and went 7-12 with a 3.86 ERA, the Braves hoped he would show more flash this year, show more reasons to substantiate the money being spent on him.
He's making almost $8 million a year... he should be good, right? Wrong. This year, Kawakami has gone 1-10 with an ungodly 5.15 ERA. He has been sent to the minors twice and just now rejoined the team.
He has almost given up more runs than he has struck out batters (57 runs and 59 strikeouts) and has walked 32 batters in 16 starts.
I hope this doesn't turn into another Mike Hampton situation, where the Braves hang onto someone in hopes that he turns it around.
They need to dump the salary and the space on the roster and fill it with someone who can actually do something worthwhile for the Braves.
5. Craig Wilson
So, there was this guy named Craig Wilson who had risen to near star level with the Pittsburgh Pirates, hitting .264 with 29 HR and 82 RBI in 2004.
He was a good defensive first baseman with a cannon for an arm who served also as a catcher and right fielder.
The Yankees brought him over, trying to capitalize on something. Whatever it was, it failed and he bombed.
Well, 2007 came along and the Braves signed Wilson on, hoping he could be an answer at first base. Oh, he had a bad year... everyone does at some point, may have been their reasoning.
Whatever it may have been, the guy sucked. He hit .172, managed to hit a homer and drive in 2 runs in 24 wretched games.
At least the Braves wised up and let him go. Curiously, he hasn't been in the bigs since. I wonder why...
4. Raul Mondesi
What comes to mind when the name Raul Mondesi is mentioned? Probably the cannon of an arm he possessed in his heyday with the Dodgers.
The 1994 Rookie of the Year, an All-Star in 1995, a two-time Gold Glove Award winner, and an all-around basher for the Bums in his day, Mondesi fizzled as the years went on.
The Braves finally picked him up in 2005 after a failed attempt at landing a job in Pittsburgh (I know, I know... if you can't even make the Pirates, you might as well stop playing, right?), hoping his arm and bat would awaken and rejoin the world of the living.
Neither did. He hit .211 with 4 homers and 17 RBI before his body finally told him to sit down, shut up, and quit trying to make it in a game he was no longer productive at.
Looking at some stats, Mondesi is a case study in why you shouldn't hand out big contracts that pay more on the back end.
In his best year, 1997, Mondesi made $2.5 million and was a 5.8 on the WAR (Wins Above Replacement -- this means that this player brought a team these many more wins than any replacement would have) scale, which put him in the All-Star category.
Yet, in 2003, when he had his highest salary in Toronto, he registered only a 1.4 on the WAR scale. That essentially made him as good as a reserve or bench player.
Don't sign guys to big-money deals that pay a ton on the back end unless you intend on trading him elsewhere before he starts getting his big bucks.
3. Johnny Estrada
Alright, now why in God's Holy Name would someone trade a quality pitcher like Kevin Millwood for essentially a backup catcher? Nuts, right?
Well, the Braves did it and it was to dump salary.
In return? They received Johnny Estrada, who had decent upside but really only amounted to a decent backup catcher.
Sure, he had a decent year in Atlanta, hitting .314 with 9 HR and 76 RBI in 2004. How in the world he made the All-Star team that year, I have no idea.
He tanked after that year, having a couple of more decent years in Arizona before the bottom fell out.
Estrada may have helped the Braves out a little, but he was definitely not what the Braves needed at catcher to replace a bat like Javy Lopez.
2. Ryan Langerhans
This guy hit .267 with 8 HR and 42 RBI in 2005 and .241 with 7 HR and 28 RBI the next year. Plus, he started about 120-130 games in each season. Not the numbers you want in a starting left fielder.
The Braves made the wise decision after seeing the different in him and Matt Diaz that Diaz was a better outfielder.
Since then, Langerhans has never hit above .250 and never got above 10 homers in a season. The Braves wasted two years on trying to make Langerhans into a quality outfielder.
At least he didn't make that much and the Oakland A's weren't stupid enough to send anyone of any caliber to the Braves in exchange for his services.
The fact that he's still active gives a lot of guys hope of living their major league dream. Don't count on seeing Langerhans in an All-Star game or on a Wheaties box any time soon.
... and the biggest flop award goes to...
1. Mike Hampton
The two-time All-Star, 2003 Gold Glove Winner, and Silver Slugger Award winner from 1999-2003 came to the Braves with high hopes attached.
In 1999, he posted a 22-4 season, complete with a 2.90 ERA and 177 strikeouts. While in Colorado, he went 14-13 wit a 5.41 ERA in 2001 and 7-15 with a 6.15 ERA in 2002.
Surely he would benefit from Turner Field's thicker air and deeper fences, right? Wrong-o.
Sure, he had a decent year in 2003, going 14-8 with a 3.84 ERA and 110 K. And maybe he had an all right year in 2004, posting a 13-9 record with a 4.28 ERA and 87 K.
That's where the fun ended. In 2005, Hampton got hurt toward the beginning of the year, picthing in only 12 games and going 5-3 with a 3.50 ERA.
It just got worse. From 2006-2007, he didn't play a game. Plus, in 2006, he "earned" $14,503,543 and $15,975,804 in 2007. For what? To sit on his keister.
Would 2008 be any better? No, it wouldn't. He went 3-4, had a 4.85 ERA, and pitched only 13 games before, you guessed it, getting hurt again. He has since tried to play for the Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks with little success.
In summary, Hampton wasted two seasons, cost the Braves close to $30 million, and produced so little, the Braves could hardly tell he was on the roster except by his salary.
Good riddance... maybe Hampton will serve as a thorn in the side of any Atlanta GM foolish enough to trade for a guy like him.