Which four Braves have risen above all others?
Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.
Atlanta Braves Mt. Rushmore
No argument here. He hit 733 home runs as a Brave, the most of any player for a single team. He scored 2,107 runs, had 3,600 hits and 600 doubles. This is as unanimous as you will find with any selection for any team. Aaron is a strong candidate for an MLB Mt. Rushmore.
Maybe not quite as much of a lock as Aaron, but close since 356 of his 363 wins came in a Braves uniform. As good as Atlanta's pitching was in the 1990s, Spahn still stands high above other starters.
The arguments begin with the third and fourth heads etched in the mountain. From first overall draft pick to certain Hall of Famer, Jones spent his entire professional life dedicated to this franchise. He proved himself as a leader over his last few seasons, and from a stats perspective, he has few peers. Since 1961 (Expansion Era), only seven other players have 450 homers, 2,700 hits, 1,600 runs and 1,600 RBIs. And of those, only Chipper can claim a .300 batting average (.303).
There’s too much rich pitching history here for the fourth player not to be a pitcher. Smoltz has been closer to being Mr. Brave than his pitching cohorts (and fellow Hall of Famers) Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux. Smoltzie has 16 more wins as a Brave than Maddux and 34 fewer than Glavine. But I think his 154 saves more than make up for that. (And Smoltz didn’t succumb to the players’ union and cross over to the hated Mets as a free agent.)
Eddie Mathews is the only player to suit up for the franchise in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta. And he hit 493 home runs with the team. But Jones bests Mathews in every offensive category but home runs and triples.
Greg Maddux was generally considered the ace when he pitched alongside Tom Glavine and Smoltz, but Maddux won less than 200 games for Atlanta, fewer than either of his fellow aces.
Tom Glavine, with a Cy Young award and 244 wins, was difficult to omit.
Longtime Brave Phil Niekro won 268 games, and his career spanned the division winners in 1969-70 and 1982.
I would also submit Bobby Cox’s name for consideration. The general manager/manager turned around a floundering franchise, both with personnel moves and day-to-day moves in the dugout for 20+ seasons in addition to his first four-year stint with the team.
Fans all over the South, who fell in love with the Braves in the 1980s thanks to the Superstation TBS, would lobby hard for Dale Murphy. A terrific player and an outstanding man, Murph falls just short for this franchise.
Kid Nichols won 329 games, but 297 of those came prior to 1900, so few fans can relate to that.
Other teams' Mt. Rushmores: