The current state of my beloved Braves led me to track down those lovable losers, the 1990 Braves. We all know that this is the worst season in 18 years. That 1990 team would of course springboard themselves on to one of the greatest, albeit dissatisfying, runs in American sports history. That team would win 65 games and remarkably left little impression on me as a fan. Anyone remember the opening day catcher for that team? Answers to come. 1990 would be best known as the season the Braves traded Dale Murphy for Jeff Parrett and a bag of balls. The lesson in all this is that that team would go on to do great things for our city and hoping that this group can turn it around and do the same.
So the opening day lineup in 1990 was Nick Esasky (1B), Jeff Treadway (2B), Jeff Blauser (SS), Jim Presley (3B), Tommy Gregg (LF), Oddibe McDowell (CF), Dale Murphy (RF), and Ernie Whitt at catcher. Ernie Whitt? Anyone? I’ve honestly never heard of this man in my life. In fact, I thought 1990 was the year Mackie Sasser was signed to catch, only to lose his ability to throw the ball back to the pitcher. Turns out I could not have been more wrong. I guess that was 1991, which led to the classic, Greg Olson, to be our starting catcher. And Mr. Whitt, if you are reading this I apologize.
The one thing this team had was a simmering young set of arms. Glavine would start the season opener, and Smoltz and Avery would also emerge from obscurity. There were some classic characters like Marvin Freeman on this team, as well as some classic names in Braves lore such as Pete Smith and Andres Thomas, and a few guys who went on to more fame elsewhere like Mike Stanton and Geronimo Berroa. Nick Esasky would play little for this team as he was stricken by vertigo before the season even started. A sign of things to come.
But the more important issue is that the core of something great was there. Mainstays that would propel the team for nearly 15 years. Names like Avery, Glavine, Kent Mercker, Smoltz, Olson, Blauser, Lemke, Justice, Gant, and one gangly backup catcher/first baseman who left us dancing in the streets, Francisco Cabrera. Two names dared not be mentioned – we’ll call them Laurie Cheibrandt and Sonny Lith – were on this team too.
This was clearly a young team that needed the proper guidance to get it to the next several levels, and two of those men would arrive in the form of Terry Pendleton and Sid Bream in 1991. The point to all of this is that no one in 1990 thought the Braves had any future, let alone a World Series run in them the next season. And many, yours truly, feel like the Braves are quite a ways away from another run. But history shows that if the Braves can make some clever moves this off season, to go with all their young talent, they might just be closer than we think. Let’s just hope those moves don’t involve bringing back more Braves from a bygone era.