At 81-80 the Braves finished over .500 for the first time since Hank Aaron was a regular (5 season ago). Bobby Cox, who was just starting his HOF career on the bench, did a masterful job blending youth with experience to get his team above the .500 mark. Along the way he managed to get himself fined and tossed from games like on Aug 6 when he argued a call and "accidently" sprayed tobacco juice on umpire Jerry Dale. The team looked set in the power department with young stallions like Bob Horner and Dale Murphy each hitting over 30 round trippers. The rest of the lineup was solid through and through with the exception of Luis Gomez (.194-0-24), who had a decent glove at short, but couldn't hit a lick. Manager Cox eventually settled on Rafael Ramirez (.267-2-11) as the club's shortstop of the future after trying Gomez and Larvell “shootin’” Blanks (.204-2-12) at the most important position in the infield. Most overlooked was the off season addition of Chris Chambliss (.282-18-72), who came over from the Yankees and brought steady veteran leadership and a great glove at first. Pitching was another story. 41 year old knuckleballing ace Phil Niekro (15-18, 3.63) led the league in losses for the fourth straight year. Knucksie would take the ball every 4th day (he pitched in 40 games) and not complain about what was going on behind him. Doyle Alexander (14-11, 4.20) had the wins, but his high ERA made management worry enough to let him go to the Giants in the offseason. The pen was above average. Rick Camp (6-4, 1.91, 22sv) was the closer. Former closers Gene Garber (5-5, 3.83) and Al Hrabosky (4-2, 3.62) excelled in the setup roles, as did youngster Preston Hanna (2-0, 3.18). There is no doubt here why Braves fans were looking toward the future with optimism.
19 new cards were created to complete the set.
Look at that cocksure pose that Ramirez has. You know he was thinking, “Bobby, just put me in the lineup everyday and I’ll be the next Luis Aparicio for you”. Hrabosky’s beard was so “Duck Dynasty” long before we knew what that even was. Bobby Cox is even sporting the wild hair. Many folks forget about his first stint in Atlanta, which should have turned out better. Glad to see the organization was smart enough to bring him back and watch him orchestrate their greatest franchise successes. Look at that bat in Luis Gomez’ hands. No wonder he hit .191. That bat looked like he found it at a stickball game in Bushwick Brooklyn.