The Atlanta Braves have a rich history of Hall of Fame players at many positions. This article will shine a light on right field. Many men have patrolled the area, and this is a look at the best of the best.
On December 3, 2014, Nick Markakis signed a four-year $44 million contract with the Atlanta Braves. Markakis’ presence brought veteran leadership and solid defense to the Braves outfield. His first season with Atlanta saw him hit a career low, 3 home runs. It also saw his errorless game streak end at 398. However, Markakis registered 181 total hits, which ranked fourth in the National League. Following his initial season with Atlanta, Markakis has accumulated 627 more hits, 44 homeruns, and driven in 370+ runs since 2016. Markakis earned his first ever All-Star appearance in 2018 while also collecting his third career Gold Glove and his first ever Silver Slugger award.
Markakis has a .284 batting average as a Brave. Couple that with his .761 OPS and 1144 total bases and you have one of the best right fielders in Atlanta Braves history. The Braves’ declined his contract option in November 2019, instead the two parties agreeing to a one-year $4 million contract for the 2020 season. I expect Markakis to add to his already impressive numbers in 2020.
David Justice made his major league debut playing for the Atlanta Braves in 1989. Justice earned the starting job after the Braves traded Dale Murphy to the Philadelphia Phillies. After smashing 28 homeruns during the 1990 season, Justice won NL Rookie of the Year Award. In 1991, the Braves went from worst to first. Finishing with 87 runs batted in, Justice was leading the league, in the category, when he was sidelined by a nagging back injury. With 40 home runs and 120 runs batted in, in 1993, David Justice finished third in MVP voting. The 1994 season was ended due to a strike while Justice was batting .313 and slugging .531.
Perhaps the biggest hit in Atlanta Braves history came in 1995, with all due respect to Hank Aarons’ home run record setting blast. During game 6 of the World Series, against the Cleveland Indians, Justice took a Jim Poole pitch deep, providing the only run of the game. Thus, helping to clinch the Atlanta Braves only World Series title. Justice ended his career with the Braves after the 1996 season but not before totaling 786 hits and 160 home runs. His .275 batting average resulted in 522 runs batted in and 1425 total bases. Justice played several more seasons in the MLB, but his most important years and hits were as an Atlanta Brave.
Dale Murphy played 1,926 games as an Atlanta Brave, and over 500 of those games were in right field. From the 1982-1987 season, Murphy made 6 All-Star appearances, won 5 Gold Gloves, 4 Silver Slugger awards and 2 MVP. A miraculous run by any standards. Although, Murphy broke into the big leagues as a catcher/1st baseman, it wasn’t until he moved into the outfield, did he find his groove and flourish. Murphy went from leading the National League for first baseman in errors in 1978, to spending time at all three outfield positions in 1982 and winning his first Gold Glove.
Murphy accumulated 1901 hits as an Atlanta Braves player. His 371 home runs ranks fourth all-time in Braves franchise history, just three ahead of Andruw Jones who only played around 100 games in Right Field. Jones’ is obviously on the greatest Braves’ Center Fielder list. Murphy drove in 1143 runs as a Brave(fourth all-time) and stole 160 bases. His .268 batting average and .829 OPS helped Murphy to total 3394 bases as a Brave. Murphy’s’ 912 base on balls also rank fourth in franchise history. Easily one of the best Braves ever, Murphy didn’t get to revel in the success of the 90’s. However, Braves nation was lucky enough to see the very best of Dale Murphy during his 18 year career.
Not only the greatest Right Fielder in Braves history, probably the greatest Right Fielder ever. Hank Aaron’s numbers are staggering. His list of accomplishments is longer than this article. His number 44 is iconic. However, Aaron didn’t start out wearing 44. On April 13, 1954, Aaron made his major league debut, for the then Milwaukee Braves, wearing number 5. Aaron was hitless in five at-bats. However, teammate, Eddie Mathews, hit two home runs. The pair would go on to hit a combined 863 homers. Aaron batted .280 with 13 dingers in 122 games wearing number 5 before fracturing his ankle on September 5, 1954. That’s when Aaron switched to number 44. The number 44 seemed to be the right choice. Aaron hit 44 round trippers 4 times in his career. As a matter of fact, Aaron smashed his record 715th career home run off of Dodgers pitcher Al Downing, who wore the number 44, as well.
Aaron’s career WAR is 143, ranks fifth all-time behind the likes of Bonds, Ruth, Mays, Cobb. Aaron played 23 threes, 21 as a Brave, 1966-74 as an Atlanta Brave. Aaron still sits atop of 24 offensive categories in Braves franchise history. His 733 home runs is 240 more than the next closest person (Eddie Mathews). Aaron has 1836 more hits than Chipper Jones, who ended his career second in franchise history with 4755. With 2202 runs batted in, Aaron has set ridiculous franchise records. Despite his success and amazing numbers, Hank Aaron embraced his career and lofty records with grace and dignity. Even during the Barry Bonds race to and breaking of his home run record, Hank Aaron was a champion of the game, offering congratulations and praise. A class act in baseball and life. And, with out a doubt a historic member of Braves nation. Extraordinary, legendary, and easily the Atlanta Braves best Right Fielder.
Right fielders in Braves history cast a long large shadow. However, there are a few others that have left their marks on Braves nation.
Felipe Alou played 6 of his 18 year career with the Braves. Alou had 989 hits and drove in 335 runs. Totaling 1474 bases, Alou batted .295 with an .778 OPS.
Gary Sheffield had 64 home runs in his two seasons with the Atlanta Braves, driving in 216 runs. Nice production.
Jayson Heyward played his first five seasons with the Atlanta Braves. Heyward smacked 84 dingers and drove in 292 runs. An All-Star his rookie year, Heyward came in second for the Rookie of the Year award and won two Gold Gloves as a Brave.
Right field has been a strong position for the Atlanta Braves in the past. I’m grateful, as a fan, to have watched the players I have. I’m also excited to see who will be the next great Atlanta Braves Right Fielder. The 2020 season is upon us and the expectations are high. I salute the players of the past, present and future, as the team sets itself up for the next post-season run. Perhaps right field will, again , be a to key to another World Series title this year! Chop on!
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