Friday, May 26, 2006

What almost was

In 1989, when he was still the Braves' GM (and Russ Nixon was in the dugout), Bobby backed out of a blockbuster deal that might've revitalized the franchise a year before the '91 miracle.

From a 1990 column by Mark Bradley, courtesy of the AJC archives:
What if the Braves had pulled the trigger on Murphy-to-the-Mets? Doesn't the idea of having a .400 hitter (Lenny Dykstra) and a 30-homer man (Howard Johnson) and a card-carrying closer (Rick Aguilera) seem even sweeter in retrospect than it did at the time?

Not that the Mets trio would've turned the 1990 squad into a pennant contender, but Aguilera would've been a big improvement over Joe Boever. Same with HoJo and Jim Presley. And Dykstra would've sent Lonnie Smith to the bench a year earlier.

But what about the next year? We would likely had never seen TP and Otis in Braves uniforms, with Johnson entrenched at third and Dykstra in center. And Alejandro Pena would probably have not been needed, either.

A statistical comparison from '91:

Johnson -- 38 HR, 117 RBI, .259 BA (and 30 steals)
Pendleton -- 21 HR, 105 RBI, .311 BA (and much better defense)

*TP's clubhouse leadership gives him the edge here

Dykstra -- Played in only 63 games that year, with a .297 BA, .391 OBP and 24 steals
Otis -- .297 BA, .371 OBP, 72 SB

*Dykstra had a better career, but Otis had the better season. Which drug is worse: coke or 'roids?

Berenguer/Pena -- The Braves two main closers in '91 performed quite capably; Pena had 11 saves and a 1.40 ERA while Senor Smoke recorded 17 saves and a 2.24 ERA
Aguilera -- Ironically ended up with the Twins in '91, saving 42 with a 2.35 ERA

*Long-term, Aggy would've solved a lot of bullpen problems. He remained a solid closer through much of the nineties ...

Hard to make a final verdict here, but TP was a pivotal element of those early 90s teams (along with the starting pitching). Without him, I don't think the Braves would've won in '91. Beyond that, who knows? Overall, though, I'm glad Bobby didn't make that deal (not that Jeff Parrett, Jim Vatcher and Victor Rosario contributed much to the Bravos).

And did you know Tommy Greene was sent to the Phillies along with Murphy? Sometimes even bad trades work out for the best.

--CB

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