#13: Brian McCann (by bledsoe)

See the 44 Greatest Atlanta Braves here.

LH Hitting, RH Throwing Catcher
Braves Seasons: 2005-2013
.277/.350/.473; 176 HR, 661 RBI, 464 RS

In the 2007 (not so long ago) online edition of the 44, there was no entry for Brian McCann. He flunked the three full seasons rule. Nonetheless, by the time Mac published the e-book version four years later, McCann was featured at Number 16 1/2, between Jeff Blauser at 16 and Felipe Alou at 17. From zero to 60 – an impressive seven years. Mac said then: “Brian goes here, roughly, and could be in the top ten in a couple of years.” In the two years subsequent to that quote, Brian had two subpar (for him) years; his slashes fell about 40-50 points each from his career marks. His games played also fell, yet he still managed to hit 20 HRs each season.

Signed in the 2002 draft out of Duluth, Georgia. Brian started his MLB career very young. (I did get to see him play for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, when he was already highly regarded in the organization.) He was the Braves’ fulltime catcher at age 22. He was an all-star seven times while a Brave, the MVP of the game in 2010. He also won five Silver Sluggers, if you care about such things.

In these amended rankings, he is bracketed by Bob Horner at No. 11 and Joe Torre, who slides to No. 13. I chewed a bit over ranking him over Torre (I likely was influenced by the fact that Joe was my favorite player as a child. When I was a child, not when Joe was. Joe was in his thirties…but I digress.) After a while, it seemed quite plain to me: McCann was better. Not only are McCann’s counting stats higher (both had nine seasons with the team), let’s remember that 15-20% of Joe’s stats came when he was playing first base. (In fairness to Joe, hitting cleanup in the Sixties, his RBI totals maybe suffered from coming to the plate with the bases cleared frequently?) McCann just caught, save for an occasional day off at DH when we scrimmaged one of the teams from the Coach-Pitch League. That takes a toll. He can’t overtake Javy for best Braves career, but he’s a close second. If he’d stayed a Brave, he would above Javy, and thus be in the top ten, as Mac predicted.

Brian’s defense was enthusiastic but below average. Teams ran on him with success — a lot. (He led the league in SBs allowed three times.) But his bat was special, and he caught a remarkable number of games from 2006-2011: 124, 132, 138, 127, 136, 126. That, my friends, is blue collar baseball at its best. In his 2011 e-book, Mac said, “He’s certainly on a Cooperstown trajectory, but sustaining it will be hard, as it always is for catchers.” It is, and he couldn’t. While the HOF may be out of reach, he was a stud in a Tomahawk.

The Braves of his time believed that he and fellow Brave Adam Laroche were the two slowest players in all of MLB. There were always rumors of a race to decide the issue once and for all. Not sure it ever happened.

I feel pretty comfortable slotting Brian in between Horner and Torre. This is where he belongs.

33 thoughts on “#13: Brian McCann (by bledsoe)”

  1. I’d rank the pudgy tier thusly: McCann, Torre, Horner. Horner was a better hitter than McCann, but despite playing a far more physically demanding defensive position McCann was good for an extra 15-20 games a year over the oft-injured and slow-healing Horner. In a given game, Horner was liable to have a greater impact. Then again, in a given game the role of Bob Horner was liable to be played by Jerry Royster.

  2. The Cubs remain in the news..


    one who didn’t make it…

    Felix Pie
    the eponymous chart he designed tells us why
    he won’t be forgotten
    remembered for wedges, his slugging percentage quite rotten.

    a new one, CF, lurking at AA

    Alberta Almora
    they say he is likely to join the plethora
    of Cubbie phenoms
    there are many but will they make up for the bombs?

    still the favorite..

    Schwarb the aggressor
    he has now become the public confessor
    I come in hard
    sometimes, regrettably, hoist with my own petard.

  3. I expect we’ll see our Golden Boys here shortly: Freeman, Heyward, Kimbrel, Simmons. I don’t really have a sense of the original list, but there could be a shot for Teheran toward the end.

    We’re putting a lot of focus on the Cubs young guns…but what a horrible waste of talent the last three years have been for the Braves. I’m ashamed of the team.

  4. Actually, McCann and LaRoche started that race back in ’11. I’ll let you know who won once they finish it.

  5. @7

    Edward, I’d be interested to see your list of waste, as you perceive it, in some order of horror perhaps. Cheers.

  6. @ 1

    Horner was electric. There are some at bats you put down your supper tray for. With him you stopped chewing till it was over, you never knew.

  7. Bob Horner
    he reportedly said, I will play the hot corner
    but not in the minors
    those Volkswagen buses, those Appalachian diners.

  8. Back in 1983 I was a freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill and was browsing through The Intimate Bookshop on Franklin St. when I ran across a book called ‘Rotisserie League Baseball.’ Glancing through it I saw they rated every player in the leagues. Their entire comment on Horner: “Million dollar swing, ten cent wrist.”

  9. Naomi Klein
    she has said, Horner, would he were mine
    but not so Adele
    for whom he resembles too well.

    Painter…those ‘intimate Bookshops’ we patronized back in the early sixties did not so much comment on Horner’s wrists as on Bardot’s decolletage.

  10. Bob Horner: I had a high-school friend from Columbus who was a dead ringer for Horner — curly blond hair, heavy set/stocky, a bored look on his face.

    When he got a little older, on more than one occasion, a person approached him in public and, with deep sincerity, asked, “How’s your wrist?”

  11. I interviewed him in 1983 when he was out with the wrist injury. He was signing at a Bojangles Biscuits (insert joke here), and wasn’t particularly forthcoming — although he probably didn’t expect one of the people in the autograph line to pull up a chair next to him and pepper him with clichéd questions…”Who are the toughest pitchers you’ve faced?” “They’re all tough.”

  12. From MLB Trade Rumors:

    The Cardinals will try to re-sign Jason Heyward, but while they could go “a bit beyond” Matt Holliday’s franchise-record $120MM guarantee, Heyward’s camp will insist on topping Jacoby Ellsbury’s $153MM sum and inching as close to $200MM as they can get.

    Ummm, yeah-no.

  13. One of the worst parts of our team becoming a dumpster fire is that we have to endure a whole offseason where the numbers around Heyward’s next contract are discussed more than anything pertaining to our roster.

    And I’ll admit I can’t help being curious about what it ends up being. $200MM is freaking crazy-town.

  14. And he’s not going to be the type to sign quickly. This is going to drag out.

    If you think Heyward really is a 5.5 WAR player and if a win above replacement is worth about $7 mil on the open market, then we’re talking about a mere five-year contract to get to $200. I don’t think he’ll make that, but who knows.

  15. Ryan Goins, second baseman for the Jays, may retire at the end of the season to join the family Auctioneering business of Goins, Goins, & Gone..

  16. Play of the post season? Lorenzo Cain scoring from first on a single to right field, after the rain delay. Thrilling to watch, gutsy call, there were no outs, tied game.

  17. The Blue Jays lost after having the tying run on third and no one out in the ninth inning.

    How very Braves of them.

  18. A 45 minute rain delay just turned a good game into a truly memorable one via a spellbinding finish. Toronto hit top of 9th down one after Cain’s run. Wade Davis, who’d pitched in the eighth an hour ago, in trouble right away with a base hit, two stolen bases(!),runners 2nd and 3rd, no outs. Much tension but two strike outs and a ground ball out finished the game.

    Wonderful stuff, daring gutsy ball from both teams in extremis.

    Rosenthal tried to bring us all down to earth asking Davis “Tell us what was going through your mind etc …”. Pathetic. Forget it, remember the game you just saw.

  19. Unbelievable. Never thought the royals will be able to make it back to the World Series. Great work by Dayton Moore and yost. Never thought I would ever say that.

  20. Gotta say the Greinke trade is working out very well for the Royals. They got Wade Davis from the controversial Shields/Myer trade, right?

  21. Lorenzo Cain
    his speed was such it brought on rain
    the winning run?
    Well, yes, but not before much good undone.

    Dalton Pompey
    speed enough to make everyone in the park jompey
    standing on third
    what then actually happened, to him, had it ever occurred?

    Could someone recall the name of the ‘designated base stealer’, way back, who had some famous encounters with Mike Marshall who was then pitching for the Dodgers?? mid/late 70’s time frame.

    This guy Pompey fit that bill and deserved a better fate. Doubt there was any of us here who had heard of him prior but he came on in the top of the ninth to pinch run after Martin led off and singled and…WHAM…he was on third, blew everyone away. Second, yes, but third?? Back to back? No one expected it. No outs, play it safe, don’t be a goat. Not he.

    After it was all over, the deflation, you realized this was no way for his efforts to have ended.

    He should have stolen home.

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