It was a wild year for the Atlanta Braves, and there were many moments the fans won't forget for quite a while. Here are the top 6-10 stories from the last twelve months. Look for the top-5 stories to be released on Friday.
The Braves had been looking to acquire a right-handed slugger for the last three years, and they finally got their man in Dan Uggla. Uggla, who's family resides just a few hours away from Atlanta, is the only second baseman in major league history to hit 30+ home runs over the course of four years, and he'll give Jason Heyward and Brian McCann some much needed protection in the lineup. His blue-collar approach to the game will fit right in with the current roster of Braves, and now that he's finally happy and out of Florida, the thought of even bigger numbers from Uggla don't seem all that unrealistic.
There were two things that really stood out about the trade. For one, the price the Braves had to pay was minimal. Omar Infante will be missed, but it's a lot easier to find a utility man than it is a slugging second baseman. As for Mike Dunn, he could certainly turn out to be a top set-up man one day, but he didn't really have a defined role on the 2011 Braves. The other aspect of the trade that was so miraculous was how quiet Frank Wren kept things. In an age where the fans know just about as much as the general managers do, there was no word of a trade until ten or fifteen minutes before the deal was finalized. For a player of Uggla's magnitude, Wren really deserves a pat on the back for keeping things quiet. Whether Uggla stays in Atlanta or leaves after just one season for free agency, this trade was an absolute steal for the Braves.
7. The Comeback Kids
Talking Chop: Conrad Slams The Braves To A Seven Run Ninth Inning Comeback
The Braves had 25 last at-bat and 13 walk-off wins in 2010, and it really did seem like there was a new hero every night. Jason Heyward had four, Brian McCann had two, Brooks Conrad had three, and even Melky F'ing Cabrera got in on the fun and won two games for the Braves. Late-inning heroics are contagious, and the Braves had a bad (or good) case of them.
The most memorable walk-off the season came from no other than Brooks Conrad. With the Braves trailing 9-3 in the ninth inning, they battled back to make the score 9-6. With the bases loaded and one out, Brooks Conrad came to the plate as their last hope. After falling behind in the count, Brooksy took a high fastball and went the opposite way with it. The rest is history, and complete euphoria took over Turner Field.
After serving as a utility man and Kelly Johnson's backup at second base, Martin Prado finally got a chance to prove himself in 2010. To say he took full advantage of his opportunity is an understatement. The feisty Venezuelan was a consistent force in the Braves' lineup from the first week of the season and put the team on his back throughout the year.
With the offense struggling to score runs, Bobby Cox inserted Prado into the leadoff spot and the team took off. When Martin was hitting first in the order, the Braves went 48-32. When he wasn't hitting leadoff, the team went 22-26. As a matter of fact, one could make the argument that Martin Prado was the best leadoff man in baseball last year. Not only did his team perform better, but he posted an OPS of .883 while batting first, which was the best in baseball among qualified players. To be perfectly honest, without Prado's emergence, the Braves don't make the playoffs. He was Talking Chop's Offensive MVP for the year, and the right man won the award.
If someone had told you in March that Omar Infante would make the All-Star Team over eventual NL MVP Joey Votto, what would you have done? Laugh? Cry? Charlie Manuel made it a reality in July and selected Omar Infante because of his versatility in the field and at the plate it turned out to be one of the more controversial decisions in recent history. The whole debate of should fans be allowed to select who plays in the Mid-Summer Classic is a completely different story, but the fact is Omar Infante had an improbable 2010 season and it led to him being selected to the team. Congratulations to him. It couldn't have happened to a better guy, and in the end, he had absolutely no affect on the game.
After years of being dominated by the American League, the National League finally broke through, and our very own Brian McCann delivered the game-winning hit in Anaheim. The man affectionally referred to as "Heap" came up in the 7th inning against Matt Thorton and took a low fastball into right field to score the tying and eventual game-winning run. The monkey was finally off the NL's back, and it's because of Brian McCann. We love you, BMac.
Two years ago, Brandon Beachy was an undrafted free agent looking for a job. Today, he's in the Major Leagues and will be competing for the fifth spot on the Braves' rotation in just a few short months. Beachy literally came out of nowhere and dominated both Double and Triple-A. He posted a ridiculous 1.73 ERA in 35 games, struck out 148 batters in 119 innings, and opposing teams only hit .211 against him. For a guy who wasn't even mentioned on most top-30 prospect lists, his dominance in 2010 was pretty damn incredible. To see how he progresses next year will truly be something to behold. At the very least he'll be a solid middle-relief pitcher, and if he continues to progress and develop like he did in 2010, Beachy could turn into a strong #4 starter one day.