Today Chipper Jones will be inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame and later have his number retired prior to the game with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The days news will be all about Chipper and rightly so, I drove from Texas to be here for this and I’m sure others have come farther. An icon, first ballot Hall of Famer and the face of the Braves since 1995 Chipper has earned his special day. Lost in the hoopla is the return of two former Braves to Atlanta for the first time; Randall Delgado and Martin Prado. Since everyone is writing about Chipper I thought I’d post a word or two about these two.
The “Other” Prospect
Randall Delgado was always the “other prospect” behind Julio Teheran whom fate decided it would be appropriate for him to face upon his return to Atlanta. While the spotlight was on Teheran it was Delgado who stepped forward to fill a starting rotation spot for the Braves in 2011 and 2012. Over that period he made 24 starts and one relief appearance compiling a 3.95 ERA and a 1.363 WHIP. While his record wasn’t outstanding much of that was due to lack of run support. Leo Mazzone said that he felt Delgado had a higher ceiling that most expected. I always liked Delgado’s approach and willingness to do what was asked. I hope his career in Arizona is a good one- except when facing the Braves of course. Delgado went to Arizona as part of the Justin Upton, Chris Johnson trade along with Martin Prado.
I’m not sure what I can write about the guy the fans called MVPrado that real Braves fans don’t already know. Between 2008 and 2010 Prado put up a slash of .309 /.358/.461 with 28 homers and 148 RBI. In 2011 a staph infection sapped his strength and his numbers dropped (.275/.313/.333 is still better than five of tonight’s starting nine) but in 2012 he was back, hitting .301/.359/.438 with 10 homers and driving in 70. The numbers are made more remarkable when you realize that while he played almost every day he had no set position until 2012 when he mostly played left except for stints at shortstop and third base. In fact the the only places Prado didn’t play while he was a Brave was center field, right field, pitcher and catcher. He would have done so if asked and likely done it well. As a clutch hitter – yes there is such a thing, no you can’t convince me otherwise – Prado was among the best with a slash of .283/345/.375 including 27 doubles, three triples, six homers and 211 RBI in 558 AB while striking out on 62 times and walking 64. For reference the league slash with RISP in 2012 was .250/.337/.390.
When the off season came everyone expected Prado to get an extension. I wrote that he should get four or five years at an AAV around $10M. It’s reported that’s what he asked for during extension talks but Braves GM Frank Wren offered him significantly less and he said no. A week later he was traded to Arizona for Justin Upton. As soon as he was on board the Diamondbacks gave him an extension.. .for four years $40M. (Am I good or what? Never mind don’t answer that). I and most fans understand the trade. Once the GM couldn’t agree an extension with Prado, a trade provided a better return than we would have received later or when allowing him to walk after this year and Justin Upton – in spite of his slump – will be a star for a long time. But we still miss MVPrado.
That’s a Wrap
I traveled to Phoenix to watch Justin Upton’s first games back at Chase field after the traded. I was saddened by the ignorant amongst the crowd that booed him at every turn. JUP answered with a solo blast that shut them up (for that night anyway) and led to him being pitched around the rest of the series. I’m not sure what kind of mindless meandering makes a fan boo a player who has done his best for them and is leaving not by choice but because an owner is too shortsighted to see what he has. I believe Braves fans are smarter than that. Oh sure we have idiots amongst us, those who threw trash in the field last year proved that. They aren’t however fans, they’re simply . . . I digress. When Prado and Delgado take the field tonight I’m certain Braves fans will treat them with respect and greet them warmly. When Prado comes to the plate I fully expect the crowd to rise and welcome back a player who gave them everything he had in every game he played; a gentleman and hard nosed baseball player who did whatever he was asked to do without question. Welcome back Martin, we loved you as a Brave and we wish you well in your career . . .after this weekend of course when an 0-12 is what we hope for.