As we count down the days to 2018’s opening day, we take a look at the greatest Braves to wear each jersey number that’s been worn.
The Giants took Grant with the 10th overall pick of the 1981 draft, and in his first full season, 1982, he set the minor leagues on fire. As an 18 year old in his first taste of single-A, Grant completed 12 of his 27 starts, threw 4 shutouts, and went 16-5 with a 2.37 ERA and 243 K’s in 198.2 innings. In the following postseason, Baseball America unsurprisingly named Grant San Francisco’s top prospect. 1983 saw some regression for Grant, but he was solid enough, and was SF’s #2 prospect after the season was done. In 1984, he earned his first big-league call-up, but it went terribly (6.37 ERA). Before 1985, Grant was again ranked as the #1 Giants prospect, but this time spent the entire season in AAA. He nearly did the same in 1986, getting just a cup of coffee with the big league club. Grant had a promising start in 1987 as a swingman of sorts, but San Francisco traded him in early July as part of 7-player deal to acquire Dave Dravecky, Craig Lefferts, and future MVP Kevin Mitchell from the Padres.
San Diego made Grant a starter again, but he struggled a bit with walks and homers en route to an underwhelming 4.66 ERA. Grant started 1988 in the rotation again, but through mid-June, it still hadn’t gotten better. The team was 2-14 in his appearances and Grant had a 4.35 ERA. At that point, he was moved to the bullpen permanently, and everything improved. The team was still terrible, going 1-16 in his 17 remaining appearances, but Grant had a 1.98 ERA over that stretch. He’d remain in the bullpen in 1989, having his best MLB season (8-2, 3.33, 2 saves). After a rocky start to 1990 (4.85 ERA in mid-July), the Padres dealt Grant to Atlanta for another former top prospect who was struggling to live up to his billing, Derek Lilliquist (6.28 ERA through 12 games in his sophomore season). It was in San Diego where Grant revealed for doing umpire impressions:
It’s a confusing trade to look back on, at least from Atlanta’s perspective. Lilliquist was pretty terrible in his early years, but he was still under 25 and with over 200 MLB innings under his belt. Grant was a year and a half away from free agency, and while he was coming off a good year, was still struggling so far in 1990. The day of the trade, the Braves woke up with a 33-47 record, 17.5 games out of first place. Surely the team didn’t think it was one middling reliever away from contention.
Grant was mediocre in Atlanta, picking up 3 saves with a 4.64 ERA, but he did give the team innings out of the pen, throwing 52.1 innings in just 33 appearances. Advanced numbers like his work in Atlanta – he had a FIP of just 3.33. Injuries sidelined Grant for nearly all of Atlanta’s magical 1991 season – he did pitch 3 innings at Richmond, and he became a free agent at year’s end.
He signed with Seattle, and pitched 81 innings of 3.89 ERA ball for the M’s in 1992. He then signed with the Astros. Victimized by his own early success in Houston (0.82 ERA in 11 innings), Grant was dealt to the expansion Colorado Rockies for Braulio Castillo, and in Denver, Grant imploded. His rate stats were abysmal – over 18 baserunners per 9 innings en route to a 12.56 ERA across 14 games. The Rockies released Grant less than 70 days after acquiring him. He signed with the Angels, but only got in 1.2 innings at AAA before being shelved. Grant missed all of 1994 – it’s unclear whether it was due to an injury or time spent re-evaluating things, but attempted a comeback in 1995 with the Cubs’ AAA affiliate. In 11 starts in Iowa, Grant had a 5-2 record, a 3.13 ERA, and, for the first time, pinpoint control (1.3 BB/9). He played some pro ball in Taiwan and China after this, although details are a bit murky. He never pitched in the American minor leagues again.
Grant later became a color commentator for the Padres, and is still as entertaining as ever:
Honorable Mentions: None
Who is the best ever to wear #55?
Bronze: Tim Lincecum wore #55 throughout his MLB career. He won the 2008 and 2009 NL Cy Young Awards, was a 4-time All-Star, thrice led the league in strikeouts, and won 3 World Series rings, dominating the 2010 postseason. He threw a no-hitter in 2013:
And then threw another in 2014:
Silver: Russell Martin has worn #55 at every stop of his career. The 4-time All-Star won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger award in 2007, collected MVP votes in 3 seasons, and is likely a top-40 all-time catcher. Here are some highlights from his excellent 2014 season:
The best player ever to wear #55, however, was the Bulldog, Orel Hershiser. A 3-time All-Star, Hershiser won the 1988 NL Cy Young Award (23-8, 2.26 ERA), the 1988 NLCS MVP, and the 1988 World Series MVP. In 1995, he would win the ALCS MVP for Cleveland, making him the only player to win the LCS MVP in both leagues. He won a Gold Glove in 1988 and a Silver Slugger in 1993. He placed in the top 4 in Cy Young voting 4 times in a span of 5 years (1985-1989). As good as he was in 1988, when he set the MLB record for consecutive scoreless innings pitched, he may have been better in 1985, when he went 19-3 with a 2.03 ERA.
And who else would be on the mound to win the World Series?