While the Atlanta Braves inch closer to Opening Day, we remember a player who was once a rival but became an integral part of the team.
We at Tomahawk Take are excited as all Atlanta Braves fans for Opening Day. To mark the countdown to Opening Day, we are counting down significant players and events in the history of the Braves organization that correlates with the number we are away from Opening Day.
That number today is 70. It brings us to a discussion of positions in the organization’s history. The Atlanta Braves have seen players from every position recognized in the Hall of Fame. However, overall, the shortstop position in the Braves organization has been fairly weak over the years. As evidence, the Braves have had one starter at shortstop in the National League All-Star game over the history of the franchise (Eddie Miller in 1942), while every other position has had multiple starters.
In the 1990s, the Atlanta Braves had an excellent duo at the position with the defense of Rafael Belliard and offense of Jeff Blauser to start the run of division championships. That led to Walt Weiss for three seasons before Rafael Furcal took over for 5 seasons.
When Rafael Furcal spurned the Atlanta Braves to head west to Los Angeles and join the Dodgers, the Braves were left looking for a shortstop. They would end up turning to a former rival.
Before he was a Brave
In 1996, a 19-year-old phenom took over at the shortstop position for the young Florida (at the time) Marlins, finishing 2nd in the National League Rookie of the Year voting, as he hit .309/.358/.399 with 5 home runs and 16 stolen bases.
Renteria’s second season wasn’t as strong, and he didn’t have a great series against the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS, but his teammates were able to defeat the Braves to get to the World Series where Renteria would become forever etched in Marlins lore:
Renteria was an All-Star representative for the stripped-down Marlins in 1998 before he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. Renteria was one of the elite shortstops in the game for a number of years with the Cardinals a half-dozen years, averaging a dozen home runs and 25 steals per season in St. Louis.
He became a free agent in 2005, signing with the team that had just defeated he and his Cardinals teammates in the World Series the year before, the Boston Red Sox. He wasn’t a good fit with the Red Sox, however, and the team was shopping Renteria the same offseason that the Braves were now in the market for a shortstop.
With the Atlanta Braves
In December of 2005, the Atlanta Braves traded top prospect Andy Marte to Boston for Renteria and cash. At the time, the deal was incredibly divisive. Many Braves bloggers point to the online debates over the Renteria trade as the touch point that launched their blogging careers or at least sparked their interest. Marte was a very highly-regarded prospect at the time, and Renteria was coming off of a rough season, so he was not viewed well by many Braves fans.
Renteria showed himself more than capable at the position, making the All-Star team in 2006 in his first year with the Braves and then challenging for the batting title in 2007. The Braves had multiple young shortstops coming up at that point and moved Renteria to the Tigers in a trade after the 2007 season.
Over his brief Atlanta Braves career, Renteria hit .310/.374/.451 with 70 doubles, 26 home runs, and 28 stolen bases.
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We will head into the 60’s tomorrow, as we inch closer and closer to real baseball for the Atlanta Braves!