Bill Shanks

Could this year’s Atlanta Braves beat 1988 Braves?

The Atlanta Braves’ tough start this season has many thinking back to 1988 when the Braves had a 106-loss season. It was the worst season in Atlanta’s history, and many wonder if this year’s team might be just as bad.

Strangely enough, May 3 in 1988 was also on a Tuesday, and the Braves also were visiting the New York Mets. So it was interesting to see the team the Braves fielded that night at old Shea Stadium compared to the lineup Fredi Gonzalez had for the Braves on Tuesday at Citi Field.

Instead of comparing the lineups, let’s do it by position. Which one would you take – the 1988 Braves player or the 2016 Braves player – on the May 3 game separated by 28 years?

FIRST BASE – Gerald Perry vs. Freddie Freeman

Well, overall Freeman is the better player. But this year, Freeman has been pretty ordinary while Perry was really good in 1988. Perry hit .300 and made the All-Star team. We’ll take Freeman.

SECOND BASE – Ron Gant vs. Kelly Johnson

Gant was struggling at the time, hitting just .162. He went on to have a better career than Johnson, who for some strange reason is not playing much on this pitiful Braves team. Take Gant in a close one.

SHORTSTOP – Andres Thomas vs. Erick Aybar

Thomas was not a very good shortstop, but he did hit 13 home runs and drive in 68 runs that season. Aybar is a better player than what he has shown so far, but he has been terrible. This is a wash.

THIRD BASE – Ken Oberkfell vs. Reid Brignac

Oberkfell was a no-power corner infielder who could hit a little, while Brignac just got called up Monday. Oberkfell was a career .278 hitter, while Brignac has hit .218 in his career as a backup. Edge to Oberkfell.

LEFT FIELD – Ken Griffey Sr. vs. Adonis Garcia

Griffey was 38 at the time. Garcia claims to be 31. Even at 38 and near the end of his Braves’ career, Griffey was a better fielder. Griffey could still hit, at least a little. Give the nod to Griffey.

CENTER FIELD – Dion James vs. Mallex Smith

James was great for the Braves in 1987 and just adequate in 1988. Smith has the higher upside, but he has yet to prove much in just a month in the big leagues. James is better at this point.

RIGHT FIELD – Dale Murphy vs. Nick Markakis

Both are the most valuable players on their roster, as both teams would be even worse without them. But Murphy was a better all-around player, even with his ordinary 1988 numbers. Call this one a draw.

CATCHER – Ozzie Virgil vs. A.J. Pierzynski

Virgil was still a power threat, while the 39-year-old Pierzynski is showing signs of slowing down. Virgil wins this one, as old Pierzynski is really looking old.

PITCHER – Pete Smith vs. Matt Wisler

Wisler and Smith are very similar pitchers and were at the same stage of their careers. This is a tie, as even though Smith had a good career, Wisler’s potential may be higher now than Smith’s was then.

The lineup that night in 1988 was shut out by David Cone, who allowed just eight hits.

So the 1988 Braves win at second base, third base, left field, center field and catcher – five positions. The 2016 Braves win at first base, while three spots (shortstop, right field and starting pitcher) are graded as ties.

That might tell you where the current Braves’ team is in terms of this rebuilding process. Th is group is right where the 1988 Braves were back years ago and likely will be for the rest of this season – stuck in last place.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at Follow Bill at and email him at