Sunday, December 21, 2014

Random Ex-Brave: Norm Charlton

This is kind of a strange bit of randomness, but bear with me. The way I prepare for this weekly column is to open random.org and baseball-reference.com in two different tabs. Using the years of 1991-2014, I am giving a 24 year sample. I go to random.org and get a random number with those parameters. For instance, if the generator gave me a number of "2," that would point me to 2013. Clicking on the 2013 page at b-r, I would get an alphabetical list of the players from that season. This would send me back to random.org to change the parameters to 1 through 44 with the latter representing the amount of players who played at least one game with Atlanta in 2013. Random.org gave me 34, which pointed to Cory Rasmus. He would get the Random Ex-Brave treatment for the week.

I mention this because last week's Ex-Brave is connected to this week's Ex-Brave via a transaction. In mid-August of 1997, the Braves, who were searching to add more to their bullpen, waived Paul Byrd after they added the recently released Norm Charlton to finish the season. Anyway, I'm a dork and I found it interesting that the two landed back-to-back weeks in this random gig.

Credit: sullybaseball.blogspot.com
Couldn't find a Braves pic
Charlton was famously a member of the 1990 Nasty Boys with Randy Myers and all-around douchenozzle Rob Dibble. It was Charlton's second full season in the majors and while we immediately think of him coming out of the pen with those other two, he was also a spot starter in 1990. After the '90 World Series-winning season, Charlton again was used both as a starter and reliever in 1991 before replacing Myers as the team's closer in 1992. He was a dominating force for the Reds that season, striking out 10 per nine innings while heading to his first and only All-Star Game. He landed in Seattle next and was good before injuries and a Strike took away some of his Prime Years.

He spent a half season with the Phillies after the Strike was over before returning to Seattle to be part of their memorable run to the postseason. That was really his last run of significance. By 1998, he was on a one-year contract with the Orioles after a 7.27 ERA in 71 games with the Mariners during the previous season. His time with the O's was just as bad, though. He couldn't throw many strikes, but when he did, they tended to get blasted toward downtown Baltimore. Ultimately, the going-nowhere Orioles cut Charlton at the trading deadline. A week later, the Braves came calling and that was fortunate because otherwise this blog post would be a lie.

As I mentioned, to find room for the lefty, the Braves released Byrd. He made his Braves debut on August 12th, a week after signing, but was roughed up for two hits and two walks in an inning of work against the Padres where one ultimately unimportant run scored in a 5-1 loss. However, he would only give up one more run as a Brave. Unlike the Orioles, Bobby Cox rarely called on Charlton for one hitter. He faced less than three just twice in 13 games and was often used to finish games, either when Atlanta had a "too big" of a lead to use their closer or the Braves were trailing. He was hardly great and was more lucky-than-good, but he did throw 13 innings of two-run ball. He even picked up his second-to-last save against his former teammates in Philadelphia, throwing a hitless ninth inning to preserve a 3-0 win for Kevin Millwood. Of mild surprise was that Charlton didn't appear in the playoffs and Odalis Perez did.

Charlton would plays parts of three more seasons, including return trips to Cincinnati and Seatle, the former of which lasted just two games before arm troubles. He actually wasn't half bad for the Mariners in 2001, the season they won nearly every game it seemed. Charlton was 38 that season and struck out over a batter an inning for the first time since 1995. He made his final appearance in the majors in Game 4 of the ALCS, retiring one of the three batters he faced and leaving runners on first-and-second that would eventually be stranded. The Mariners lost that game 3-1 on a two-run walk-off homer by Alfonso Soriano and would see their once-promising season go up in smoke the next night.

Credit: caller.com
Charlton tried to prolong his career according to his B-R transaction list, but wouldn't appear in another game after 2001. He spent some time in the Mariners system as a coach and was the Bullpen Coach for the 2008 Mariners, but that lasted only a year. Since walking away from the game, he has operated a fishing/hunting guide business in Texas called "Norm Chalton's Big League Adventures." As one article said, he has something his competitors lack. A World Series ring. And 13 games for the 1998 Atlanta Braves. The former is probably more impressive.

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