Atlanta Braves Blog

The Atlanta Braves blog by David O'Brien, baseball writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Markakis: Not a big star, but something special


If “stoic” was a standard scouting superlative, if cold stares were an advanced metric, if grim-faced was an intangible and rapid beard growth were a skill, well, Nick Markakis would be a major star.

But they are not and he is not.

What the 33-year-old Braves right fielder and Woodstock High School graduate is, according to teammates past and present, is a terrific teammate and consummate professional who never, ever seeks attention and, in fact, avoids or deflects it to an uncommon degree.

Take Tuesday night, when Markakis had drove in five runs with three doubles in the Braves’ 14-1 rout against the Phillies. Then he dressed and was gone before reporters even entered the players’ area of the clubhouse after our brief postgame interview with manager Brian Snitker.

Where’s Nick? “I think he left,” was the reply. And none of us was terribly surprised.

He knew the questions would be about him, and Markakis hates talking about himself. Doesn’t much like talking to reporters, period, but understands it’s part of the job and so he does it, making himself available at least as much as most players before and after games.

But talking about himself? Not his thing.

Even on a night when he records his 45th multi-double game, the most in the major leagues since Markakis made his debut with the Orioles in 2006. Since RBIs became an official statistic in 1920, only two other players in Braves franchise history had a three-double, five-RBI game, and Markakis was the first to do it since Gene Moore in 1936.

Markakis is hitting .289 with team-highs in doubles (15) and RBIs (31) in 57 games, and his .366 OBP is second-highest among active Braves. In other words, he’s having a typical Markakis season, except with only one home run (he typically gets those in bunches, as he did in the second half of 2016, and finishes a season with 12-13 homers).

“He’s Mr. Steady,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said after Wednesday’s game. “He’s a boring pro that just comes to work every day and prepares and plays. He’s a real pleasure to be around because of his professionalism and how he goes about it. He never takes anything off – a pitch, a n inning, a play. I mean, the guy’s a true pro.”

Markakis is excelling in areas where he’s excelled for most of his 12-year career: With runners on base, he’s hitting .304 (31-for-102) with a .400 OBP, nine doubles and 13 walks. With runners in scoring position, he’s hitting .327 (18-for-55) with four doubles, nine walks, .441 OBP.

With bases loaded: .500 (3-for-6) with two doubles. In close-and-late situations: .286 (10-for-35) with two doubles, one triple, six walks (three intentional), .405 OBP.

In 100 at-bats over his past 26 games, Markakis has hit .300 with seven doubles, 18 RBIs, a .369 OBP and .370 slugging percentage (.739 OPS). The Braves are 14-12 in those games, despite the fact the played without their injured star, Freddie Freeman, for the past 20 of those games.

Beyond statistics, what Markakis has done is what he’s always done: Everything right, particularly behind the scenes, away from the cameras and our view. Hardly anyone works more in the weight room or batting cage, few study opposing pitchers as much.

“True pro,” said Braves rookie Dansby Swanson, who also had three hits including a three-run homer Wednesday. “It’s a pleasure to be able to play with him and watch him.”

But outside of Baltimore, where he played nine years, won two Gold Gloves and was a fan favorite for his blue-collar attitude, serious demeanor and steady production, and the Braves’ clubhouse, where teammates constantly praise him, Markakis has never really been mentioned among baseball’s stars. Even if he produces, in many categories, on a par with many more recognized players, even at age 33.

In his past 162 games, going back to June 6, 2016, Markakis has hit .286 with a .357 OBP, 53 extra-base hits (13 home runs), 91 RBIs including 19 go-ahead RBIs and nine game-winning RBIs, and a .415 slugging percentage and .772 OPS.

And consider this: In the past 365 days he has a .355 OBP that is better than the OBP of Christian Yelich (.354), Kyle Seager (.354) or Ryan Braun (.349) in that span and matches the OBPs of Brian McCann, Martin Prado and J.T. Realmuto.

In that same period, Markakis has as many RBIs (86) as Manny Machado and more than Kris Bryant (85), Giancarlo Stanton (84), and his 38 doubles in in the past 365 days is one more than Joey Votto, Charlie Blackmon or Paul Goldschmidt and two more than Jose Altuve or Bryant.

He doesn’t get much recognition as a big-time hitter primarily because of the lack of home runs -- Markakis has a modest 13 homers in the past 365 days, same as Elvis Andrus, one fewer than Dexter Fowler, one more than Kevin Pillar, four more than Jason Heyward.

But among players, there is a lot of respect for the “professional at-bats” that Markakis produces again and again, like some sort of automaton with a bat and a steely glare.

“You watch him hit and he hits it to all fields – he takes what they give him and does it well,” Swanson said. “And doesn’t want any credit for it. He’s awesome.”

Even if the masses don't notice, his peers certainly do.

Let's close with this song about a working man in his prime, Van Morrison's "Cleaning Windows."

"CLEANING WINDOWS" by Van Morrison

Got in my nose

As we carried our ladders down the street

With the wrought-iron gate rows

I went home and listened to Jimmie Rodgers in my lunch break

Bought five Woodbines at the shop on the corner

And went straight back to work. Oh, Sam was up on top

And I was on the bottom with the v

We went for lemonade and Paris buns

At the shop and broke for tea

I collected from the lady

And I cleaned the fanlight inside-out

I was blowing saxophone on the weekend

In that down joint.

What's my line?

I'm happy cleaning windows

Take my time

I'll see you when my love grows

Baby don't let it slide

I'm a working man in my prime

Cleaning windows (number a hundred and thirty-six)

I heard Leadbelly and Blind Lemon

On the street where I was born

Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee,

Muddy Waters singin' "I'm A Rolling Stone"

I went home and read my Christmas Humphreys' book on Zen

Curiosity killed the cat

Kerouac's "Dharma Bums" and "On The Road"

What's my line?

I'm happy cleaning windows

Take my time

I'll see you when my love grows

Baby don't let it slide

I'm a working man in my prime

Cleaning windows...

Reader Comments ...

About the Author

David O'Brien has covered the Atlanta Braves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2002.