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Cursed Locker Eliminated


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• Cursed locker eliminated: Perhaps it was the horror of seeing top pitching prospect J.R. Graham using the locker during the early pitching camp in February. Or maybe it was a decision made after even the indefatigable Livan Hernandez, who had overcome everything else during a career spanning 17 years and 3,100-plus innings, proved no match for this particular force greater than nature.

Whatever the official reason, The Locker is no more. The infamous cursed locker in the Braves’ clubhouse at Turner Field has finally been eliminated. Not boarded up, as GM Frank Wren half-jokingly suggested couple of years ago, but turned into a cubicle with a small desktop for the computer that players use to reserve their comp game tickets.

For those who don’t believe in curses, consider that Hernandez lasted only 18 relief appearances with the Braves last season before getting released. He finished the season with Milwaukee and is not on any roster today.

He was the latest in a long line of Braves whose careers took unwanted turns during or after their year in The Locker after the team moved to Turner Field in 1997.

For years, anyone assigned that locker next to Greg Maddux's locker was gone before the following year, sometimes much sooner. Beginning with Jeff Blauser, who had it the first year the ballpark was open for baseball in 1997.

Blauser hit .308 with an .886 OPS that year (both career-highs), then went to the Cubs as a free agent and hit .219 with a .639 OPS in '98. He was out of baseball a year later.

In 2011, these four players spent time in the locker: Joe Mather (releaseased), Jordan Schafer (traded to Houston in July), Cristhian Martinez (demoted to the minors midseason).

One exception in recent years, a player to last more than a season in the locker, was pitcher Kenshin Kawakami. But his career went so far off the tracks, he might’ve been better off if he’d not begun a second year in The Locker. He spent the entire third year of his three-year contract at Double-A Mississippi, accompanied by his Maserati and his interpreter.

Among the previous players assigned to the locker: Bret Boone, Robert Fick, Wally Joyner, Ken Caminiti, Albie Lopez, Damian Moss, Chris Seelbach and Joe Nelson.

Now it's gone. A locker no more. Neither Graham, should he make it to the majors this year, nor anyone else will be doomed to that locker at any point this season or presumably in the future.

But let's see how long before the computer in the locker-turned-cubicle gets a virus.


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