Atlanta Braves History: Greatest Players of the 1990s

Chris Stephens@@chris_stephens6Correspondent IIFebruary 11, 2012

Atlanta Braves History: Greatest Players of the 1990s

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    The 1990s were the start of greatness for the Atlanta Braves.

    It was the start of 14-straight division titles, where the staple for the Braves was pitching.

    Throughout the decade, the Braves won a total of 925 games.

    After a dismal 1990 season where they went 65-97, the Braves went worst-to-first in 1991, making it all the way to the World Series where they lost to the Minnesota Twins in seven games.

    The next year, the Braves saw the same kind of success in the National League, again making it to the World Series. However, the Braves fell again, this time to the Toronto Blue Jays in six games.

    Many players made their mark on the Braves throughout the 90s. Here's a look at the 10 best.

    Note: This is the fourth in a five-part series on the best Braves of each decade.

Honorable Mentions

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    These next seven players just missed being in the top 10 for the best Braves of the 90s.

    Andruw Jones played the last four years of the decade for the Braves. He hit .260 with 80 home runs and 257 RBI. He stole 74 bases, had 436 hits, scored 257 runs and had two Gold Gloves. Jones was best known for his two home runs in Game 1 of the 1996 World Series.

    Mark Wholers played from 1991-99, garnering a 31-22 record with 112 saves with a 3.73 ERA and 437 strikeouts in 388 games.

    Terry Pendleton, the current first base coach, played from 1991-94 with the Braves, hitting .293 with 71 home runs, 322 RBI, 319 runs scored and 669 hits. He was also named the 1991 National League MVP.

    "The Big Cat" Andres Galaraga played in 1998, before taking a year off in 1999. In that one season, he hit .305 with 44 home runs and 121 RBI. He also had 169 hits, scored 103 runs and earned the Silver Slugger Award.

    Steve Avery played for the Braves from 1990-96, garnering a 72-62 record with a 3.83 ERA and 815 strikeouts in 1,222.1 innings pitched.

    Kevin Millwood played the final three seasons of the decade, going 40-18 with a 3.37 ERA and 410 strikeouts in 453.2 innings pitched.

    Otis Nixon was on the Braves from 1991-93 and 1999 with a .278 average with 408 hits, 268 runs scored and 186 stolen bases.

    Now, for the top 10.

10. Jeff Blauser

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    Jeff Blauser played for the Braves from 1990-97, making two All-Star appearances and earning one Silver Slugger award.

    During that time, he hit .269 with 93 home runs and 393 RBI. He stole 49 bases, scored 520 runs and had 881 hits. He also drew 425 walks.

9. Fred McGriff

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    Fred McGriff got off to a fiery start when he got to Atlanta in 1993 after being traded from the San Diego Padres.

    After a fire engulfed the press box at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium on his first day in town, McGriff didn't disappoint the Braves' faithful.

    From 93-97, "The Crime Dog" hit .291 with 99 home runs and 359 RBI. He also had 603 hits, scored 277 runs and had an on-base percentage of .380 and a .484 slugging percentage.

    He was also named an All-Star three times.

    He hit 10 home runs and 34 RBI, batting .303 in 45 postseason games.

    After the 1997 season, McGriff was purchased by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

8. Javy Lopez

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    Javy Lopez is one of the best all-time for the Braves behind the plate.

    From 1992-99, Lopez hit .290 with 119 home runs and 378 RBI. He also had 662 hits, scored 283 runs, had a .338 on-base percentage, had a .503 slugging percentage and was named to three All-Star teams.

    During the postseason, he had seven home runs and 23 RBI, with the 1996 National League Championship Series being his best; he had 13 hits with three home runs and six RBI. For that, he was named the series' MVP.

    Behind the plate, he threw out 156 would-be stealers and only committed 33 total errors.

7. Ron Gant

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    My favorite player growing up, Ron Gant experienced a lot of success with the Braves from 1990-93.

    During that time, he had a .271 average with 117 home runs and 386 RBI. He also had 622 hits, 395 runs scored, 125 stolen bases, a .340 on-base percentage and a .491 slugging percentage.

    During the postseason, he had 25 hits and 11 stolen bases, including seven in the 1991 NLCS against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    Sadly, for me, Gant was released by the Braves in 1994.

6. Ryan Klesko

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    Klesko was one of the most beloved Braves during his time in Atlanta from 1992-99.

    During that time, he hit .281 with 139 home runs and 450 RBI. He also had 684 hits, scored 374 runs, had an on-base percentage of .361 and had a slugging percentage of .525.

    In the postseason, Klesko had 35 hits with 10 home runs and 22 RBI.

5. David Justice

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    David Justice will always be known as the player who gave the Braves a 1-0 lead in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series against the Cleveland Indians, a lead that would hold steady the rest of the game.

    During his time with Atlanta from 1990-96 he hit .276 with 159 home runs and 519 RBI. He also had 774 hits, scored 468 runs, had a .375 on-base percentage, had 31 stolen bases and won the 1990 National League Rookie of the Year.

    During the postseason, he had 36 hits, including seven home runs and 27 RBI.

    Then, in 1997, the Braves made one of the worst trades of the decade when they traded away Justice and Marquis Grissom for clubhouse cancer Kenny Lofton.

4. Chipper Jones

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    Probably the most beloved Brave in history—other than Hank Aaron—Jones began his career with the Braves in 1993.

    During the decade, he hit .301 with 153 home runs and 524 RBI. He also had 871 hits, stole 83 bases, scored 542 runs, had a .394 on-base percentage, had a .529 slugging percentage and hit 166 doubles.

    He was also named to three All-Star teams and was named the 1999 National League MVP.

    In the postseason, he had 68 hits, eight home runs and 29 RBI.

3. Greg Maddux

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    Anyone who thinks that the pitchers would not take the top three spots is sadly mistaken. The biggest question is: where will each land in the rankings?

    Greg Maddux lands in the No. 3 spot.

    Playing for the Braves for the last seven years of the decade, Maddux went 126-51 with a 2.34 ERA and 1,223 strikeouts in 1,626 innings pitched. He also had 51 complete games, 15 shutouts and a 1.011 WHIP.

    In his first three years in Atlanta, he won three straight National League Cy Young Awards, which was a part of four in a row he won (the first in 1992 as a member of the Chicago Cubs).

    Even more, "Mad Dog" won seven straight Gold Gloves in the decade, which was part of 13 straight and 16 of the 17 he won in his career. Couple that with his five All-Star appearances, and there's no question that Maddux will be a Hall of Famer when he's eligible.

    However, for all of his success in the regular season, Maddux had trouble in the postseason, going 11-14, although he had a 3.24 ERA.

2. Tom Glavine

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    Tom Glavine comes in at No. 2 on the list, having pitched every year in the 90s for the Braves.

    During that time, he went 164-87 with a 3.21 ERA and 1,465 strikeouts in 2,228 innings pitched. He also had 38 complete games, 14 shutouts and a 1.286 WHIP.

    He was named the National League Cy Young winner in 1991 and 1998, made six All-Star Games, had four 20-win seasons, and led the league in wins four times.

    During the postseason, he had 12 wins, struck out 137 batters and had a 3.30 ERA.

1. John Smoltz

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    Although his win total wasn't more than Glavine and his ERA total wasn't better than Maddux or Glavine, Smoltz was still consistent throughout his time in Atlanta.

    During the 90s, Smoltz was 143-95 with a 3.32 ERA and 1,893 strikeouts in 2,142 innings pitched. He also had 42 complete games, 14 shutouts and a 1.180 WHIP.

    He made three All-Star appearances and won the 1996 National League Cy Young Award and the 1997 Silver Slugger Award.

    Many Braves' fans have a lasting image of Smoltz as he pitched in the clinching game at the end of the 1991 season, helping the Braves complete their worst-to-first campaign.

    For those who may not agree with Smoltz being in the top spot: just look at his postseason numbers.

    During the postseason, Smoltz was unbelievable, going 15-4 with a 2.67 ERA and 194 strikeouts in 209 innings pitched. He also had a 1.144 WHIP.