THOMPSON: Were the 90s Braves a dynasty?

Associated PressAtlanta Braves pitchers Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux were one of the most fearsome pitching trios in baseball in the 1990s.

The recent “Last Dance” documentary was a trip down memory lane for me. Growing up as a Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan fan, this 10-part series was a stamp of approval for me that this was one of the greatest dynasties of my generation, led by the greatest athlete of the 20th century. 

But it got me thinking of another great team that I grew up with and watched as it finished first consistently. This one was in Major League Baseball with our beloved Atlanta Braves in the 90s and beyond. But the question is, do most baseball fans observe that Braves' run, led by Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones, manager Bobby Cox and general manager John Schuerholz to be dynasty worthy? 

I guess there's the question of what do you consider the qualifications to be, in order to be a dynasty? Is it the number of championships you win? The last baseball dynasty was the New York Yankees who, led by Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, won four World Series titles in five years from 1996-2000 and came close to winning another in 2001. The Braves won 14 National League East Division titles, five National League Championships but only one World Series title in 1995. 

An argument could be made the Braves should have had at least two more world championships, which would have cemented their dynastic run. They were up 3-2 in the 1991 World Series but a Kirby Puckett Game 6 homer and Jack Morris 10-inning shutout in Game 7 spurred the Minnesota Twins to the title. 

You could also argue the Braves should have won the 1996 title. They were up 2-0 against the Yankees, win the first two games on the road before dropping the next four straight, three of which were at home. 

This doesn't even account for the 1993 team, who may have been the most accomplished. The Braves won 104 games, edged the San Francisco Giants by one game in the National League West Division and finished with a dominant pitching staff of Maddux and Glavine, both 20-game winners; and Smoltz and Steve Avery, who won 18 games. But they lost the NLCS to an overachieving Philadelphia Phillies team 4-2.

But some would argue dynasties recognize longevity just as much as championships. The Braves finished in first place every year from 1991-2005 except for 1994 when a strike ended the season. For the record, they likely would not have caught a very good Montreal Expos team that year as they trailed by six games with 48 to go.

So the question remains: Were the Braves a dynasty? The answer is, probably depends on who you ask.

Clint Thompson is a special contributor to The Valdosta Daily Times.

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