Despite an ESPN argument to the contrary, the 1990s Atlanta Braves were not just a dynasty, but the third biggest sports dynasty of the decade.
Yesterday, ESPN published a fascinating collaborative piece tackling some key debate or what-if for all 30 MLB franchises. Some of the points needed to be said. Many are insightful, some aren’t. And then there is the blasphemous opinion put forward by Jeff Passan about the 1990s Atlanta Braves.
To hear Passan tell it, and you’ll see it spotlighted if you click on that above link, the Atlanta Braves of the 1990s were not a dynasty.
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With all due respect to Mr. Passan, that is just crazy talk. The 1990s Braves, which Passan frames as ruling (or rather not ruling) from 1991 to 2005, weren’t just an MLB dynasty. They were one of the biggest dynasties in all of North American sports- with only the New York Yankees and Chicago Bulls clearly standing above them.
At this point, it seems important to get something straight, in the interest of credibility, even if this is an amateur op-ed in response to a professional op-ed:
I’m not from Atlanta and am not a Braves fan. In fact, I hated the Atlanta Braves. Hated.
Mostly, that’s because I’m a Miami Marlins fan. Among those four lost NLCS bids Passan mentions would be the 1997 NLCS. You know, where the Wild Card Marlins beat the NL East winning Braves en route to their first World Series title. Division rivals are to be despised, especially ones that are typically more successful than you.
Honestly, though, I hated the Braves before I even got into baseball. Passan is right on point when he takes note of just how present the Atlanta Braves were, with Ted Turner just bludgeoning them into America’s consciousness with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. If you were a baseball fan in the early 90s, then yes, you probably did carry a bit of a torch for the Braves. Now as for myself in the early 90s…well actually the original article headline my wife typed up as a joke was pretty much spot on:
The 1990s: TMNT, Clarissa Explains it All, something about baseball. (in order of significance).
I’d left “The 1990s:” on the screen during a coffee break, and came back to that. And while I did certainly ride harder for Boy Meets World than Clarissa, and can’t support having two periods bookend a parenthetical observation, the spirit of this is mostly spot-on. I went to TBS for movies and syndicated television- I was angry when the Superstation wasted time putting the Jones Brothers on display.
That Jones Brothers bit isn’t me being clever either. I really just thought Andruw and Chipper were brothers until my dad corrected me at some point during the 1997 postseason.
But I knew who the Braves were. Everyone did. They always won, always either just missed the World Series or made it and lost to the other team. One time, they even won the whole thing, much to the chagrin of Cleveland fans everywhere.
Once I started fanatically the following baseball though, it sunk in just how dominant that team was. Passan claims dynasties win championships, not divisions. But let’s look at the Merriam-Webster definition of “dynasty“, which when you throw out hereditary monarchs, is “a powerful group or family that maintains its position for a period of time.”
That sounds like a pretty apt description of a team that won fourteen consecutive division titles to me.
Not to mention five NL pennants. Five, which is three more than any other team had in that stretch. Four surefire Hall of Famers, with plenty more talent that has been in the Hall of Fame conversation for years. Andruw Jones won 10 Gold Gloves for Atlanta and probably isn’t even getting in. Fred McGriff played out his prime there for three seasons and wasn’t even the fifth-best player on the team. The starting rotation? Only had three Cy Young winners. And then there’s Chipper Jones, who earned MVP votes in nine consecutive seasons during Atlanta’s run.
The Yankees might have won more titles. But so did the Marlins, and as happy as I am to rub that in the face of Atlanta loving friends, I’ve never once claimed the Marlins were a dynasty. And as for the Yankees, there was always some new free agent doing much of the heavy lifting.
For fourteen years, fourteen, the road to the World Series went through Atlanta. Fourteen years of dreading facing that same rotation. Facing that largely the same offense. Hearing that same stupid imitation of Florida State’s chop.
Sorry, I couldn’t help that last one.
The 1990s Atlanta Braves might only have one ring. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t do as much to define baseball than any other team in that span. Including the vaunted Yankees. Without question, the Braves are a baseball dynasty.