Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A look back at Bobby Cox's World Series Teams

This post comes from an idea from Canon Review reader Dickson S. Since I'm not exactly sure how to introduce, I'll just repost his idea here:

Since the Atlanta Braves are going to the Playoffs again for the first time in 5 years or so I thought up this idea.

Talk about each year/time that the Braves actually made it to the world series. 91,92 so on and so forth. Talk about the series and what your thoughts are...
on if you think they should have won. For instance there were a few World Series that the Braves were in that could have went either way. You can mention your thoughts on the teams they played and if you think the Braves lineups matched up to the Twins, Blue Jays.....etc.

And finally once that is all complete mention your thoughts on today's 2010 Braves and how you think they will do in the 2010 Playoffs?

Well, that sounds all right to me, so let's look back at the Braves' World Series appearances under the legendary Bobby Cox.

1991- Braves vs. Minnesota Twins, Twins win 4 games to 3 - In one of the greatest World Series ever, the Braves battled the Twins in a battle of two teams that jumped from worst-to-first. There was three extra innings games, including the final game, which ended in a 1-0 score for the Twins. The Braves could have won had Lonnie Smith not fallen for Chuck Knoblauch's deke, causing Smith to eventually stop at third on Terry Pendleton's double. Really, the series could have gone either way. Both teams were rather even, as each team had three quality starting pitchers, and while the Twins had the best reliever in Rick Aguilera, the Braves had the better overall bullpen by a slight edge. Offensively, both teams got nothing out of the first base position, as the Twins Kent Hrbek hit 3 for 26, while the Braves combo of Sid Bream and Brian Hunter went a combined 7 for 45. Both teams got key contributions from role players, as Braves 2B Mark Lemke hit .417 in the World and got the game winning hit in game 3, while Twins 3B Scott Leius hit .357 and hit the game winning home run in game 2. Overall, this was a great battle between two good teams that could have gone either way. It would be easy to blame Smith for his baserunning gaffe, but to be fair, he did hit three home runs, including a game tying homer late in game 4. If anyone could have made a difference, it would have been Braves speedster Otis Nixon, but he was suspended for the postseason after failing a drug test. But really, the series was so close that it's hard to blame the Braves for coming up just a game short. If only they could have hit Jack Morris.

1992 World Series - Braves vs. Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto wins 4 games to 2 - There are three things I remember most about this series. One was the controversy that ensued after the Canadian flag was displayed upside down during the signing of the Canadian national anthem before game 2. Also, there was Devon White's great leaping catch in game three that should have resulted in a triple play, but the umpire missed the call on Kelly Gruber's tag of Deion Sanders, and then there was Toronto catcher Pat Borders, who had the series of his life, hitting .450 and walking away with the World Series MVP. Oddly enough, the Braves got a second chance to face Jack Morris in the World Series, and this time, the Braves' only two wins came off of the same man that had frustrated them so much in the previous year's series. Coming into the series, the teams looked rather even, but the Braves figured to have the edge in pitching. While the Braves' rotation of Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Steve Avery pitched well (combined 2.55) ERA, the Braves' bullpen struggled, as Jeff Reardon gave up game winning hits in back to back games, and it was Charlie Liebrandt that gave up the eventual Series clinching hit to Dave Winfield in game 6. Offensively, two of the Braves' big guns, Ron Gant and David Justice, struggled mightily against Toronto pitching, as they combined to hit 5-27 with a combined three RBIs. Despite Deion Sanders best efforts (8 hits in 15 at bats), the Braves just came up short again. Ultimately, the Jays' clutch hitting and quality bullpen (one earned run in 17 innings) propelled them to Canada's first World Series champion. The Braves might have been a slightly better team, but the Blue Jays definitely were a deserving champion.

1995 World Series - Braves vs. Cleveland Indians, Braves win 4 games to 2 - This was a battle of strengths, as the Braves' vaunted pitching staff battled the Indians' high powered offense. The Indians came in with a 100-44 record after the shortened 1995 season, powered by an offense that led the majors in nearly every major offensive category. The Braves weren't exactly slouches on offense, but their lineup had nowhere near the firepower of the Indians. So, what did the Indians do against the Braves' pitching? They hit .179 and scored a mere 19 runs in their six games after averaging nearly six runs a game in the regular season. The only Indians regular that was effective in the series was Albert Belle, and even he (.235, 2 HR, 7 BB) was nowhere near the player he was in the regular season. With the exception of John Smoltz, who struggled in game 3, the Braves' pitching annihilated the Indians' hitting, culminating with MVP Tom Glavine's and Mark Wohlers combined one-hitter in the series clinching game. The success of the 1995 Braves just goes to show that great pitching can beat great hitting.

1996 World Series - Braves vs. New York Yankees, Yankees win 4 games to 2 - This one hurt. In hindsight, it may look as if the Yankees had the better team, but at the time it was thought that the Braves would easily take this series. Not only did the Braves have the better rotation, they also had a deeper lineup and more offensive firepower than the 96 Bronx Bombers. After the first two games, in which the Braves won by a combined total of 16-1, it looked as if Atlanta might sweep the Yankees. But once again, the Braves' bullpen faltered when they needed them the most, specifically in game 4, when the Braves blew a 6-0 lead. Yankees pitching shut down the Braves in games 5 and 6, and the Yankees won their first World Series since 1978. Even though the Braves' starters put together a 1.48 ERA, they fell short once again. Honestly, when you compare the two teams, you would figure the Braves would have won, but obviously that did not happen. If only Wohlers hadn't of hung that slider to Jim Leyritz in game 6. 

1999 World Series - Braves vs. Yankees, Yankees win 4 games to 0 - The Braves won 103 games in the regular, although I don't see how. 1B Andres Galarraga missed the entire season due to cancer, C Javy Lopez misses most of the season due to injury, and outside of Chipper Jones, Ryan Klesko, Andruw Jones, and Brian Jordan, the Braves had a bunch of below average players in their lineup. Pitching wise, although SP Kevin Millwood and CP John Rocker were outstanding, Glavine and Maddux didn't have their typical excellent seasons, although they still were pretty good. Meanwhile, the Yankees had All-Stars at nearly every position, and had just won the World Series in 1998. In game 1, John Rocker continued the Braves' tradition of bullpen woes in the World Series after reliving Greg Maddux in the eighth inning, and in game 3, the Braves had a 5-2 lead heading into the seventh inning, but eventually lost after Chad Curtis' game ending homer. The Yankees would sweep the Braves, outscoring the Braves 21-9. It might have helped had Andruw Jones and Jordan hadn't combined to hit 2-26 in the series, but quite frankly, the Yankees were just the better team that year.

Before I end this post, I have to mention the 1998 Braves. After all, they were Bobby Cox's best regular season squad, finishing the season with 106 wins. That team was powered by four players which hit 30 or more home runs (Galarraga, Lopez, both Joneses) and boasted a pitching staff in which each starter won at least 16 games, and the big three of Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz combined for a 55-18 record and a 2.49 ERA. However, in the NLCS the Braves ran into the San Diego Padres and Sterling Hitchcock, an otherwise mediocre pitcher who frustrated the Braves by winning two games and allowing a mere five hits and one run in his two starts. Hitchcock and the Padres' shutdown of the best Braves team in the Bobby Cox prevented Atlanta from a showdown with the Yankees in the World Series, and although the Yankees were a heck of a team that year, I'm willing to bet that the Braves would have had a better shot at beating the Yanks than the Padres did. But that's just the way the cookie crumbles.

It would be nice if the Braves could finish off Bobby Cox's career with another appearance in the World Series. It doesn't look that likely, as the Phillies are probably the most complete team in baseball, and the Giants are not exactly a pushover in the NLDS. On paper, it looks as if the Braves will be unable to reach their sixth World Series under Bobby Cox. But, as the Braves have proven, the games aren't played on paper, and many times the team that has the most talent doesn't win the series. So, if the Braves get some good pitching and a couple of their hitters get hot at the right time, who knows? Maybe Bobby Cox will go out on top.

Well, thanks for reading. Feel free to share any memories of the Braves' World Series teams, or any disagreements you may have with this post in the comments section. Also, if you have any ideas for future reviews, then let me know about them either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

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