Above: Behind a trio of Hall of Fame pitchers, the Atlanta Braves won 14 straight division titles from 1991 to 2005.
Book details Braves’ record-setting 14-season run
The Atlanta Braves are in a rebuilding year, but not long ago they accomplished something no other pro team has ever done: From 1991 to 2005, 14 seasons in a row, the Braves finished first in their division.
Braves fan and sportswriter Dan Schlossberg covers that magical run in “When the Braves Ruled the Diamond.” He details each season and highlights the accomplishments of such legendary Braves as Chipper Jones, Terry Pendleton, Javy Lopez, and Hall of Fame pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.
Schlossberg, a lifelong New Jersey resident, will sign books at Turner Field on June 11 and 12 and hopes to speak about the book at a synagogue while in town (He can be contacted at email@example.com). To mark the start of another season of Braves baseball in Atlanta, the AJT chatted with him about the glory days.
AJT: So how did you come up with the idea for this book?
Schlossberg: Well, I’ve been a lifelong Braves fan since 1957, when the Milwaukee Braves beat the Yankees in the World Series. I’ve written 30 other books, and I was working on ideas for my next one for Skyhorse Publishing when I realized that nobody had ever written about that 14-season division title streak.
AJT: The big knock on the Braves is that they won only one World Series. Why didn’t they win more?
Schlossberg: Well, I can give you a different reason every year. In 1991 Otis Nixon stole 72 bases and then got suspended in September for cocaine abuse. Had he been available, there’s no doubt in my mind the Braves would have won that World Series. There are lots of other reasons as well, but I don’t want to dwell on excuses. The fact is that over the Braves’ run, they finished with 166 more wins than any other team in the major leagues. That’s incredible.
AJT: What were the Braves missing to get them over the hump?
Schlossberg: The bullpen wasn’t up to par. Had they had Craig Kimbrel or even John Smoltz earlier on in the run coming out of the pen instead of over-the-hill guys like Jeff Reardon, it would be a different story. The Braves’ bullpen weakness was probably their biggest Achilles heel in the World Series.
AJT: Bobby Cox, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz have now all been elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Besides Chipper Jones, who seems like a lock to be elected on his first ballot in 2018, who else from the Braves’ 1991-2005 teams should be elected?
Schlossberg: I’m glad you brought up the Hall of Fame. Fred McGriff, Gary Sheffield and Andruw Jones all deserve to get in. Sheffield and McGriff played for a lot of teams during their careers, which might be hurting their chances, but Sheffield has over 500 career home runs. McGriff is close with 493. Andruw Jones had 10 consecutive gold gloves as a center fielder and hit over 400 home runs. He’s also the only Braves player to hit over 50 home runs in a season with 51 in 2005. Two other guys are worthy as well. John Schuerholz won titles with two different organizations as a GM, and pitching coach Leo Mazzone was one of only three men to wear a Braves uniform throughout the entire 15-year run.
AJT: What about the steroid era? How much more impressive was it that the Braves were on this streak right in the middle of that?
Schlossberg: During the steroid era, there were lots of accusations back and forth. The Braves really weren’t accused that much. Having close contact with the team throughout their run, I didn’t see it. The only guy that I might suspect, and he actually admitted it later on, was John Rocker. It makes what the Braves did during that run even more remarkable.
AJT: Why were the Braves so good for so long?
Schlossberg: I think continuity in the front office and management. Schuerholz, Cox and Mazzone were there for the whole time. There was only one player who wore a Braves uniform for the whole 15 years, and that was John Smoltz.
AJT: Do you have a favorite story about the Braves that you included in your book?
Schlossberg: Bobby Cox once told me that he hated how Leo Mazzone would rock in the dugout, but he never said anything because Leo was too good.
AJT: How do you see the Braves’ 2016 season playing out?
Schlossberg: One thing I’m very excited about is the return of Jeff Francoeur. Jeff is the only current player in a Braves uniform who was part of the run. He was actually a rookie in 2005. I think that the Braves added some good young players this past offseason and hope they’ll be a better hitting team in 2016.