* Is RHP John Smoltz the next Atlanta Brave headed for Cooperstown ... and come 2017 will 3B Chipper Jones and former GM John Schuerholz have their turns at the podium. ....
By Bob Elliott
How ‘bout them Atlanta Braves.
A franchise every team wanted to be like?
Or a post-season failure like the Buffalo Bills?
The Braves went on a run of 14 straight post-season appearances from 1991 to 2005, except for 1994 when a world stoppage cancelled the World Series.
Yet, Atlanta only one once when they beat the Cleveland Indians in 1995.
We remember when the Braves met the New York Yankees in the 1999 Series -- billed as a Series which would decide the Team of the Decade. The Yankees swept the Braves to take honour with the third win of the 1990s. Had the Braves won there would have been three teams with two World Series victories each: the Yankees, the Braves and the Blue Jays.
Simon and Garfunkel used to sing:
“The words of the prophets are Written on the subway walls.”
The true message of greatest of the Atlanta Braves National League ball club may be written on the hallowed hallways on plaques hanging on the walls in Cooperstown N.Y.
And in December ballots will go to voting members of the Baseball Writers of America Association. Leading newcomers on the 2015 ballot are Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and ex-Brave right-hander John Smoltz.
Ken Griffey is the lead newcomer in 2016.
And in 2017, third baseman Chipper Jones will be on the ballot. And former Braves general manager John Schuerholz could be on the veteran’s committee with his excellent resume.
So, three years -- of 13 years or 30 years -- from Sunday, a Braves fan may be able to tour Cooperstown to see plaques belonging to Maddux, Glavine, Cox, Smoltz, Jones and Schuerholz.
As for next year you figure that former Houston second baseman Craig Biggio, who missed by two votes in January, will make it. Same for Johnson and Martinez.
Will Smoltz make it four ... the largest class of players in 51 years? He has a strong case, much like Dennis Eckersley did. Eckersley was a starter, a failed starter and then Mr. Perfect as a closer. Smoltz was a successful starter, lock-down closer and then a starter again before pitching his final year with the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals in 2009.
He had a 213-155 won-loss record with a 3.33 ERA and stuck out 3,084 in his 21-year career. He also had 154 saves in four years as a closer, as the only pitcher to amass more than 200 wins and 150 saves.
Smoltz won a Cy Young award (plus four other top-seven finishes) and only Andy Pettitte (19-11, 3,81) had more career post-season wins than Smoltz, 15-4 with a 2.67 ERA in October, although was have seen post season play carries little weight with voters.
Despite being the mainstay of the Braves staff -- Glavine left to sign with the New York Mets as a free agent in 2003, Maddux returned to the Cubs in 2004-- Smoltz, an eight-time all-star, is not a slam dunk. The numbers at baseball-reference say Smoltz is better than Hall of Famers Jim Bunning and Tom Seaver ... but not as good as Joe Niekro, Tommy John, Jerry Reuss and Stan Coveleski.
Third baseman Jones is one of the best switch hitters to play the game with 2,726 career hits a .303 career average, 468 homers and 1,623 RBIs. Only Mickey Mantle (536) and Eddie Murray (504) have more homers as a switch hitter, while only Pete Rose (4,256) and Murray (3,255) have more hits.
Schuerholz won in Kansas City with the Royals and he and Cox put together the Braves.
As for the earlier comparison to the Bills, who some of my friends think were a horrible failure for making the Super Bowl four straight years and not winning. I thought what the Bills did was a tremendous accomplishment, but what do I know about football?
Now Hall of Fame scribe Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News ... he knows football.
In the summer of 2000 during his training camp tour he asked owners, general managers, coaches and players this question: in the 1990s, would you rather have been the Kansas City Chiefs, who went to the playoffs every season but never won a Super Bowl ... or the St. Louis
Rams, who were the worst team of the 1990 decade from 1990-98, never made the playoffs, and then won a Super Bowl in 1999.
Owners to a man said the Rams -- they wanted to hold up the trophy one time.
GMs, coaches and players overwhelmingly said the Chiefs because all they wanted a chance to win every year.
The answer would have been the same had the question been Rams or Bills.
Despite only one happy ending the Braves were the model franchise and Sunday three of their first images will be unveiled in the Hall of Fame.