COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- The Braves of 1991-2005 won a record 14 consecutive division titles, five National League pennants and the 1995 World Series. So it should come as no surprise that Atlanta's core players of that era have begun to dominate the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and manager Bobby Cox were inducted last year, John Smoltz will go in on Sunday and Chipper Jones, eligible in 2018, seems pretty much a lock -- if not on the first ballot, certainly soon after.
Only Smoltz was a member of all 14 division winners, but each player had a big part in that incredible success.
"I've got to say this: when we got into the playoffs [against the Braves] early on, we went up against three first-ballot Hall of Famers, a Hall of Fame manager and probably another guy or two that's going to end up in the Hall of Fame," said Houston's Craig Biggio, who will enter the hallowed Hall on Sunday, along with Smoltz, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson.
The Braves defeated the Astros three of the five times they played each other in the NL Division Series during that era, winning the best-of-five series in 1997, '99 and 2001. Houston finally beat Atlanta in 2004 and '05, the year the White Sox swept the Astros in the World Series.
"We obviously had a great run of success and some great players that went through there," Glavine said. "It's amazing to see all these guys come here and get enshrined, with John coming and Chipper to follow, and I'm sure John Schuerholz at some point in time as well. It certainly is a representation of that era and the success we had as a team. It's great to see."
Schuerholz was the architect as general manager and now team president, but it was Ted Turner -- the creator of CNN, TBS and TNT -- who had the vision to put it all together as the owner. And certainly he should be a candidate at some point for the executive wing of the Hall, along with the late George Steinbrenner of the Yankees. They were the maverick owners during the first phase of free agency for the players.
"Times were tough [before that]," Stan Kasten, the Braves' team president then and the Dodgers' president now, told USA TODAY Sports. "But when Ted Turner gave me the authority to turn the dial all of the way to the right, we did it."
The Braves of that era found their nemesis in the Yankees. They lost four times in the World Series, twice to the Yanks, in 1996 and '99. The only rap on those Braves is that they didn't win it all more, losing four times as well in the NL Championship Series. The Braves led the '96 World Series 2-0 and were ahead, 6-0, in Game 5 at old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium before collapsing.
Had the Braves defeated the Yankees that year, it would have meant back-to-back titles, Atlanta having beaten the Indians in 1995.
"If we had won in '96 -- which we should have -- we would have turned into the Yankees," Smoltz said.
The Yankees won the Fall Classic four times in five years from 1996 to 2000, lost in 2001 and '03, and won again in '09.
It remains to be seen whether those Yanks will ultimately by as well-represented in the Hall as the Braves. Torre, the manager of the first four World Series champs and six American League pennant winners, was inducted last year, along with fellow skippers Cox and Tony La Russa.
The Core Four -- Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada -- will all become eligible in the next five years. Three of the four played their entire careers with the Yankees. Only Pettitte took a three-year sabbatical with the Astros and joined Biggio on the 2005 Houston team that lost the World Series. Only Chipper played his entire 19-year career in Atlanta.
All four of the Yanks' core played on their five World Series champs and seven pennant winners. Jeter and Rivera are the certainties to make the Hall. Posada will get his first exposure on the ballot in 2017, along with Ivan Rodriguez to form a backstop tandem for the ages.
Pettitte and Rivera retired together in 2013 and will be eligible together for the first time in the Class of '19. And Jeter will top the ballot in 2020.
Oddly enough, great Yankees teams have been outmanned in the Hall of Fame before. The Bombers won 15 AL pennants and the World Series 10 times from 1947-64, and they are represented by Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra and manager Casey Stengel.
Meanwhile, the Giants of the 1960s boast Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry in the Hall. And those Giants were always second best to the Dodgers, playing in only one World Series -- a seven-game loss in 1962 to -- who else? -- the Yanks.
The Cubs of only a few years later have plaques for Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Fergie Jenkins from a team that never played in the World Series then and still hasn't. The last time was 1945.
But winning doesn't seem to be a major criterion to Hall voters. And now the Braves, who won a lot less, could certainly outpace the Yankees of the same era.
"I think some people thought we had the same team year after year, but we didn't," Glavine said. "It was evident by constantly having young guys come into the mix and be a part of it. Chipper was one when he came up in the middle of the whole thing and then certainly extended beyond me and John and Greg. That's what I look at when it comes to how great that organization really was."