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Is this the best Braves team ever? 4 franchise icons weigh in.

As the Braves prepare to open their National League Division Series against the Phillies on Saturday night, it seems like an appropriate time to ask four icons from the club’s previous great era whether this year’s team is the best in franchise history.

No other team in any club’s history could boast of a season like the one constructed by Ronald Acuña Jr., who became the first player to record a 40-homer, 70-steal season. And no Braves team had ever benefited from a season like the one produced by Matt Olson, who set a franchise record in homers and a modern-era club record for RBIs.

This year’s Braves team produced the franchise’s modern-era record in runs, RBIs and OPS. It also topped the all-time marks for home runs, OPS+ and slugging percentage.

At the same time, this year’s Atlanta club boasts two NL Cy Young Award-caliber starters in Max Fried and Spencer Strider. Fried missed approximately four months this season because of injuries, but he enters the postseason with the capability of pitching like he did when he finished fifth in NL Cy Young balloting in 2020 and second in ’22.

Strider broke John Smoltz’s single-season strikeout record while recording MLB’s only 20-win season this year.

So was this the best Braves team ever? MLB.com surveyed four franchise legends to get their takes on how this club stacks up against some of the best they played on.

Tom Glavine: “It’s hard to say which one is the best, right? You know, We used to get those questions and to me, unless you win a World Series then you don’t have much to talk about. So, that puts the ’95 team in the conversation and that puts their most recent (2021) World Series championship team in the conversation. But if you’re talking purely statistically, it’s hard to say they’re not, at least offensively. When you are doing historic things offensively, then that speaks for itself.”

As Chipper Jones mentioned, the Braves ended the season with a .501 slugging percentage. How incredible was this? The only teams to ever slug over .480 in a season were the 2019 Astros (.495), ’19 Twins (.494), ’19 Yankees (.490), 1927 Yankees (.488) and ’36 Yankees (.483).


You know how the 1927 Yankees have long been described as the greatest lineup ever assembled? This Atlanta group led by Acuña and Olson actually rivaled what Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and the other Pinstripers did nearly a century ago.

The 1927 Yankees hold the all-time record with a 127 OPS+. This year’s Braves rank third with a 124 OPS+, just behind the ’31 Yankees (125).

OPS+ takes a player’s on-base plus slugging percentage and normalizes the number across the entire league. It attempts to adjust for external factors like ballpark dimensions to give you a context-neutral number.

In other words, in a context-neutral world, this year’s Braves were the third-most productive offense the baseball world has seen in the modern era (since 1900). Plus, their 307 home runs matched the 2019 Twins for the most in MLB history.

Chipper Jones: “You’re never out of a game. You’re always a bloop and a blast from being right back in it. I can think of many times during the course of this year where we fall behind 4-0, 5-0 or 6-0. Then, we chip away to get it to 6-3, and I’m like, ‘We’ve got them right where we want them.’”

Glavine: “That 2003 Braves team was really good, and the 1998 team was really good. I guess the only difference is that I think this current edition is built more on offense, whereas some of those teams were built more on pitching. That’s what got the attention, the pitching. But I will say this, I think this year’s team goes into the postseason more of a favorite than any team I can remember.”

With Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn present, the Milwaukee Braves won the 1957 World Series and a second straight NL pennant in ’58. Those clubs were certainly among the best in franchise history. Along those same lines, the ’95 and 2021 World Series champion teams will always be celebrated.

But teams that were upset in the playoffs like the 106-win 1998 team and the 101-win 2003 team are still considered two of the franchise’s top teams.

The 1998 team was similar to the 2023 team in that it had four players hit 30-plus homers (Andrés Galarraga, Javy Lopez, Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones). This year’s team actually had three players hit 40-plus homers (Olson, Acuña Jr. and Marcell Ozuna) and another (Austin Riley) who came up just short.

The 2023 Braves don’t have three Hall of Famers (Smoltz, Glavine and Greg Maddux) at the front of their starting rotation. Nor does this year’s team have No. 4 and No. 5 starters like Denny Neagle and Kevin Millwood, who combined to win 33 games in 1998.

But with Fried and Strider, the rotation is currently fronted by two guys who could be perennial Cy Young Award candidates over the next few years.

Fried missed much of April because of a hamstring strain, then missed most of the next three months because of a forearm strain. Kyle Wright, who was MLB’s only 20-game winner last year, made just seven starts this year.

Still, the Braves clinched the NL East with nearly three weeks left in the regular season.

Smoltz: “This is by far the best lineup the Braves have ever had. If they had healthy starting pitching all year, then I would say it’s pretty much hands down the best team.”

Chipper Jones: “Thinking back about that ’98 club, it doesn’t resonate historically like this one does. In 2003, it was obviously a lot of fun being in the outfield. We called it ‘The Firm’: Jones, Jones and [Gary] Sheffield. That was a good middle of the lineup I’d have put up against anybody. But as much as I’d like to say that offense was close to this one, I think this one is far and away better.”

With Lopez hitting a career-high 43 homers and Sheffield tallying 39, the 2003 Braves offense carried an average rotation. Marcus Giles teamed with the Joneses to give that lineup great firepower. But that offense now can only be considered to be the franchise’s best of the pre-universal DH era.

There’s no doubt this year’s Braves team has secured its place in any argument regarding the best team in franchise history. But instead of being remembered like the 1998 Braves, who were upset by the Padres in the NLCS, or the 2003 Braves, who were overpowered by the Cubs’ duo of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, they want to be remembered as champions.

Chipper Jones: “These guys are gym rats. When I say gym rats, they’re in the cage constantly. They’ve got their little idiosyncrasies as far as little drills that make their swings work, and if you’re a good hitting coach, you sit and watch and shut the hell up and look for the things that make them tick. When they do get a little sideways, then you chime in. But I haven’t had to chime in too much this year. These guys have been locked in from day one.”


One goal: Braves in postseason

Smoltz: “I’ve never seen so many MVP candidates on one team, and they have eight All-Stars that are legit. I had two hip surgeries this year, so I got to watch a lot of baseball. The Braves were on one of my three TVs in the basement every night. It was like you were amazed when they didn’t score a run in the first inning.”

Glavine: “You sit there night in and night out just kind of waiting for something remarkable to happen. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team where, when they’re behind four or five runs early, it’s really not a big deal. That’s crazy to have that ability to never be out of a game.”

Andruw Jones: “This team is very special, but I played on some good teams here and I was part of some great lineups. But this lineup is special.

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