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The 29 Most Important Braves during the Streak: 20-22

  1. Gary Sheffield - Injuries cut his first year as a Brave short by a couple dozen games, but he still managed to get some MVP votes reflecting just how important he was when he was in the lineup. His real success came in 2003 when he finished third in the MVP voting and anchored one of the most potent offensive years in Braves history. His tenure as a Brave may have been short - and he wasn't considered a clubhouse guy - but he solidified the middle of the batting order as good as anyone else during the streak. If he had been with the Braves for several more years he would have probably been much higher on this list. The only real knock against him was that after being a hero for Florida in the `97 Series, he fizzled both years in the postseason, driving in only two RBIs in 30 postseason at-bats for the Braves.
  2. Charlie Liebrandt - I rank him higher than Neagle and Ortiz because of what he did as the fourth starter during a time when you had to win more regular season games to make the postseason (before three divisions and the wild card). As opposed to most pitchers who spent their time in Atlanta during their peak years or came up through the Braves system, Leibrandt spent the tail end of his career with the Braves. He was a 15 game winner in both `91 and `92 with ERAs of less than 3.50. Charlie was the blue-collar type pitcher who regularly threw 200+ innings and had a lot to do with teaching the Glavines and the Smoltzes how to be Major League pitchers - he was also with the Braves in 1990 and helped them turn their raw talent into Major League success. He was 6-2 for the Braves in the postseason, but will probably be remembered more for giving up the Game 6 homerun to Kirby Puckett in the `91 World Series.
  3. Marcus Giles - He was by far the best second baseman of the streak. Mark Lemke's not on this list, though he would have probably made the top 35. Whereas Lemmer was all defense and no hit, Giles was solid on defense and a solid hitter as well. Forget for a moment the declining stats for each of the last three years, until this year he was above the league average for second baseman in most all offensive categories. Giles also gets a lot of points for having such a bubbly personality. He was one of those guys who seemed to bounce right back up after getting knocked down (and he got knocked down a lot); and an attitude like that on a baseball team is often greatly undervalued. A team is going to lose a lot of games over the course of the season, and what attitude a player takes with him to the field after those losses will affect those around him and can play a big part in a team bouncing back with a win. Was there less of a positive attitude from Giles this year because of his dislike of the lead-off role? Who knows.