Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Atlanta's Top 10 Teams

This week, the Mets are in Atlanta to play the Braves.

Atlanta's Top 10 Teams

Honorable Mention to the Georgia Institute of Technology. Georgia Tech's football team has won 4 National Championships, in 1917, 1928, 1952 and 1990; and 16 Conference Championships, most recently in 2009. Their basketball team has made the NCAA Final Four in 1990 and 2004. Their baseball team is also renowned, having made 3 College World Series.

Honorable Mention to Atlanta United, which made the Playoffs as an MLS expansion team last year.

Honorable Mention to the 1991 Atlanta Falcons. The Deion Sanders team was the only Falcon squad in a 20-year stretch (1978-98) to win a Playoff game, but they couldn't follow it up.

Dishonorable Mention to the 2016-18 Atlanta Falcons. Back-to-back Playoff berths, and the 2016 NFC Championship, and there could be more to come. But who the hell blows a 28-3 2nd-half lead in the Super Bowl? I don't care how much the New England Patriots cheat: This Falcon team is, thus far, a joke, and will remain a joke unless and until they win the big one.

10. 2006-07 Atlanta Thrashers. They played 11 seasons in the Peach City -- 3 more than the Flames -- but only made the Playoffs once, as Southeast Division Champions. And they got swept in the 1st round by the New York Rangers. Just 4 years later, they were gone. The franchise now known as the Winnipeg Jets wouldn't win a postseason series until this season.

9. 1968-73 Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks arrived in St. Louis in 1968 as defending regular-season Division Champions, and won the NBA Western Division again in 1969 and 1970. And then Pete Maravich arrived, and helped them reach the Playoffs 3 more times. But they couldn't put it together, losing in the Playoffs first to the Los Angeles Lakers, and then, after being moved to the Eastern Conference, to the Knicks and the Boston Celtics.

That's as good as it's gotten for the Hawks. They've usually been a Playoff team (the 2000 to 2007 drought being a nasty exception), but only once since 1970 have they made the Conference Finals, in 2015, and they got slaughtered by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 4 straight.

8. 1969 Atlanta Braves. They won the 1st National League Western Division title, but couldn't follow it up. The 93 games they won were the most by the Braves franchise between 1957 (95, leading to the Milwaukee title) and 1991 (94, leading to the 1st Atlanta Pennant).

7. 2010-13 Atlanta Braves. 4 seasons, 1 Division title and 2 Wild Card berths, but 2-7 in postseason games.

6. 1973-80 Atlanta Flames. In 8 seasons in the South, the team named for the burning of Atlanta during the American Civil War made the Playoffs 6 times, so they weren't a bad team. But they won only 2 Playoff games: In 1977 against the Los Angeles Kings, and in 1980 against the New York Rangers (which, alone, was more than the Thrashers could later do). They lost that Preliminary Round series, and were sold and moved to Calgary.

5. 1982-83 Atlanta Braves. They won 89 games and the NL West, then 88 and finished 2nd, making them a better overall team than their 1969 forebears. But they didn't win the Pennant. In fact, between October 5, 1958 and October 10, 1991, the Braves played 10 postseason games and won exactly none of them.

4. 1978-82 Atlanta Falcons. "The Grits Blitz" made 3 Playoffs in 5 years, including the 1980 NFC Western Division title. But they only won 1 Playoff game, losing 3 others by a combined total of 16 points. Atlanta's 1st great pro football team was good, but not lucky.

3. 1998-2004 Atlanta Falcons. In 7 seasons, they made the Playoffs 3 times, won 2 Division titles (1998 NFC West, 2004 NFC South), reached 2 NFC Championship Games, and won the 1998 NFC title, but lost Super Bowl XXXIII. Michael Vick's arrest put an end to it.

2. 1991-93 Atlanta Braves. The city's 1st 2 Pennants, and then an NLCS shocker at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies. They couldn't quite win the big one, though.

1. 1995-2005 Atlanta Braves. I was tempted to break this into 2 periods, the way I separated the 1991-93 team, which really was different. But this team mostly stayed together, winning 11 straight NL East titles. In the 1st 5 of those seasons, 1995 to 1999, they won 3 Pennants. But only the 1 World Series, 1995.

The joke was that they had become the Buffalo Bills of baseball, but it would be more accurate to say that they were a redneck version of the old Brooklyn Dodgers, who also won just 1 World Series before getting moved.

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