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No arguments

Series will clearly settle 'Team of '90s' debate

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Posted: Thursday October 21, 1999 03:48 AM

  John Smoltz October heat: John Smoltz has a 2.25 ERA in seven career World Series starts. AP

ATLANTA (AP) -- There it is, engraved right on the ring Atlanta Braves general manager John Schuerholz proudly wears: "Team of the 90s."

To him, the Braves already own that title. No debate needed on the team of the decade, not even if the New York Yankees take home this World Series trophy.

"To answer that question for the 1,442nd time, we don't need to do anything," Schuerholz said. "We've won more games than any team, we've won 100 games three years in a row, we've won eight straight division titles."

"If you choose any criteria except one narrow criteria -- World Series championships -- we lead it," he said.

Of course, that's not such a narrow category. Not to the Yankees.

"Aren't we the team of the century?" New York GM Brian Cashman said Wednesday. "World championships, that's the goal."

Fittingly, the clubs that had the majors' two worst records in 1990 get a final chance to make their cases starting with Game 1 Saturday night at Turner Field.

Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, MVP of the AL Championship Series, probably will start for the Yankees. The Braves can pick from any of their Big Four of Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Kevin Millwood.

For Atlanta, it's an opportunity to win that elusive second World Series title. The Braves beat Cleveland in 1995 -- prompting them to put that boast on their rings -- but have nothing else to show for eight straight trips to the NL Championship Series.

For the Yankees, it's a chance to win their record 25th title and third in four years. That recent run began when they beat Atlanta in six games in 1996.

"We've got another shot at them," Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones said.

The Braves earned their fifth trip to the World Series in the 1990s by beating the New York Mets 10-9 in 11 innings Tuesday night in Game 6 of the NLCS. The Yankees beat Boston in five games in the ALCS.

Atlanta took a day off Wednesday while New York's practice at Yankee Stadium was rained out. That gave extra time for the Yankees to talk about -- or turn down -- debate about the top team in the last 10 years.

"Players don't worry about it," catcher Joe Girardi said. "There are a lot of different players on both teams."

True, a lot has changed for the Yankees since 1990, when they went 67-95 with a starting lineup that included Oscar Azocar, Steve Balboni and Bob Geren, plus a rotation that had Tim Leary, Chuck Cary and Andy Hawkins.

The Braves were even worse that season at 65-97. That was the year they traded Dale Murphy and could only hope that young Glavine and Smoltz would blossom.

Overall, Atlanta is a major league-best 925-629 in regular-season games during the decade and the Yankees are next at 851-702. Oh, their interleague record against each other? Appropriately, 5-5.

The Braves have won titles in the West and East in the 1990s and became the first NL franchise to reach five World Series since the Dodgers in the '50s. The Yankees have gone to the playoffs for five straight years, their best stretch since going to the World Series from 1960-1964.

And now, with no slight intended to Toronto for its championships in 1992-93, it's all come down the Braves and Yankees. At stake, a trophy and a title -- Team of the Decade.

"I hope we win another World Series," Schuerholz said. "At least it would put an end to that question."


 
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