5. Ron Gant: 1994-1995
Ron Gant was an essential piece in the Atlanta Braves rise to dominance in the early 1990’s. His combination of speed and power made him one of the most exciting and feared players in the National League. However, following the 1993 season, in which he hit 36 homers with 117 RBI’s, 26 stolen bases and a top five MVP finish, misfortune came calling.
In February 1994, Gant was involved in a serious ATV accident and suffered a broken right leg. The Braves knowing Gant would miss the entire upcoming season and unsure if he could regain his former production released the 29-year-old slugger.
Enter Jim Bowden. The former Cincinnati Reds general manager was always willing to roll the dice. The Reds signed Gant on June 21, 1994 with the understanding he would not be available until the following season. Bowden and the Reds hit the jackpot.
A comeback story for the ages was set in motion. Gant’s lone campaign for the Reds produced results better than anyone could have imagined. The left fielder crushed 26 homers, drove in 88 runs and swiped 23 bases. He also established career highs in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS+.
Along with Barry Larkin and Reggie Sanders, Gant was a vital cog in the 1995 version of the Big Red Machine. The club captured the Central Division crown and swept the Dodgers in the NLDS. However, it was Gant’s former team in Atlanta that would advance in to the World Series defeating the Reds in the NLCS.