His stats don't blow you away, and guys like McGriff and even Galarraga, Sheffield, or Lopez probably eclipse him in that category, but this list is not just about stats, it's about the whole game. The game on the field when a pitcher needs help to get through a rough inning and encouragement comes from the third base side. The game in the clubhouse when a team is learning how to be winners and a veteran takes the role as team leader - this is what defines TP. Terry Pendleton established the way Atlanta Braves players carry themselves on and off the field. He expected to win, and he did the things to help the team win, and in the end they did win.
Yes, he gets extra credit for being an MVP in the inaugural year of the streak - 1991. And the writers who voted for him that year should have voted for him the next year when he was instrumental in leading the team to one of the best records in franchise history (at that time). Yes, yes, Barry Bonds probably deserved it as well, in both years, but Pendleton made that Braves team. At any rate, he came in a close second to Bonds in '92 and was named an All-Star. His next two years in Atlanta were average, but those aren't what we're concerned with - it's the first two years.
Would the '91 Braves have been what they were without the personality of Terry Pendleton? I don't think so. They had Bream and Belliard, and Lonnie and Liebrandt, but TP was the Captain on the field - as important to those early Braves teams as Jeter is to these Yankees teams. He is one of the few MVP's who was elected based not merely on his presence in the batting box, but more for his status as a team leader. With him lies one of the endless debates about what defines the value of a Most Valuable Player; and when people look back to see what it is that defines value, they will look back at Pendleton and his leadership of the Braves at the beginning of the streak.
It is probably because the streak went on so long that we now know the value of those who began it and wrote the book on how to win year after year. Pendleton set the tone and others followed and that's what puts him so high on this list. The way Chipper acts, the way McCann acts, the way Lopez and Hunter acted - it's because of the way Pendleton carried himself. That's been passed down from one generation of Braves to the next. And while the streak is over, that attitude is still with the club, and the expectation to be winners will still help the team to start the next streak - and it doesn't hurt that one of the guys in that clubhouse and on that bench is the coach, Terry Pendleton.