Over the past 20 years there have been dozens of pitchers that have challenged the best hitters in the game. They pushed the best teams to their limits and challenged some of the greatest records the game has to offer.
Pitchers like Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, Mariano Rivera, Joe Nathan, and John Smoltz have lead the way. Through all the controversy there has been one pitcher who has truly weathered the storm. He has played the game with all the class in the world while bolstering one of the greatest resumes one could ever hope for. That player is #31, Greg Maddux.
On Friday Maddux will have his number retired by the Atlanta Braves. This is after he has had his number retired by the Chicago Cubs earlier this season. Here’s a look back on arguably the greatest pitcher in the last 50 years.
Greg Maddux began his career as a lanky pitcher for the Chicago Cubs in 1986 at the age of 20. Maddux would spend the next 7 season in Chicago, winning at least 15 games 5 times and at least 18 games 3 times. Despite having an excellent resume Maddux’s career was just about to take off. Maddux would then sign with the Atlanta Braves and begin a streak of dominance that has yet to be contested.
Maddux would spend the next 11 seasons with the Braves and would collect 3 of his 4 Cy Young Awards while accumulating 194 wins. Maddux’s best season came in 1995, where he went 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA. He would throw 10 complete games to go with 3 shutouts on his way to his 4th and final Cy Young Award and only World Series victory.
Maddux is an 8-time All-Star and an 18-time Gold Glove winner. Maddux was able to redefine the position from a defensive standpoint on his way to cementing himself as the great defensive pitcher of all time.
Maddux lead the league in wins 3 times (1992, 1994, 1995) and in ERA 4 times (1993, 1994, 1995, 1998). He lead the league in WHIP 4 times (1993, 1994, 1995, 1998) as well as walks per 9 innings pitched 9 times (1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008). Maddux’s durability further proves why he is one of the greatest. In a stretch from 1990-1996 Maddux finished no worse than 2nd in the National League in innings pitched. That streak included 4 years (1991-1995) in which he lead the NL in innings pitched with no fewer than 202.0 (1994).
When it comes to all-time statistics Maddux ranks 13th in innings pitched (5008.1), 8th in wins (355), 4th in games started (740), and 10th in strikeouts (3371). This goes without mentioning he has only walked 999 batters in his entire career.
Not only is Maddux one of the greatest on the field, he has been an amazing human being off the field. In 1993 Maddux formed The Maddux Foundation which has raised over $850,000 for other various charities.
There is no doubt that he is a first ballot Hall of Famer and is one of the greatest pitchers to ever grace the field. A tip of the cap to a Hall of Fame player and a Hall of Fame person.
“Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.”– Warren Spahn
Have you ever found yourself watching a baseball game or even Baseball Tonight and see one of your team’s former players and think to yourself “What could have been if we held onto him?” I do it on almost a daily basis. I decided to put together a team of former Atlanta Braves. Almost all have been developed by Atlanta but a few were acquired by trade and for one reason or another allowed to move on.
One former catcher is Texas Rangers starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “Salty” is currently hitting .250 with 6 home runs and 29 RBI in 64 games for Texas. Another catcher is Kansas City Royal Brayan Pena. Pena is currently hitting .319 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI in 22 games for the Royals. Both Salty and Pena are switch hitters.
At first base you have a former fan favorite in Adam LaRoche. He is currently hitting .259 with 12 home runs and 39 RBI for the Pittsburgh Pirates. At second base you have that Mark DeRosa guy. You may have heard about him being amazing at a handful of positions. You’re welcome St. Louis. Atlanta fans have been crying about letting him go for years now. DeRosa is currently hitting .261 with 13 home runs and 50 RBI.
Shortstop is what really gets me mad. You have studs like Rafael Furcal (.254, 3 HR, 19 RBI) playing for the Dodgers and Elvis Andrus (.262, 3 HR, 15 RBI) playing for the Texas Rangers. Texas thought so much of Andrus that they made Michael Young (5-time All-Star, 2005 AL Batting Champ, 2008 Gold Glove winner) change positions to third base. At third base you have current Tampa Bay Ray Willy Aybar. He is currently hitting .279 with 7 home runs and 25 RBI. Atlanta had plans for Aybar before he had issues with substance abuse. It’s such a shame to see someone with so much talent get moved around like he has been.
Moving to the outfield you will see current White Sox star Jermaine Dye. Dye is hitting .297 with 20 home runs and 54 RBI. He would be great in the current Atlanta offense that is starved for power. Another former Brave is Andruw Jones who is currently having a solid season with the Texas Rangers. He is only hitting .250 but has 14 home runs and 34 RBI. Two former outfielders who were acquired by trade and then allowed to move on are Gary Sheffield (.277, 10 HR, 31 RBI) and J.D. Drew (.260, 12 HR, 37 RBI).
When you get to the list of pitchers it can really get ugly for Braves fans. A rotation could consist of Jason Marquis (11-5, 3.61), Kevin Millwood (8-6, 3.34), and Adam Wainwright (9-5, 3.09). Not to mention John Smoltz of the Boston Red Sox. The bullpen could have Joey Devine (0.59, 11 Holds) at the end of games.
Losing players in trades or to free agency is part of baseball. But it’s always nice to wonder, what could have been?
You don’t know what ya got till it’s gone,