Wednesday, December 10, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different...

I'm going to take a brief break from hockey for a baseball post. While I was doing laundry at the laundromat today - did you know when you own a house and an appliance breaks no one pops over to fix it for you?! - I saw a scroll on the bottom of the TV screen that said Greg Maddux had announced his retirement today. In true Greg Maddux fashion, I had to dig around to find a halfway decent story about it on the internet. Low key and underrated to the end. Here's something I wrote about Greg on my very first blog back when he won his 300th game. Some of the details within are different now but the sentiment remains the same.

Dear Greg,

Thanks.

Thanks for being the kind of player who I could love even when I really, really hated the team you played most of your career with. The Braves handed my team, the Pirates, the most crushing loss of my life as a fan, and at the end of the day, I still really liked you.

Thanks for wanting to win and being super competitive without throwing bats at people and storming around the field like a madman. You've always done your talking with your arm and glove and not with your mouth. In some circles, that's pretty rare today.

Thanks for embracing the role the of The Professor, something most most athletes would hate. Thanks for wearing your glasses when you're not pitching. Hey, it's a small thing, but this bespectacled girl thought it was cool (and still does).

Thanks for being friends with the pitching staff that you pitched 10+ years with. I don't expect every athlete to be bestest friends with their teammates, but it is awfully nice when it does happen. Can I come golfing with you, Tom, and John some time?

Thanks for not really caring that people tend to overappreciate Roger Clemens and underappreciate you. Roger's heat is more attention-grabbing than your pinpoint control and pitch variation, but I don't think you care. Most people say they would take Roger as a starter over you, but I don't think you care about that either. When Roger got win number 300 we had weeks of countdowns, constant media coverage, and story after story in magazine after magazine. When you got close to 300 we didn't get much at all. When you GOT 300 you STILL didn't get much at all. But I don't think you care because in the end, your team got the win that day.

Thanks for being so great for so long. Sure, some of that is beyond your control - you've only been on the DL ONCE in your career! But here's a couple fun facts that you might not even know. Not one player who played in your first win (Sept. 7, 1986) is still playing. None of the other 12 winning pitchers that day is still pitching. You've had sixteen (!) 15 win seasons. For nine straight seasons you had a walk ratio lower than 2 per nine innings. Amazing.

Thanks for not coming out to tip your hat after your 300th win because it wasn't your home ballpark and you didn't think it was respectful to the other team's fans. I don't know that they really would've had a problem with it, Greg, but most athletes wouldn't have been able to see that moment as anything but theirs so you definitely get points for thinking beyond yourself.

And most of all - probably above all else - thanks for just being a good guy. I've never had to read a story about your sexual escapades, your adventures with drugs and alcohol, your anger management problems, or your cancerous attitude in the clubhouse. Your coaches seem to like you, and your teammates seem to like you even more. You've always gone out to the mound, thrown the ball, and then gone home and I love you for it.

Thanks,
Heather


Now that Roger Clemens is buried in a pile of steroid allegations, I think Greg Maddux is hands-down the best starter of his generation. You can disagree but you'll be wrong.

8 comments:

Lee Andrew said...

355 wins. Sadly there may never be another pitcher reach that many wins. If the best pitcher in baseball, Johan Santana, played until he was 42 like Maddux then he'll need 19 wins every season to get to 355.

I like this taking a break from hockey. You should do it once a week. Net week: Dissecting the Mets signing K-Rod.

Porky said...

When I was young enough to have baseball posters on my bedroom wall it was Clemens, Ryan and Gooden. When I got older and discovered there was an art to pitching, Maddux was and still is my guy. Even if I hated the Braves, too.

Vanek's Hair said...

I have to respectfully disagree that Greg Maddux was the best pitcher of his generation. He was not the best pitcher in his Braves rotation in the 90s. John Smoltz was a better pitcher. He started, he closed and he was much better in the playoffs than Maddux. Maddux is a sure fire Hall of Famer, but if I needed one win, I would take four or five other pitchers from his generation over him. Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Josh Beckett. In that order.

As for K-Rod, should it give pause to the Mets that no other team, including the one for whom he played the past 6 or 7 seasons was bidding on him? They got him at a great price though.

Lee Andrew said...

Maddux gets a bad rap when it comes to being a "big time pitcher". Sure he's not better than Schilling or Smoltz, but he's better than the other guys you named.

Pedro and Randy might have both had a huge clutch performance here and there that is raved about by the media but Maddux quietly did his thing as usual and even though he pitched 100 more postseason innings than either, which makes it harder to maintain good numbers, he had better numbers than both.

Josh Beckett will be in the same boat eventually, Becket has better numbers only because he has played 100 less innings, his numbers could easily be worse than Maddux's a year from now.

Smoltz and Schilling are better big time pitchers but fall way short of Maddux in the regular season. Smoltz was a great pitcher but that wasn't why he became a closer. He was made a closer because he was so INJURED he couldn't continue as a starting pitcher. He was given an easier role than Maddux. Maddux was easily better in the regular season and their playoff numbers are closer than people think.

Heather B. said...

Lee, that's exactly what I was going to say!

Vanek's Hair, a few things:

I did say Maddux was the best STARTER so I don't think you can use the fact that Smoltz (whom I also adore) relieved for part of his career against Maddux. For the record, I'm also pretty firmly in the "closers/saves are highly overrated" camp so I'm even less likely to be persuaded by that.

I was also taking the longview, looking at careers in entirety. If I was drafting a pitcher who was going to play for my team his entire career and I could choose the career of Schilling, Martinez, Johnson, Beckett or Maddux, I'd take Maddux. He was very good for a heckuva a long time, more consistent and less prone to injury than all of the above guys.

That said, for one must-win game I'd still take Maddux even though I don't have any fancy stats to back that preference up. I don't think you can ever go wrong with the smart guy. If his stuff is off or if the other team is catching up to this speed, he's more likely to be able to find another way to win. Plus I just like him more than those other guys :P

Heather B. said...

Because I know you're all curious, my dream scenario is for John Smoltz to retire now too so he and Maddux can go in the Hall of Fame together. Glavine can tag along if he wants but I'm not as attached to him.

Lee, your bullpen certainly needs help but as I said before, I'm a little leery of the idea that a big closer makes A HUGE DIFFERENCE. Seems like you guys might need a guy or two who can go a couple of innings in the middle of the game. What do you think?

Jonathan said...

As a rule, I go with the person who's better at baseball over the guy who's supposed to be clutch. Playoffs give you such a small sample size (especially for an unpredicatable game like baseball). What a lot of people say is clutch, I suspect is mostly statistical aberration. Look at Beckett. He was the prototypical clutch starter, a reputation he earned basically because of two playoff seasons. This year, he stunk up the place. It happens.

Schilling has a reputation as a big game pitcher, but he didn't last nearly as long as Maddux. Schill might not even get into the Hall of Fame. It's debatable.

Perdo is close. But Beckett? Not going to last nearly as long. Randy Johnson? Eh...all hype about how hard he can throw and "LOLOLLLL HE IS SO TALLL."

Smoltz spent too much time as a closer to be considered a better starter. Better pitcher? Arguable. Better starter? Nah.

Keep in mind, Maddux spent almost his entire career at Chicago or Atlanta. Those home parks aren't exactly build to keep balls in the yard. 3.16 ERA? 1.143 WHIP? For twenty-three years? Unreal. 355 wins? Unbreakable record in the current era of 6 innings-setup guy-setup guy-closer.

Maddux's postseason ERA is 3.27, by they way, with a record of 11-12. World Series: 1-2 record with a 2.09 ERA. So if he didn't win in the postseason, it sure wasn't his fault. Sorta like Roberto Luongo.

Mr. Greg Maddux > everybody else.

Jonathan said...

Postseason stats:
Player/W-L/ERA/IP

Maddux/11-12/3.27/198
Smoltz/12-12/2.65/207
Beckett/7-1/2.90/87
Schilling/10-2/2.23/133
Johnson/3-7/3.50/121
Pedro/5-3/3.40/79