My Favorite Pitcher Of All-Time Says Goodbye
In the last day or two, an announcement came over the baseball wires that Greg Maddux announced his retirement after 23 years in major league baseball. I was quite saddened to hear this, as I consider Mad Dog (a nickname that totally belies Maddux’s personality) to be the greatest pitcher of our generation. Before my reminisces start, let’s just take a quick look at the stats…
355 wins, 227 losses, 109 complete games, 35 shutouts, 5,000 innings pitched, 3,371 strikeouts, 999 walks, 3.16 ERA, 4 consecutive Cy Young awards (1992-1995).
Though I once considered Roger Clemens to be the greatest pitcher of the modern era, his steroid taintings have dropped him off my list. Those stats that Maddux posted, most of them in the middle of the “Steroid Era” (roughly 1988-2005), are incredible and would even compare favorably to many pitchers in the dead-ball era, when getting batters out was a relatively simple task.
I first became “acquainted” with Maddux during the mid-1990s, when I actually despised the Atlanta Braves, as they were a large-payroll team (at least back then under Ted Turner) in the same mold as the New York Yankees. In fact, I always rooted against Maddux (my hero was Kevin Brown, his arch-enemy many a time) and for any team (most likely the Mets) that could beat him. However, I was usually disappointed, as Maddux was ALWAYS on top of his game in postseason games. Then, as my Twins began to rise in the standings (funny how attitudes soften towards winning teams when your favorite team is one of them?!), I looked at Maddux in a completely different light…not as a tormentor but as the absolutely dominating pitcher he was.
What really made Maddux so great was the movement of his pitches and his pin-point location. He never really had a great (+ 90 mph) heater, but that ball seemed to twirl and dive like no others. Combine that with his excellent collection of breaking balls (namely the changeup) and his diligent studying of opposing batters and Maddux was nearly impossible to have any kind of steady success against. Even in his last few seasons, Maddux was still perplexing opposing batters who had been facing him for a century or more!
So, it really saddens me to see Maddux retire. I always got excited watching him pitch, as not only was his mastery of his craft a sight to behold, but I also felt like I was watching history in the making, kind of like going to a long-forgotten era of baseball where pitchers dominated batters. Years from now, it will be an honor to say that I got to see Greg Maddux pitch.