More than likely, Maddux will be last 300-game winner
Posted: Friday July 30, 2004 1:17PM; Updated: Friday July 30, 2004 1:17PM
Greg Maddux needs one more victory for No. 300.
Some day, a young, talented rubber arm with a bulldog demeanor, an eye for history and a knack for going deep into ballgames might come along and build a solid career over a couple of decades and approach 300 wins.
But don't count on it.
When the Cubs' Greg Maddux wins his next game -- which might be in his next start, Sunday against the Phillies -- that's probably going to be it. When Maddux wins his next game, whenever that is, in all likelihood you're looking at the last 300-game winner.
All right, all right. Hold on for a sec. So there might be one more in the next few years. One. But that's it. And that's just a maybe.
For a guaranteed 300 wins, Maddux is The Last Sure Thing.
"I think it's just getting to be an increasingly difficult thing to do in the day and age we're in now," said the Mets' Tom Glavine, the only other pitcher on the radar that has a chance at 300. "More than anything else now, I think it's just the offensive explosion. It's so hard to stay in there and win games."
Maddux, 38, will become the 22nd pitcher to win 300 games, and it's not hard to see why he's looking like the last of the breed. Glavine has 259 career wins, but he turns 39 next March, and the list of players who have won 40 games after they were 39 is not a long one. (Since 1968, we're talking Phil Niekro, Charlie Hough, Nolan Ryan, Gaylord Perry, Tommy John, Don Sutton, Joe Niekro and Jerry Koosman.)
Next on the list of career wins among active players, after Glavine, it's soon-to-be 41-year-old Randy Johnson with 240 wins. The Big Unit and his bad knee would have to pitch well into his mid-40s to have a chance at 300. New York's Mike Mussina, 35, has 208 career wins. Pedro Martinez, 32, has 177. They have outside chances, too, if they pitch into their mid-40s and have at least, say, 13 wins a season every year.
And there are a bunch of good, younger pitchers who could someday make a run at 300. Among them are C.C. Sabathia, 24, who has 50 wins; Barry Zito, 26, at 67; Mark Mulder, 26, with 78; Freddy Garcia, 27, at 80; and Tim Hudson, 29, with 87.
The problem for these guys is that the game is changing, and it's not becoming easier for pitchers. Every team in the majors goes with five-man rotations now, so there are fewer chances to win. Relievers have become such a huge part of the game, so it's less likely a pitcher will be around in the late innings to earn a decision.
And, of course, there are the big bats and small ballparks that Glavine talks about. It's hard to win when the other guys are constantly running around the bases.
There's more to winning 300 games than just getting past those obstacles, too. Winning 300 means consistency and longevity. It's not just winning games. It's winning year after year after year. And not just for 10 or 15 years, either. And not just 10 wins a year.
Maddux, for instance, has won at least 15 games a year for each of the past 16 seasons, starting in 1988. He has won 20 games in a season twice and has won 19 games five times. It is a stretch of consistency unparalleled in baseball history.
Are today's younger pitchers capable of doing something like that?
"You have to recognize that you have a chance to have a special place in baseball history, so you're going about it for more than just the moment or the money or the stats or the attention. I think that will be the key for some of these really terrific young pitchers," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "You have to be really good, and at some point you have to dedicate yourself to your place in baseball history."
So much has to go right to win 300 games. It helps to be on a winning team. (Maddux was on 10 consecutive division winners with the Braves.) A pitcher has to make his starts. (Maddux has made at least 33 starts in every full season since 1988.) A 300-game winner has to stay relatively healthy. (Maddux has been on the disabled list just once in his career.)
Even all of that may not be enough. It will take a different kind of pitcher to win 300 games from now on. Maddux, in a lot of ways, is that different kind. He's a thinking man's pitcher, one who uses psychology and guile and combines that with pinpoint precision. He's not a big strikeout pitcher. He never has been.
And that's helped, too.
"You're looking at a game of more and more power pitchers, and quite honestly, you got to figure those guys are more susceptible to getting hurt," Glavine said. "It'll be interesting to see how many of those guys are able to pitch long enough to even come close to having a chance to do it."
Maddux, a four-time Cy Young Award winner, will cinch his Hall of Fame credentials with his next win, joining Roger Clemens as the only active 300-game winners.
It's hard to see anybody in baseball these days topping that.
I am wondering why you, John Donovan, and the rest of your counterparts in the baseball world have such a hard time admitting that you don't know everything. The fact of the matter is that you and the rest of the so-called experts wrote off the Braves. I heard nothing but praise for the Phillies, Marlins and Mets. And yet, look who's at the top of the NL East. I agree that maybe you couldn't have seen this coming. But it would be nice to hear the experts admit that they made or a mistake or God forbid, don't know everything. -- Karen Jeffrey, Essex, Vt.
Oh, all right, Karen. I don't know everything. OK? I admit it. Some days, in fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that I don't know anything at all. And you know what else? It looks like I made a mistake in saying the Braves didn't have the stuff to win the NL East this year. I, for one, did not see J.D. Drew having the best and healthiest season of his life, and I did not see Johnny Estrada hitting so well with runners in scoring position, and I did not see Mike Hampton and Jaret Wright suddenly (and inexplicably, to my mind) having the stretch they're having and I did not see the terrible problems the Phillies are having with runners in scoring position and I didn't foresee the Marlins struggling like they are, etc. Yeah, the Braves are a surprise to me. I'm evidently a dope. There.
I got another note from Steven from Las Vegas, too, which very politely listed his reasons for thinking that the Braves would win the East, and then chided me again for missing some things that he said should be obvious. We could trade statistics back and forth and argue about potential and past success and barometers for future success and how injuries have affected the Braves and their NL East rivals, but that'd get a little tiresome. "Bottom line, is, when it comes to making predictions sportswriters are grossly incompetent. In addition, there is an inexplicable hatred concerning the Braves which contributes to a clouding of the picture," Steven writes. "How many years since 1991 have you predicted them to finish out of first?"
Well, Steven, my predictions don't go that far back. And I don't make them every year. But I'm sure I've picked the Braves a few times. As far as a hatred of the Braves, that's nonsense. Believe me, people who make preseason picks hate being wrong a lot more than they might hate a team. As for me, I live outside of Atlanta and I go to tons of Braves games. It's a lot easier dealing with everyone there when things are going good. P.S. I'm not taking anything personally.
Last point on the Braves: If they keep playing like this, I'll eat some more public crow for you all sometime in August.
Now back to the regularly scheduled E-Bag ...
Am I the only one who is turned off by Randy Johnson's attitude in connection with his trade? 1) He yells at the media to stop asking him questions about a potential trade; 2) He jokes about clam chowder; 3) He yells again about not wanting to discuss a trade; 4) He (apparently) demands a trade only to a contender; 5) He (apparently) demands a trade four days early; 6) He (apparently) demands a trade only to The Contender (the Yankees); 7) He refuses to go to the Dodgers, a team in first place by 3 1/2 games. I understand wanting to win, but isn't this a touch arrogant? -- Jason Jarvis, Mansfield, Ohio
I know. Lots of readers are ticked off at how the Unit is handling this. I'm willing to let him slide a little bit just because he's in a sticky situation. But if you put the restrictions on a trade that Johnson has put on this one (apparently) -- one place, and one place only, and soon -- I sure don't want to hear any griping if the deal doesn't come off.
I may be biased, living in the Houston area, but how can you so adamantly claim that the Astros should trade off talent because they are out of the race? It would be foolish of Gerry Hunsinker to let Carlos Beltran get away. The Astros are in a serious situation with Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio coming to the end of their careers. I, for one would rather see them reload, not rebuild, around Lance Berkman, Beltran, Adam Everett and the younger starting pitchers (Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller), maybe even trade off Jeff Kent so they can continue to be competitive. -- Daniel Long, Pearland, Texas
Daniel, all I'm saying is that if the Astros haven't done anything yet this year, it's hard seeing them doing anything the rest of it. As for next season, there's a good chance they won't be able to afford Beltran -- few teams can -- so why not see what he can bring in a trade now? And if the Astros could trade off Kent, I'd be in favor or that, too. Whether you call it reloading or rebuilding, the Astros are in for a transition. The good news is, they have talent in the minors. If they're going anywhere, they won't be gone long.
With so many other teams hosting the Al-Star Game numerous times the question needs to be asked: When will the Yankees host an All-Star Game? I know they are trying to get attendance up for other stadiums and showcase the new ones, but it's about time to go back to the older stadiums that have true baseball character. If Boston did it why can't New York? -- B. T., New York
Comments, questions or obviously unfounded criticism? To e-mail Donovan, use the form below.
Too many others in line, that's all. Bud Selig already has said that he may throw out the longstanding policy of alternating the Game between leagues every year. That, to me, is a warning that San Francisco, Cincinnati, Arizona, Philadelphia and San Diego (all NL teams with relatively new parks) are up for a Game sometime in the next 10 years. Throw in a new park in St. Louis at the end of the line, too. When Selig wants to mix in the American League, a refurbished Anaheim has to be considered. It's true, Yankee Stadium hasn't had a Game since '77. But there are other teams that have waited longer than that.
The Twins lost their best two relievers, Shannon Stewart has been injured, and their best hitters are the rookies (Joe Mauer, Lew Ford, Justin Morneau), yet they still sit atop the AL Central. How come nobody's talking about the great job Ron Gardenhire is doing this year? -- Scott Klein, Bellevue, Neb.
Gardenhire is doing an awesome job. His guys play for him, and even when there's friction (as there was recently when he pulled Kyle Lohse after five innings), it's handled. Of course, when the White Sox lose Magglio Ordonez and Frank Thomas for the year, that doesn't hurt the Twins, either.
Everyone always says that the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is the best in baseball, and I don't doubt that it's pretty intense. But how do you think the Cardinals-Cubs rivalry compares to it? I've been to a lot of Cards-Cubs games and the only thing different between the two is that fights never break out in the stands. -- Ryan, Mt. Carmel, Ill.
You know what I love about the recent Cubs-Cards series? Dusty Baker and Tony La Russa. Remember when they almost got it on in the first game of the National League Championship Series in 2002, when Baker was managing the Giants? Those guys don't back down, and when their teams get together, they don't back down, either. I don't think the Cubs-Cards series matches up, historically, with Yanks-Red Sox. But, right now, as anyone who saw any of that recent series in Wrigley Field knows, Cubs-Cards is hard to beat.
What's up with all this talk about the NL? I mean, come on! The Sox and the Yanks play three of the best games of the year and all I see are questions related to the National League!?! Ugh! I'm dying out here in Europe (Sweden) and all I get is moaning about the Braves (yawn) or Arizona (double yawn). Give me the scoop on the AL East, thank you kindly! -- Michael, Boston
Michael, Michael, Michael. You may be the only guy who's ever complained that we don't do enough on the Yankees and Red Sox. Everybody else says we ride them to death.
What do you think of A-Rod's reaction to being hit by Bronson Arroyo? I think most people would agree that it's obvious it was an accident (Arroyo is no stranger to hitting batsmen accidentally). Was that really necessary of A-Rod to mouth off like that and incite a brawl? -- Jeff, Boston
It was totally unnecessary. A-Rod lost his cool. You didn't have to be an expert lip-reader to see how heated he was. But, you know, it was fun to see a guy who's normally so under control go wacko. Though I wouldn't have wanted my son to see it.
Jason Varitek takes on Alex Rodriguez in a scuffle and leaves his mask on. That goes a long way toward understanding why the Boston Red Sox haven't won the Series in over 85 years. What a wuss. -- Tim Soliz, Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
Wuss or smart?
When are you going to finally admit you stuck your foot in your mouth in giving the Cardinals no respect? -- Jason, St. Louis
Everybody wants a pound of flesh, huh? It's not that I didn't respect them, Jason. It's just that I thought the Cubs and Astros would be better. It's been a bad prediction year for me, evidently.
It drives me crazy that when discussing all-time greats, people rip Barry Bonds as being poor defensively. I admit he isn't the quickest guy in the field today, but he has won eight Gold Gloves in his career. Most players don't ever win a Gold Glove. How can anyone argue that he hasn't had a great defensive career? -- Michael Hrynuik, New York City
Good point, Michael. Better to have been great once (or eight times) than never to have been great at all. Bonds bashers, take note.