One night last week, over a postgame spread of barbecued chicken, Atlanta Braves pitchers Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz convened for a brotherly discussion—brotherly, that is, in the manner of siblings wedged into the backseat of a station wagon on a long, hot ride.
"You're an idiot," Glavine said to Smoltz.
Smoltz, ever the tinkerer on the mound, had just pitched the ninth inning of a 7-1 win in Philadelphia, during which he had sprinkled in a few two-seam sinking fastballs. "You said you could tell I was throwing it," he said. "You said I was giving it away."
"I said I could see you had a new wrinkle, you dummy," Glavine said.
"That's not what you said," Smoltz said.
"I didn't say you were tipping it," Glavine said. "Leo [Mazzone, the pitching coach] gave me a heads-up. Ninety-five [mph] on the board for the four-seamer, 94 on the two. It looked like the split."
"Well, good," Smoltz said. "If it looked like the split, that's good."
Maddux, between bites, kept laughing from his sideline seat. Among them the three have 679 wins, 92 postseason appearances, seven Cy Young Awards, innumerable rounds of golf (including Pine Valley that morning) and one enduring friendship. What, Smoltz was asked, would he ever do without his two running mates?
"I don't even want to think about that," he said, "but I might find out soon."
Are we there yet? The end of the road could be coming for this band of brothers after 10 years. Glavine and Maddux are eligible for free agency next month, and the Braves might decide that they can't afford to re-sign both.