Put them in Hall of Fame together!
It'd be fitting if Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine entered Cooperstown in same year
Maddux and Glavine. Glavine and Maddux. It is virtually impossible to say one name without the other, that's how inexorably tied they are to one another in almost every way. And, unlike other great duos, such as Ruth and Gehrig, Mantle and Maris, they can be said in either order as long as they are said together. Indeed.
On the day that the Atlanta Braves won their only World Series with a 1-0 victory over the Indians in Game 6 in 1995 behind Tom Glavine, he and Greg Maddux rode to the ballpark together as they did so many times.
And, if there is any symmetry in baseball, and we know there is, they will be voted into the Hall of Fame together on Jan. 8. Maddux and Glavine pitched next to one another from 1993-2002; in that 10-year span, they won a combined 347 games, the highest total by any teammates during any 10-year period since the Braves' Warren Spahn and Lou Burdette won 363 games from 1954-63. And there for every one of those 347 victories was former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone, who will serve as the narrator of this story of two great pitchers who essentially changed the way that pitchers pitch: Maddux by essentially perfecting fastball command with incredible movement, and Glavine with the use of the changeup.
"It was the greatest experience a pitching coach could ever have," Mazzone said. "They were right-handed and left-handed, but they had a lot of similarities. Tommy was quieter, he was the ice man, he used to say, 'Hitters have an ego. I will take advantage of their egos.' Maddux was much louder. He'd say, 'Late in the game, the hitter has no chance against me.' There will never be another twosome like them. They taught me so much about pitching. I loved the bullpen sessions even more than the games … look, I've got goosebumps talking about those guys. You've got me rocking for the first time in a long time."
Their individual accomplishments, especially Maddux's, are stunning. Maddux is, by any statistical measure, a top 10 pitcher of all time, probably a top six or seven. He won 355 games, eighth most ever. Spahn, who retired after the 1965 season, is the only pitcher to pitch after 1930 and have more wins than Maddux. Maddux won four Cy Young Awards, had five other top-five finishes, won 15 games for a record 17 years in a row, had a career .610 winning percentage, his 3.16 career ERA was almost a run lower than the league average and his 1994-95 seasons were impossibly brilliant. In those two seasons, he went 35-8 with a 1.60 ERA while the league average was 4.20, a gap of 2.60, which is absolutely amazing.
Glavine won 305 games with a .600 winning percentage: He is one of only 14 pitchers to win 300 games with a winning percentage of at least .600. Glavine made 10 All-Star teams, won two Cy Youngs, had four other top-five finishes and won 20 games five times, more times than Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina and John Smoltz combined.
But it is what Glavine and Maddux did together that sets them apart.
"Every year, from the first day of spring training until the last day of the World Series, they changed nothing about their routine," Mazzone said. "They simplified everything, and they were so smart. They were both all about the alignment on the fastball and changing speeds. They both always said that the most important start is the next start, and the most important pitch is the next pitch. They both always believed that you always come back a day early -- not a day late -- for your next start. And they both always threw between starts. That's why they never went on the DL. They always went to the post. Always."
Fittingly, Maddux and Glavine share the major league record for most consecutive seasons -- 20 -- making at least 25 starts.
"The No. 1 thing each had going for each other was beautiful mechanics," Mazzone said. "The other thing they did was throw in between starts. Tommy threw even more than Maddux. Tommy would pitch on Monday, play catch Tuesday, throw a bullpen on Wednesday, throw again on Thursday, take Friday off and pitch on Saturday. They agreed that the only way to create touch on the baseball was to practice that craft in the bullpen. And they learned how to pitch without exerting themselves for a long time, which kept them healthy. Glavine spent his time in the pen working on all his pitches. Maddux spent 80 percent of his time on fastball command. And most of that time, he was throwing down and away to a right-handed hitter. He always said that was the most difficult thing to do, so that's what he worked on the most."
Maddux might be the greatest control pitcher of all time, certainly of his era. He walked 999 batters in his career, an average of 1.80 walks per nine innings.
"I played golf with him once, I hated it, he plays golf just like he pitched, like a robot," said former pitcher Derek Lowe with a laugh. "He said he knew he had 999 walks with four starts to go in his career, and there was no way he was going to walk 1,000 batters. So he didn't walk anyone his last four starts. I wish it was that easy."
Also, think about his: For a three-year period, not one passed ball occurred with Maddux on the mound. By comparison, former pitcher Daniel Cabrera had seven passed balls occur with him on the mound in one season.
"When Maddux came here [Atlanta, 1993], he told me, 'Tell Bobby [Braves manager Bobby Cox] I'm going to lead the league in two-strike hits allowed,'" Mazzone said. "I said, 'Why?' He said, 'That's when the hitter is most vulnerable. I'm not fooling around on 0-2. I'm going after him immediately.' He thought that's what separated mediocrity from greatness."
Glavine pitched differently in that regard.
"Tommy never gave in to any hitter. Ever," Mazzone said. "I saw him pitch around guys in a spring training game. The other thing he taught all of us was to throw his changeup to a left-handed hitter -- really, no one else ever did that -- and to throw his changeup in to a right-handed hitter. I remember once we called an inside changeup to [Jeff] Bagwell [a very dangerous right-handed hitter]. Bobby said to me, 'Leo, are you sure we're doing the right thing here?' And I said, 'Tommy says he can do it.' And Bobby said, 'OK then.' I will never forget the look on Bagwell's face. He nearly fell down trying to hit that pitch."
Cox had complete faith in most of his players, but mostly in Maddux and Glavine.
"We would set up the defense, but Bobby gave those guys the right to change the defense however they like, it was their option," Mazzone said. "Greg was also the greatest fielding pitcher ever, but Tommy was really good, too. Another thing they had in common."
Indeed. Maddux won a record 18 Gold Gloves.
"One night, Maddux gave up a hit to the left of [second baseman] Bret Boone, who was playing too much up the middle," Mazzone said. "After the play, Maddux told Bret, 'I told you, I've got up the middle,'" Mazzone said. "That's how good a fielder Maddux was. He could get to anything."
But one night, Mazzone said, "Greg had men at second and third with two out, and a little blooper went between [left fielder Ryan] Klesko and [shortstop Jeff] Blauser," Mazzone said. "Neither guy could find the ball, but Klesko finally dived for it, and caught it. Maddux came in the dugout after the inning and told me, 'That ball was in the air for seven seconds. Three seconds is a hit, four seconds is a dive, seven seconds is an easy out.' I'd never heard anything like that. I used it on the radio the next day when asked about that play. When the guy asked me how I knew that, I had to say, 'Maddux told me.'"
Maddux and Glavine were so perceptive, they knew their pitch counts as the game wore on.
"Maddux came in after the sixth inning once and said, 'Leo, where am I on the [pitch] counter? 66 pitches, right?'" Mazzone said. "I said, '64.' And he said, 'Well, you missed two.'"
Glavine and Maddux also were always helping the staff, and especially each other.
"Glavine was off target on the rubber in one of his starts, but Greg fixed him," Mazzone said. "That was Greg's big thing: alignment on the rubber to get movement to both sides of the plate. No one has ever had better movement than Greg. He'd say that you have to step directly to where you want the ball to go. He used to say that one inch of alignment on the rubber meant six inches of command at the plate. Same with Tommy."
Maddux and Glavine. Glavine and Maddux. Two premier pitchers, one righty, one lefty, neither one big or opposing, neither overpowering, working together, side by side, for 10 years.
"There'll never be another two like them," Mazzone said. "Those days are gone. Baseball isn't going to let it happen, not in an era where workload and innings pitched are all that matter. It's a shame because it wasn't that long ago that these two taught us all how to pitch."
And it will be a shame if they don't enter Cooperstown together.
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Hall of Famer Ernie Banks died Friday at age 83.