This Sunday Greg Maddux, along with other Atlanta Braves legends Tom Glavine and Bobby Cox, will be inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Maddux was in his prime during my formative years as a baseball fan, so naturally I have fondness for him deep in my Braves-loving heart. He was also famous for his locker room hijinks, but to Braves fans, he was just the best pitcher we have ever seen. I cherish the times as a young fan that I got to see him work his magic up close and personal. Every fifth day at 7:05 on TBS it was time to watch Maddux put on a show. He looked like a school teacher, acted like a school kid, and pitched like a hall of famer. Maddux was an artist as much as he was an athlete. It was amazing to watch him painting the corners, changing speeds, and fooling hitters with movement. His style represents a lost era when pitchers did not have to throw in the mid-90s to dominate. It is not hyperbole to say they don’t make them like Maddux anymore.
His career statistics are overwhelming. Maddux finished his 23-year career with 355 wins, a 3.16 ERA, 109 complete games, 35 shutouts, and 3371 strikeouts. His name is near the top of the leaderboard in several of these categories, and he has the 8th most bWAR by a pitcher of all-time. Needless to say Maddux was one of the best pitchers in the history of baseball, and arguably the best of his era.
One of the stats that amazes me most about Maddux are those 109 complete games. Baseball has become so specialized that pitchers seem to rarely go that deep into games anymore. His legendary complete game efforts have even given birth to a new term among baseball writers. When it appears that a pitcher will throw a complete game shutout in under 100 pitches Grantland’s Jonah Keri will often issue a “Maddux alert” on Twitter. “Maddux’s” have become like a rare nearly extinct bird since his retirement.
Maddux will be going into the Hall with a blank cap due to the impact he made on several teams, but it is my (extremely biased) belief that he should be going into it as an Atlanta Brave. Though he also spent a large quantity of time with the Chicago Cubs the prime of his career was spent in Atlanta. In 11 years as a Brave, Maddux started 363 games, went 194-88 with a 2.63 ERA, 2526.2 innings pitched, and 61 complete games. In 1995 he also won the only World Series of his career with the Braves. Compare that to 302 games with the Cubs, a 133-112 record, a 3.61 ERA, and only 2016 innings pitched. Also, for those of you who do not hate WAR, Maddux was worth 66 wins with the Braves, and 33.8 with the Cubs, according to Baseball Reference.
It may seem silly to quibble over what kind of hat a player should be wearing on a plaque, but the portion of his career that made Greg Maddux a Hall of Fame caliber player was obviously the time he spent in Atlanta. He signed off on the blank cap (an excellent decision on the public relations front) so I won’t complain too much about it.
I am entering adulthood now and all that comes with it. I still love baseball as much as I did when I was a kid, but it does not have the same magic it did when I was seven. In my mind Greg Maddux will always represent a time when baseball was magic, and the players were superheroes. I’m sure many other Braves fans can echo that sentiment. On behalf of all of us, thanks for the memories Greg.