I just learned that Greg Maddux – perhaps the smartest pitcher ever in Major League Baseball – has decided to retire at age 42. As a long-time Atlanta Braves fan, I followed his career closely. Those four Cy Young awards in a row? Amazing. Those 355 career wins (more than any living player)? Just as mind numbing in this age of the specialist. Finishing number 10 on the all-time strikeout list? Now that’s a stat that really does shock me, because I never think of Maddux as a strikeout pitcher. But I do think of him as just the smartest guy on the field at all times.
ESPN’s web site has a great column on Maddux written by Gene Wojciechowski. He includes a wonderful story about Maddux’s smarts:
In 1996, just before Maddux and the Atlanta Braves faced the New York Yankees in the World Series, pitching coach Leo Mazzone met with his starters and relievers and read them the detailed scouting reports. Maddux raised his hand after Mazzone read the report on Yankees slugger Bernie Williams.
“That report is not correct,” Maddux said. “I’ve been watching film of Williams for two weeks, and that report is not correct.”
“Did everybody hear that?” Mazzone said.
The Braves pitchers nodded.
“Well, then the hell with this report,” Mazzone said. “We go with what Mad Dog says.”
Williams hit .167 in the Series.
Thanks for the memories, Mad Dog, and for the great pitching. In this day of histrionics and grandstanders – even in baseball – we’ll miss that competitive yet cerebral approach you brought to the game. And yes, I agree with the fellow who commented on the ESPN column: any sportswriter who doesn’t put Maddux on the first ballot for the Hall of Fame should have their voting privileges revoked.
More to come…