No one knew more about pitching.
Mad Dog and Glav were stalwarts in the Atlanta Braves rotation, a potent 1-2 punch for an entire decade on a team that made the playoffs year after year. Now, they have a chance to come together again for the highest honor of their careers — membership in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Maddux and Glavine are both eligible for the first time, with the inductees to be announced today. They hope to join their former manager, Bobby Cox, who was picked for the Hall last month in a separate vote.
“They’re the guys that got me this far, that’s for sure,” Cox said. “I’ve got my fingers crossed for both of them.”
While Maddux is likely a shoe-in, having won 355 games and four Cy Young awards during his career, Glavine might have a tougher time getting in the first time around despite 305 victories.
At some point both should have their names etched at Cooperstown. The only eligible 300-game winner not in the Hall is Roger Clemens, who was passed over in 2012 because of doping allegations and figures to be left off plenty of ballots this year, as well.
Maddux and Glavine never had Clemens’ type of dominating stuff. Instead, they relied on pinpoint control and changing speeds to keep hitters off balance.
Laid back and always up for a vulgar joke away from the field, Maddux was a fierce competitor — hence, the nickname — who would often scream obscenities when a pitch didn’t go exactly where he wanted. He approached his craft like an artist, aware that a subtle stroke could wind up being the mark of genius.
Maddux spent untold hours working on his mechanics in the bullpen, constantly seeking the perfect windup, the perfect delivery, the perfect follow-through.
“If you do everything mechanically correct, it’s impossible for the ball not to go where you want it,” he once said. “It really is. It’s just like a golf swing. If you make the absolute perfect golf swing, the ball is going to go where you’re aiming it. Pitching is no different.”
Maddux won four straight NL Cy Young awards from 1992-95 — Randy Johnson is the only other pitcher to capture four in a row — and produced two of the greatest years ever at the end of that run.
During the strike-shortened 1994 season, Maddux went 16-6 with a career-best 1.56 ERA, which is even more impressive compared to the cumulative NL ERA of 4.21 (the 2.65 differential was the highest ever recorded). The following year he led the Braves to a World Series championship by going 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA even while hitters continued to put up inflated offensive stats (the NL had a 4.18 cumulative ERA) during the Steroids Era.
That gives the right-hander two of the five lowest full-season ERAs since baseball went to the live ball in 1920.
“How good was he?” Cox said when the Braves were retiring Maddux’s number is 2009. “Was he the best pitcher I ever saw? Was he the smartest pitcher I ever saw? Was he the best competitor I ever saw? Was he the best teammate I ever saw? The answer is yes to all the above.”
Glavine didn’t put up numbers quite that impressive, but he was a two-time Cy Young winner who will forever be remembered in Atlanta for pitching one-hit ball over eight innings to beat Cleveland in decisive Game 6 of the ’95 World Series. He was MVP of what would be the Braves’ lone Series triumph during an unprecedented run of 14 straight division titles.
Unlike Maddux, Glavine was downright icy on the mound. The left-hander never showed any signs of being rattled.
“He was always the same guy every day, every pitch,” said Eddie Perez, who caught Glavine for years and is now the Braves’ bullpen coach. “That’s what I admired about him.”
Glavine, who had five seasons with at least 20 wins, refused to give in to minor injuries. He didn’t go on the disabled list until his final season in 2008, at age 42.
Maddux and Glavine were part of one of the greatest pitching trios in baseball history, spending much of their time in the same rotation as John Smoltz. He will be eligible for the Hall next year.
“When you talk about Atlanta pitching, there’s always three names you mention,” Maddux said. “There’s never just one.”