Baseball is boring. Who in their right mind would want to spend three hours watching nine guys stand around spitting sunflower seeds on a dirt diamond? With any luck, an exciting play will happen once or twice a game.
I tend to disagree, but if you’re someone who shares these opinions, it might have something to do with the style of pitching perfected by two Atlanta Braves during the 1990s and early-2000s. Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine dominated hitters during this era by showcasing a combination of impeccable control, incredible endurance and an unrelenting mental tenacity that we might never see again in Major League Baseball.
Alongside former White Sox slugger Frank Thomas, Glavine and Maddux were elected into the MLB Hall of Fame Wednesday. Maddux’s ballot percentage of 97.2 (555 votes out of 571) is the eighth-highest ratio ever earned from the annual voting done by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. There has never been a unanimous Hall of Famer, but I believe Maddux should have been the first.
Maddux was the first pitcher in major league history to win the Cy Young Award four straight years. He is the only pitcher with at least 15 wins in 17 consecutive seasons. He holds the record for most Gold Gloves, the award given to the best fielder at a position, with 18. He amassed 355 wins, 3,371 strikeouts, and a total Earned Run Average of 3.16 during his career.
I could list jaw-dropping numbers about Maddux until the sun sets in the East and rises again in the West, but that still wouldn’t do “The Professor” justice. The beauty of his game cannot be conveyed through statistics. To put it simply, Greg Maddux knew more about pitching than any human being should know about anything.
Fans christened Maddux with the nickname “Mad Dog” because of his mental toughness, and the fact that he never gave up anything to the hitter. He had the lowest ratio of walks per nine innings of all pitchers in nine different seasons. His calm, repetitive throwing technique allowed him to avoid serious injuries to his arm — an arm that led the National League in innings pitched for five consecutive years starting in 1991.
Maddux also had the best memory of any athlete I have ever seen. He was a true student of the game, and would spend hours before the game studying the hitters he was about to face. On the mound, he could recall the weak spots, tendencies and prior appearances of each individual batter, all the way down to how they reacted in specific pitch counts.
His genius was only matched by his accuracy. Maddux clipped the corner of the strike zone effortlessly with beautiful curveballs and kept hitters confused with a stream of fastballs and changeups in patterns only he could understand. He forced hitters into awkward swings that would mostly result in a bubbling grounder or a weak fly ball.
Greg Maddux was the greatest pitcher of our time, but he was probably a bad artist. If you gave him an empty canvas, he would stand there painting corners all day.