Monday, December 8, 2008

Maddux The Great

One of the greatest pitchers of any generation officially hung up his spikes today, as Greg Maddux retired from baseball. It's hard to believe that anyone with the mustache displayed on this card would end up among the all-time leaders various categories, but it's true:

Starts: 740 (4th all-time, behind only Cy Young, and two other men featured later in this set review)

Innings: 5,008.1 (13th)

Wins: 355 (8th; no one alive has more)

Strikeouts: 3,371 (10th)

The numbers are simply mind-boggling. Starting in the year after this set was introduced, Maddux started a 17-year strike of winning 15 games or more. He won 4 Cy Young Awards, and probably could have won more. He led the league in adjusted ERA+ 5 times, and finished 2nd three other times. Only Lefty Grove had more 150 ERA+ seasons than the 9 by Maddux. Unbelievable.

Maddux helped the Dodgers as a late-season acquisition in two of the final three years of his wonderful career. In 2006, Maddux played a much more pivotal role than 2008 (he was relegated to bullpen duty in the playoffs this year), going 6-3 with a 136 ERA+ down the stretch. His Dodger career was highlighted by two amazing games:

1) In his first start as a Dodger, Maddux took the ball in the rain in Cincinnati, and pitched beautifully for 6 innings, allowing no hits. He actually walked 3, a shocking figure for the control expert. A long rain delay ended Maddux's night, but it was a great "welcome to the club" moment. This was game 6 of an 11-game winning streak for the club, which started a 17-1 stretch for the Dodgers.

2) Only 10 days later, Maddux hooked up with soon-to-be-Dodger-albatross Jason Schmidt on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, and the two were locked in an amazing pitching duel. Maddux pitched only 8 innings (in the latter stages of his career, Maddux seemed to know when he was physically done, and would take himself out even with low pitch counts), but what an 8 innings they were! Maddux, ever the efficient master, threw only 68 pitches (50 for strikes). After allowing two singles to the first 3 batters of the game, Maddux retired the final 22 batters he faced. The Dodgers would later win on a walk-off HR by then-rookie Russell Martin

Even when he wasn't a Dodger, I loved watching Maddux pitch. He was, simply, a master of his craft. Joe Posnanski, one of the finest sportswriters around, recently reminisced about his favorite Maddux game, and Posnanski found a way to make a pitch-by-pitch analysis of an 11-year old game exciting.

Thanks for everything, Mr. Maddux.

On to the count...

The Set: 14 of 660 (2.1%)

HOF: 4 (+1 with Maddux -- major foreshadowing here)

Former Dodgers: 2 (none)

Future Dodgers: 4 (+1 with Maddux)


Anonymous said...

nice job

lar said...

Nice post, Eric. Maddux was a truly great player, even as a Dodger (of course, a different kind of great from his mid-90s heyday).

And that 1987 Donruss card is priceless (for it's photo, I mean). I can imagine getting that Rated Rookie back in '87 and thinking "Really? that's a pretty funny looking mustache for a Rated Rookie." I was 7, though, so the thought may have been a little less sophisticated than that.

I wrote a similar piece on Maddux last week, but, instead of looking at old baseball cards, I looked through some old annual season preview magazines. (

I'll keep an eye on the blog. That '87 Donruss set was good looking, and it was just a good year for baseball cards anyway (good looking cards, exciting players).


Steve said...

I'm surprised this Maddux rookie didn't make this list:
10 Most Memorable 80s Baseball Cards