Quietly comes the news that Greg Maddux is officially announcing his retirement at baseball's winter meetings in his hometown of Las Vegas.
At almost 43 years old, that Maddux would be calling it quits is quite expected. What was not expected was just how good Maddux turned out to be after the first game I witnessed him pitch in April of 1987. I was only 10, and since Maddux gave up something like six runs in just two innings, he was obviously terrible. He finished that year 6-14 with a 5.61 ERA.
He turned out to be the greatest of all time.
The next year he was 18-8 with a 3.18 ERA and the rest is history.
And you read me right. I consider him the greatest pitcher in history.
Sure, I'm a Chicago native and Cubs fan, and have about as much bias as one could possibly chalk up. But for my money Maddux is a cut above all the rest.
He had no "money" pitch. He was hard pressed to even hit 90 mph on the gun. He was essentially the average male figure, 6' and 170 lbs. He cut an image on the bench that screamed: huge nerd.
In order to be successful, Maddux had to actually pitch, and actually field his position. He had to out-think the other guy the entire time he was on the mound. He had to work at it.
He did that to the tune of 355 wins over 22 years (he won 13+ games for 20 straight years, a record). From 1992-95 he won four straight Cy Young awards. Despite being "not a strikeout pitcher," Maddux is 10th all-time in strikeouts. This year, at 42, he scored his 18th Gold Glove award for being exceptional at fielding his position (most in history).
Over two seasons, 94-95, he was 35-8 with a 1.59 ERA, with only 54 walks in 412 innings. In 1997 he gave up only 20 walks in 232 innings. Think about that. Tiger Woods level.
But the statistics don't tell the whole story. Greg Maddux, above all statistics, was an artist. He was the most highly evolved pitcher ever. He played a cerebral game with hitters, able to throw with such precision that his velocity didn't matter. It was not throwing, it was a complex craft that he mastered. He was at the high genius level, and possessed something that we might not see again for years.
And you never heard a peep out of him. No issues. No ego. No suspensions. He didn't miss a start. The guy just showed up and pitched when asked.
The American sports world needs another Greg Maddux.