Any credibility the Astros and Royals organizations had — and I’m not sure they had any — vanished Saturday night when they dispatched scouts to watch a 50-year-old cheater pitch to the likes of Joey Gathright and guys who will never be half as good as Chris Woodward.
Likewise, any scribe who doesn’t treat Clemens‘ return as a cynical attempt to get into Cooperstown (an appearance in the majors means he’ll have to wait five more years before he can be considered) should lose their press credentials.
This much we know: Greg Maddux won’t embarrass himself to win respect. His was earned, and it won’t ever be lost.
There’s no debating he’s the best pitcher of his generation. Those who tell you otherwise should be forced to watch NFL exhibition games on a continuous loop.
Maddux has had as many dominant seasons as Clemens, finishing with an ERA under 3.00 nine times. Granted, Clemens did it 12 times, but in two other years Maddux finished with ERA’s of 3.00 and 3.05. And no pitcher in modern history (a bold statement, but consider the era) matched Maddux’s 1995 campaign: 19-2 with a 1.56 ERA and an 0.811 WHIP. He had more strikeouts (181) than hits and walks combined en route to his fourth consecutive Cy Young.
Mad Dog was more durable, totaling 200 innings or more 18 times, three more than Clemens. Add three more innings over two seasons and Maddux would have 20 seasons of 200 or more IP. My favorite Maddux stat? From July 31, 1993, through August 4, 1995, a two-year period, Mad Dog had 56 quality starts in 57 games pitched.
And Maddux was better in October, with a 3.27 ERA, compared to 3.75 for Clemens. His first Fall Classic appearance might have been his best; the fearsome Indians (with Manny Ramirez hitting seventh) managed to get but FOUR balls out of the infield in Game 1 of the ’95 Series. Time of game: 2:37.
Maddux’s final victory gave him one more win than Clemens. It came, as a Dodger, against the rival Giants and it was vintage Mad Dog, albeit an abbreviated version.
In six innings, Maddux threw only 47 pitches, 38 of which were strikes. He walked no one and allowed only two hits.
His last appearance came in a mop-up role in the playoffs versus Philly. Imagine Clemens saying this:
“It was a privilege,” he said. “I felt privileged to do it. I was glad I had a chance to pitch.”
No pitcher will ever match Maddux’s best seasons in Atlanta. Mad Dog topped 200 innings in both ’94 and ’95, when labor issues cost him probably a dozen or more starts combined.
He finished both seasons with 10 complete games and three shutouts, with WHIP’s of .896 and .811. His respective ERA’s (1.56 and 1.63) were more than 2.5 runs lower than the league averages.
Put it this way: Maddux was nearly three times better than the average pitcher was in ’94 and ’95 — the heart of the live ball era.
And he didn’t have to cheat to do it.
Some will claim that Clemens, like Barry Bonds, would’ve been a HOF’er had he not juiced. Not so.
Take a look at the Rocket’s final two seasons in Boston:
(’95) 10-5, 4.18 ERA, 1.436 WHIP
(’96) 10-13, 3.63 ERA, 1.327 WHIP
In ’93, his ERA was 4.46 and WHIP, 1.263. The Blue Jays signed him in ’97 and, at age 34, Clemens wins 21 games with an ERA of 2.05 and a career-best 292 strikeouts. He won 162 games after leaving Boston, at which point it’s assumed he began juicing. So nearly half his wins deserve an asterisk.
Still not convinced? John Rocker calls Clemens “the greatest pitcher of all time.”