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On Mad Dog’s curious decision to go no logo

I’ll never criticize Mad Dog. It’s surprising he chose not to be inducted as Brave, for whom he toiled 11 years. But he was a Cub for 10 years, so let’s not minimize his attachment to the team that drafted him.

And it was the Cubs, not the Braves, who hired Mad Dog as a special adviser after his career was over. The Braves didn’t seem interested in tapping a baseball mind second to none. Could that have played a role in his decision?

Maybe. As we’ve seen with Glavine and Smoltz, the current regime has a habit of pissing off the franchise’s greatest stars.

In other news today the Brewers signed Matt Garza and the Rays brought Grant Balfour back to Tampa. And the Gavin Floyd signing looks less inspired by the day.

Will this shitty winter ever end?

glavine_maddux_hof

Maddux and Glavine, in bullets

  • Even though strikeouts were not his bread and butter, Maddux had more K’s (181) in 1995  than hits and walks combined en route to his fourth consecutive Cy Young.
  • Mad Dog didn’t make it past the 4th inning in 2 of his first 5 starts as a Brave in 1993.  He pitched at least 5 innings in every start that followed through Sept. 10, ’95, when he was lifted early due to a minor injury.
  • Glavine averaged 3.1 BB/9 IP over his career, contributing to a WHIP a little higher than most HOF pitchers. But in his second season, a 23-year-old Glavine walked only 40 in 186 innings, good for a 1.140 WHIP — second only to his 1.097 WHIP in ’91.
  • Tommy G. and Ron Gant were nearly traded to Boston in the late 1980s for Mike Greenwell. The deal was nixed when Bobby refused to include Kent Mercker.
  • You know he was smart. But did you know Glavine had been accepted to Harvard after high school. He chose the Braves over the Crimson — not to mention the L.A. Kings.
  • Add three more innings over two seasons and Maddux would have 20 seasons of 200 or more IP
  • From July 31, 1993, through August 4, 1995, Mad Dog had 56 quality starts in 57 games pitched.
  • Maddux and Glavine weren’t taken until the second round of the 1984 draft, Glav was selected 16 picks after Mad Dog. The Braves took Drew Denson in the first round that year; the Cubs, Drew Hall. Also chosen ahead of the HOF’ers: Shawn Abner, Cory Snyder, Alan Cockrell, Oddibe McDowell, Pete Smith,  Terry Mulholland, Scott Bankhead and Mike Dunne.
  • In May 2001, a 35-year-old Maddux became the first pitcher since 1919 to record two 1-0 complete game shutouts in the same month.
  • In a game that lasted 2:07, Mad Dog threw just 76 pitches in a complete game victory over the Cubs.
  • Glavine completed three of his first four World Series starts. In 58.1 career Fall Classic innings, he allowed just 33 hits.
  • Right-handed batters had a .697 OPS vs. Glavine; lefties, .696.
  • Maddux had a .0936 WHIP in his 355 wins.
  • Mad Dog at Fulco: 38-15-2.33 ERA, 0.949 WHIP; at Turner Field: 72-31-2.68, 1.083 WHIP.

 

Bobby in the HOF

We assume Mad Dog and Glavine will join him. And, perhaps, Pete Van Wieren in the broadcaster’s wing.

Another former Brave player and manager, Joe Torre, was unanimously voted in by the Veteran’s Committee, as was Tony LaRussa, who played nine games at second base for the ’71 Bravos.

Is Fredi a lame duck?

While Dan Uggla’s fate will get the most attention, the biggest storyline this offseason has to do with extensions. The Braves need to decide which of the young core they’re going to try and lock up, and they have to do it now (though I fear it ain’t happening with Jay Hey, a free agent in 2016 who doesn’t have much incentive to trade two arbitration years for long-term security).

Fredi’s contract expires after 2014, and if he enters the season without an extension it’ll speak volumes about FW’s lack of confidence in his manager. Lame ducks are easily undermined, and teams generally try to avoid such uncertainty in the clubhouse.

I’d take my chances with instability, though I’ll admit this postseason has shown there aren’t a lot of geniuses manning major league dugouts. John Farrell should probably be grateful for the obstruction call, as it obscured his stupefying decision to let relief pitcher Brandon Workman bat in the 9th with Mike Napoli available on the bench. He later acknowledged the blunder, to his credit.

Mad Dog in 2015!

Still,  Farrell got his team to the World Series and baseball, which typically operates with a pack mentality, seems ready to accept former pitchers as managers. That bodes well for the man I think should replace Fredi, widely regarded as a baseball genius.

But when Brad Penny and Maddux were teammates on the Dodgers, during the last two months of 2006, they had a conversation one day that led Penny to reach a stunning conclusion: This guy knows my stuff better than I do. It was eerie, really, how easily Maddux dissected Penny’s repertoire and suggested ways to maximize it. Penny, figuring he’d take advantage of the situation, asked Maddux to call a game for him against the Cubs. And so, on the night of Sept. 13, Penny glanced into the dugout before every delivery and found Maddux, who signaled the next pitch by looking toward different parts of the ballpark. Penny threw seven scoreless innings with no walks and beat the Cubs 6-0. “Maddux probably won’t tell you that story,” Penny says. He’s right.

Hiring Greg Maddux would be the smartest move FW could make. I doubt it’ll happen, but my confidence in the current regime would skyrocket if it does.

What makes Mad Dog the coolest guy ever?

madduxI’m 90 percent sure his Twitter profile pic is a joke. That there is even 10 percent doubt makes Greg Maddux even more endearing.

No move — except signing J. Upton, Jay Hey, Medlen and Freeman to reasonable contract extensions –would make me happier than naming Mad Dog manager. I have no idea if he hasany interest, but I bet he hasn’t been asked.

Yet Terry Collins is on his third gig.

(Maddux’s WHIP in 1995? 0.811. That has nothing to do with him being a great manager — I just like remembering he was a Brave.)

Hire Mad Dog now!

It’s a crime that Greg Maddux isn’t employed by the organization that knows him best. How do you let that mind work for another team?

Craig Kimbrel is the latest to marvel at Mad Dog’s baseball smarts.

With a man on second base and Yadier Molina on deck, Kimbrel told Maddux he had no desire to intentionally walk Carlos Beltran.  Maddux, who was serving as Team USA’s pitching coach, responded by saying “Let’s throw two fastballs up and see if we can get him to pop it up.”

Beltran did his part to add to Maddux’s legend by popping Kimbrel’s first-pitch fastball to shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

“I was like you are a genius,” Kimbrel said of his reaction to Maddux after he returned to the dugout.  “How did you do that?  Like you knew that was going to happen.  I was like you want to come out here every time and tell me where to throw it.”

Mad Dog joins Twitter

The greatest pitcher of his generation has joined Twitter:

I wonder if serving as Team USA’s pitching coach has given Maddux the itch to return to the dugout? He’d be my first call if I was hiring a manager — experience be damned. No one can match Mad Dog’s baseball smarts and he has the temperament you want in a skipper.

Speed is to steroids as pot is to heroin

Ken Davidoff of the New York Post is an idiot, as evidenced in this exchange with John Schuerholz.

KD : I have one question, one challenging question for you. You know how much I respect you, but one thing I’ve read that irks me a little. I think you’ve had some ceremonies where the team introduces Hank Aaron as “The real home run king” or “The true home run king.” Am I right on that?

JS : Yeah.

KD : Are you OK with that? Is that your domain?

JS : Listen. If you were in Atlanta and you worked for our organization, you would feel the same way. He’s without dispute, people in baseball would look at him as the guy they say is the quote-unquote real home run champion. There’s no questions about how he hit his home runs.

KD : But he admitted to using amphetamines . He used illegal PEDs, just like Bonds did.

JS : I’m not going to make a big deal out of this. He is for us the real home run champion. It’s our view. He’s our home run king. It’s our opinion. And we honor him for that. And I’m not going to stop saying it about him.

Good for JS, though I wish he had said, “Listen, moron. No one ever hit the ball further by taking greenies. Hank didn’t have the best seasons of his career after his 35th birthday, when Bonds, who hit a HR every 16.1 AB’s, began hitting them every 8.5 AB’s (from ’99-’04). Nor did he undergo an unprecedented growth spurt more than 20 years after puberty.

From “Game of Shadows”:

For his part, [equipment manager Mike] Murphy could document Bonds’ physical changes via the changes in his uniform size. Since joining the Giants, Bonds had gone from a size 42 to a size 52 jersey; from size 10 ½ to size 13 cleats; and from a size 7 1/8 to size 7 ¼ cap, even though he had taken to shaving his head. The changes in his foot and head size were of special interest: medical experts said overuse of Human Growth Hormone could cause an adult’s extremities to begin growing.

Regrettably, such false equivalences are repeated as gospel by many in the sabermetrics crowd, baseball’s version of the tea party.

Witness these insipid comments on Hardball Talk, which addressed the Davidoff Q&A:

Holy smokes, [JS} completely handwaves away the fact that Aaron did essentially what Bonds did. That’s some amazing cognitive dissonance. He’d make a great politician.

Why is Greg Maddux a first ballot hall of famer? Is he 100% clean? Really? How do you know that? If Maddux gets in, then Clemens and Bonds have to get in since they failed the same # of drug tests as Maddux…zero.

I demand scientific proof from you that steroids makes you hit a ball farther. That is my challenge to you. Do you accept? Yes or No.

It’s difficult arguing facts with people who chose to ignore them.

Now, as for the effects of speed, have you ever seen a big meth addict? Speed, or greenies, don’t build body mass. Those making the comparison frame the argument as one of morality, or legality. That’s irrelevant. I’m opposed to Bonds’ induction into the Hall because he used artificial means to create an unfair advantage, not because he broke the rules.

Conflating greenies with steroids is willful ignorance, and to what end? To ensure the enshrinement of known cheaters?

Maddux slighted again, and was Smoltzie better than Glavine?

I’m thrilled that the last pitcher chosen in ESPN’s ranking of the 100 greatest players in MLB history is the perpetually underrated Knucksie, #100 overall.

Not so much with the highest-ranked pitcher: Roger Clemens.

ESPN cautions its list is a “judgment-free zone where Barry BondsRoger Clemens and even Pete Rose are welcome.” (Rose debased the game but earned every one of his 4,256 hits. He shouldn’t be lumped together with players who came upon their stats dishonestly.)

I don’t understand how you overlook the cheating, which allows ESPN to rank Barry Bonds ahead of The Hammer and Ted Williams. But those who do so will never convince me that Clemens was the best pitcher in baseball history. He wasn’t even the best of his generation.

His ranking, at #7 overall, speaks to to the most overrated stat in all of baseball: the strikeout. If Warren Spahn was pitching today the stat geeks would insist his 363 wins were attributable mostly to luck, as he averaged only 4.4 K/9 IP.

Strikeouts are about all that Clemens has over Mad Dog, who ranks at #13, third among pitchers (Walter Johnson finished 12th). I’m repeating myself but apparently some people refuse to listen.

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 (Pedro in ’99 was close) can match Maddux’s 1995 campaign: 19-2 with a 1.56 ERA and an 0.811 WHIP. Even though strikeouts were not his bread and butter he had more K’s that year (181) than hits and walks combined en route to his fourth consecutive Cy Young.

Maddux was more durable, totaling 200 innings or more 18 times. Add three more innings over two seasons and Maddux would have 20 seasons of 200 or more IP. Clemens topped 200 innings 15 times.

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 has been 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 had one more win and a better WHIP (1.143 to 1.158). Clemens had a better ERA (3.12 to 3.16) even though Mad Dog had ERA’s of 3.96 or higher in each of his last six seasons. Conversely, three of Clemens’ worst years came between his 30th and 34th birthdays, a period when most pitchers are at their best, or close to it. It’s reasonable, then, to conclude that had Clemens not cheated he wouldn’t have made it into the Top 100.

Oh, and Maddux was the best fielding pitcher of his era, if not ever.

If only he had juiced, or pitched for the Yankees and Red Sox. Or had a strikeout ratio like Tommy Hanson’s and John Rocker’s.

They didn’t make the list, of course, though Smoltzie and Glavine did. Some may quibble with Smoltz ranking 18 spots higher than his former teammate, but I’m good with it. Glavine had more wins and one more Cy Young Award, but Smoltzie had a better ERA and WHIP and, for three years, was as dominant a closer as the game has seen. And he had no  peer in October. Some people say that doesn’t matter, but they’re typically the same people who say cheaters deserve a pass.

Why isn’t Larry Himes universally recognized as the stupidest GM ever?

There’s a reason the Cubs are the Cubs. Failing to re-sign Greg Maddux, who took less money to play for the Bravos (one of the many, many cool things about Mad Dog), then-Cubs GM Larry Himes argued the Little Bears were better off without the 26-year-old reigning Cy Young Award winner.

And how lamentable is the departure of Maddux? One day you have a Cy Young winner, and the next you don’t.

“Let’s just examine how this worked out,” Himes says. Isn’t it always the way? I knew how many games Maddux had won and he doesn’t ask. 20.

Himes forms with his hands an imaginary pile of money. This was Maddux’s money. Maddux didn’t take it in time. Now this money belongs to Jose Guzman and Dan Plesac and Greg Hibbard and Randy Myers.

Maddux in ’93: 20-10-2.36 ERA, 267 IP, 1.049 WHIP

Guzman, Hibbard and Myers’ combined ERA was roughly two runs higher than Mad Dog’s that year. Randy Myers saved 53, which was impressive, but by ’94 he was struggling to keep his WHIP below 1.4. Meanwhile, Guzman spent more time on the DL than in the rotation, Hibbard won once for the Mariners and Plesac pulled off a nifty impression of Craig Skok.

Maddux in ’94: 16-6-1.56 ERA, 0.896 WHIP.