Saying farewell to 'Mad Dog'
It's hard to believe now, but the Atlanta Braves had arguably the best starting pitching rotation in baseball during the 1990s, which included the Braves' only World Series championship in 1995 against the Cleveland Indians.
The Braves' Achilles heel has always been its relief pitching, and for the past several years its starting pitching has also endured a lot of ups and downs.
Earlier this week I was surprised to hear the retirement announcement by 42-year-old righthander Greg Maddux, who pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season and filed for free agency during the off-season.
Maddux had two stints with the Chicago Cubs, including his first six years in the majors, and also pitched for the San Diego Padres. But I will always associate him with his 10 seasons in Atlanta and his place on a Hall of Fame pitching staff that also included fellow future Hall of Famers John Smoltz and Tom Glavine.
Maddux, who enjoyed a 23-year pro career, seemed to have no regrets during his Las Vegas press conference. Maybe that's because his pro resume is loaded down with a record-setting 18 Gold Gloves, eight All-Star seasons and four consecutive National League Cy Young Awards.
Statistically, he should have a first-ballot ticket to Cooperstown with 355 career victories, a 3.16 ERA and 3,371 strikeouts.
I enjoyed watching Glavine and Smoltz pitch, but I always pulled a little harder for Maddux, and maybe that's because he didn't have an intimidating fastball like Smoltz or Nolan Ryan or an overpowering physical presence like Randy Johnson or Roger Clemens.
Instead, he got the job done through moxie, superb control and a full arsenal of pitches. To top it off, he is also considered one of the best fielding pitchers to ever play the game.
A lot of times Maddux was referred to as "The Professor" by broadcast announcers because he sometimes wore eyeglasses on the mound, but his longtime Braves manager Bobby Cox and teammates affectionately called him "Mad Dog."
Maddux said he didn't think he would miss the game and planned to coach some day. He might not have regrets, but I'm sure quite a few fans will miss watching one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history.