2006 NEWS

2006 News > 4/27/06


Scott Miller, CBS Sportsline

Rolled together again like a favorite pair of old socks, there Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were at the start of the week, still throwing cotton-soft, still a match ... and still remarkably unrumpled.

The latest link in the Maddux-Glavine chain now spanning the decades was hammered into place with another daily updating of the National League ERA leaderboard where, on Sunday morning, they ranked 1-2.

The believability quotient of a moment like that in 2006, with each man now 40, neither throwing hard enough to produce a bruise and each supposedly in the twilight of his career, had to be, what? Roughly the equivalent of kids bypassing the cotton candy stand in favor of an asparagus concession at the summer fair?

Yet there they were, Maddux topping the NL at 1.33, his one-time trusty sidekick Glavine next at 1.38.

Later that day, Maddux went out and stuffed St. Louis over seven shutout innings for his 322nd career victory, raising his 2006 record to 4-0 and lowering his ERA to 0.99.

Glavine, who had been almost as good, wasn't so fortunate Monday in San Francisco when Moises Alou smashed a three-run homer in the first inning. Still, despite surrendering six earned runs in 6 1/3 innings, Glavine's ERA bumped up only to 2.78.

The 1-2 moment that took three weeks to build faded away almost as quickly as it appeared. Glavine had dropped to 12th in ERA at midweek, floating momentarily into the background until the next moment -- later this summer? Next season when he likely will notch his 300th victory? A few years from now in Cooperstown -- when another link will appear and the chain will lengthen again?

Because through their art -- through the years and across the miles -- the connection between these two now long-distance callers remains stronger than anything they can offer at Sprint or Verizon.

The monuments they started constructing in Atlanta soar higher, the historical markers pass more quickly. The spool of thread stitching them together continues to spin. And in separate interviews in ballparks 200 or so miles apart last week, they talked about this. About themselves, each other, their own favorite pitchers and the history books that, more and more, include them. Pull up a chair ...

Maddux on Glavine: "I always thought he might not pitch better than the other pitcher, but he will out-compete him. He wants to win more. He's very good at not losing a lead in the seventh inning, whether it's a 1-0 game or a 7-5 game. He's very good at being on the ropes and still winning. That's what's always impressed me the most with him. He'll win as many games 6-5 as he will 3-2. That's impressive.

"Because if you give up four or five runs, you're kind of struggling that day. And he's very good at staying out there, getting to the bullpen later in the game so that the manager can use the bullpen matchups he wants."

Glavine on Maddux: "I'd describe him as a pitcher. He's probably the smartest pitcher I've been around in terms of recognizing things as they are happening during a game or during an at-bat. That's one thing I learned from him. Pay attention to what a hitter is telling you, even based on one swing. I never thought about it until he started talking about it.

"He has a tremendous desire to pitch the game he wants to pitch and win. He has a tremendous desire to pitch the perfect game -- not in terms of not giving up a hit, but a desire to execute every pitch exactly like he wants. He goes out there with a solid game plan, and you see how he exploits hitters. He is so good at reading what they're telling him."

At 277 career victories and counting, Glavine currently ranks second to Maddux among active pitchers. He's lasered in on becoming just the 23rd pitcher in history to join the 300-victory club, and should Glavine achieve that, it essentially would be an "accepted" stamp on his Hall of Fame resume. It is a stop Glavine should reach, barring any major setbacks, sometime next season.

Some in the industry, in fact, think if Glavine gets there, he will become the last pitcher to reach 300, given today's five-man rotations, lack of complete games and increased use of relievers. (Randy Johnson of the New York Yankees currently ranks third on the active wins list at 266). Considering that the legendary Pedro Martinez just notched his 200th career win at 34 Saturday night, it isn't difficult to believe that the door to the 300-club is in the process of shutting for good.

The way the two are steaming ahead this April, there also could be some truth in Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker's observation of Maddux after the right-hander held the Dodgers to one run over eight innings last week on a night on which Maddux's fastball never topped 84 mph on the radar gun: "At this point, it's hard to imagine him not pitching forever."

After the two anchored Atlanta's rotation for 10 seasons, Glavine was the first to leave, signing with the New York Mets after the 2002 season. Maddux departed as a free agent after '03, signing with the Cubs.

Schedules and travel keep them separated, though the two now are what architects must be like when their travel takes them into a new city. They can't help looking at and checking out the other structures, even though they're several steps removed.

Glavine on watching Maddux: "I do. I haven't had a chance to watch him pitch yet this year. I know he's off to a great start. He's continuing to do what he's done for so, so long. And they need it, with those other two (Mark Prior and Kerry Wood) out.

"It's good to see guys like he and I can still carry it out, because there's so few of us left."

Maddux on watching Glavine: "I watched it really close for 10 years. You look at the box scores. There are certain guys you follow. A lot of ex-teammates. I've always watched Glavine's lines -- and Smoltzy (John Smoltz), Kevin Millwood, Odalis Perez, Jason Marquis. And now (former Cub) Matt Clement."

What's always been the treat when either of these two start -- and it's every bit the case through each pitcher's first four outings this April -- is watching the thinking part. Perhaps even more impressive than the results is the plan that has been put into them.

Sure, the execution has been mostly brilliant, but smart and gutsy are on display in all their Webster's dictionary definition glory.

Each is 40 now, and we all should age so gracefully. Not just in the final results, but in remaining nimble enough to accept change and in keeping the mind open enough to soak in fresh new ideas.

Maddux on aging: "For me, the biggest challenge is a drop in stuff. When you start to lose velocity, you lose life. It's not so much location, but you lose life, and that's when you have to make better pitches. You don't get away with mistakes when you lose a foot or two on your fastball. Really, you have to concentrate a lot harder, to be honest with you. You can't have letdowns, because your stuff isn't going to carry you.

"You see young pitchers now who might have lapses for two or three innings, but their stuff is so good it doesn't affect them."

Glavine on aging: "In this day and age, it's the constant adjustment in the way the game is played. Age-wise, I don't feel there's anything I can't do that I want to do, or that I used to be able to do. In all honestly, I feel as good physically as at any stage in the last 10 years. I think I'm at a peak right now, health-wise. Age isn't big in my mind. It's not like I can't get out of bed in the morning and not move around like I want to. But I've had to make adjustments as a pitcher, do things differently than I did two, three years ago.

"The strike zone has changed. And because of that, my game has changed. The way the strike zone was called before, you could expand it off of the plate. I didn't have to pitch inside. I expanded it laterally, not up and down. I'm not a two-pitch pitcher on one side of the plate anymore -- and I'm a better pitcher because of it."

Glavine pauses, and breaks into a grin.

"But at 37, 38 years old, that's not a point in time where you want to re-invent yourself," he continues. "I did it in the second half of last year and this year. I took some lumps before, but it's kind of fun now. It's fun to go out knowing that there are different ways to get guys out. Before, it was simply out-executing the batters. I knew what I was doing. They knew what I was doing. Everybody in the ballpark knew what I was doing.

"Now I can throw two, and sometimes three or four, different pitches anytime to get somebody out."

What both Maddux and Glavine are doing is coming as close as anybody can to actually stopping the clock and freezing time. You can take the aces out of Atlanta, but you can't take the soul out of the aces.

Maddux on Maddux: "I feel privileged to still be pitching. I wouldn't say I'm surprised at what I'm doing, but I feel privileged to still have a uniform and still enjoy what I do. As long as you feel worthy to wear the uniform. ...

"It's (four) games, man. It's about having a good year and having success as a team. It's not about (four) games. I'm glad I've pitched good, but you've got to keep fighting, keep playing. If you put yourself in the hunt in September and then have (four) good games ... know what I mean?"

Glavine on Glavine: "When you see guys like him and me, we get that reputation where when you're on and you're doing it the way you want to do it, it looks so effortless and so easy. And it looks like we can pitch forever. I used to have that discussion with Smoltzy: It's not that easy. We put just as much effort into it as anybody else. Just because we're not throwing as hard as others (with radar gun readings in the 80s, not the 90s) ... it takes the same effort level. It just looks different."

Milestones have piled up like birthdays over the years.

Maddux's four Cy Young awards. His 15 Gold Gloves. His eight All-Star appearances.

Glavine's two Cy Youngs. His nine All-Star appearances. His four Silver Slugger awards. Five 20-win seasons.

Then, for Maddux, of course, the legend-solidifying moment. He doesn't remember Glavine's specific message following his 300th win on Aug. 7, 2004, in San Francisco, only that Glavine called.

Glavine recalls the gist of it.

"I waited a few days because I knew he'd get bombarded," Glavine says. "I told him it was awesome, what an awesome feat it is. It's so hard to do when you break down what it takes to do it. It's so remarkable. And the way he's throwing this year, it seems like he's going to pitch for as long as he wants to."

Each continues to scale the mountain.

If Maddux even matches last season's total of 13 victories -- a number that seems eminently reachable given that he's already 4-0 -- he'll move into 10th place on baseball's all-time wins list at 331, 10 behind Roger Clemens and Tim Keefe.

Glavine, meanwhile, continues his push toward 300.

If he gets there -- assuming he gets there -- it will be another full circle for two of the most closely linked pitchers in the history of the game.

Of the 22 pitchers who have won 300 games, only two have ever worked in the same rotation at the same time -- Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan for Glavine's current employers, the Mets, for just four seasons, from 1968-71.

Maddux and Glavine having worked side-by-side in the same rotation for 10 years en route to 300 wins ... now that would be something.

What a special privilege for Atlanta baseball fans to have witnessed over the years.

What a special thing for any baseball fan to have watched.

"It would be one more thing that links us and, in the history of the game, anytime you start talking about history like that, that's cool," Glavine says. "For us, we'll certainly be linked with the great pitching staffs we had. And if I'm fortunate enough to get to 300 and be linked with Greg for that, that would be icing on the cake.

"Not too many guys can swap those stories."

Maddux on Glavine reaching 300 wins: "He's always been stubborn, in a good sort of way. I've heard him say before that he wants to win 300 games. I believe him. I think he will. I think for everybody who says it will never happen again, I think he will. And good for him."

Glavine on reaching 300: "My master plan is, I'll pitch for two more years (this season and next) and get there. If I'm lucky and won 25 games this year, that would be great for me and great for the Mets. I know that. But I think two good years ... I feel like I could pitch two more years. Anything could happen, I know that. From my standpoint, it's focusing on this year and having as good a year as I can have. That would be good for the team and if that happens, I know at the end of the year, the smaller that number will be (currently he's 23 wins away from 300). In keeping long-range plans, I know it's something I want to get to."

It has taken natural, God-given ability, of course. But maybe a part of each's success is much more, too. Perhaps a part of it has been being inquisitive enough and interested enough to soak up the world around them.

You can't have the success Maddux and Glavine have had without having a passion for your craft ... and an appreciation for those who share that passion.

Maddux on the pitchers he most enjoys watching: "Jake Peavy (of San Diego). Roy Oswalt (of Houston). I like the way they compete. They play baseball as well as pitch. Some pitchers just pitch. They play baseball. Carlos Zambrano (of the Cubs) is fun to watch. Mark Prior, when he's out there, he's fun to watch. And all of the young guys -- I love watching Sean Marshall (of the Cubs), Sergio Mitre (the former Cub now with Florida), John Koronko (the former Cub now in Texas' rotation). It's really easy to root for guys when they're in their first year. It's a whole new life for them."

Glavine on the pitchers he most enjoys watching: "I like watching Pedro (Martinez). I still always like to watch Greg and John (Smoltz). For me, Jamie Moyer (of Seattle) is fun to watch because of the similarities between us. It's not so much guys jumping out at you as styles you see in a well-pitched game -- even guys who throw hard are still hitting their spots and changing speeds.

"When you see guys executing their game plan, when the pitch before leads to the next pitch, and then to the next one, that's the stuff for me that's fun to watch."

Because, undoubtedly, it touches him in a familiar way. When Maddux and Glavine are at their peak, each pitch locks into the next like pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle.

This month, each piece is fitting together almost perfectly.

Timeless? Certainly.

Pitch forever, as Dusty said of Maddux?

"That was nice of him to say it," Maddux says. "It's a great game. I hope it's true.

"Who wouldn't like coming here and sitting on the bench of Dodger Stadium?"