2008 NEWS

2008 News > 5/6/08

BRAVES "BIG THREE" REUNITED, SORT OF

By Carroll Rogers, AJC.com

It just so happens none of the "Big Three," as Braves fans know them, is pitching during the series between the Braves and Padres starting tonight at Turner Field. Both Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux pitched Sunday, and John Smoltz is on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation.

They didn't have tee times on the off-day Monday either, though Smoltz said he and Maddux probably would get together for a bite to eat.

But having all three pitchers at Turner Field perhaps one last time is still enough to bring out some goose bumps and "This Week in Baseball" for a sit-down interview.

"I'm sure there will be a lot of hoopla surrounding it and, hopefully, an opportunity for the three of us to sit down and reminisce a little bit," Glavine said.

It's been five years since all three pitchers were in the same stadium at the same time since Glavine went to the Mets in 2003 and Maddux left in 2004, hopping from the Cubs to the Dodgers to the Padres.

Outside of a trip to Petco Park in July, the next time this happens might be Cooperstown.

"Usually the last couple years when we've played against each other, I've seen [Maddux] in the weight room and we'll talk a little bit," said Glavine, who, like Maddux, keeps up more with Smoltz.

Wait, Maddux, in a weight room?

"I think he goes in there just to see what's in there," Glavine said.

Maddux's offseason workouts, or supposed lack thereof, have always been good for a chuckle, even though he has apparently been taking it more seriously lately, adding yoga to the mix.

"That's what I heard," Glavine said. "Yoga and a personal trainer this winter. What's with the personal trainer? He or she went to Burger King and got the Whopper for him?"

Of course, Glavine, who's 42 like Maddux, has a little bit of a gut now, too. "Well, you know," he said, "you can't pull fat."

Smoltz is the spring chicken of the three, about to turn 41. All three are in the final years of their contracts. They all have Hall of Fame numbers: Maddux is on the cusp of 350 wins, Smoltz just got his 3,000th strikeout, and Glavine got his 300th win last year with the Mets.

So is this just a race to see who can retire the last?

"If I had to bet between the three of us, I'm going to lose," Smoltz said, laughing. He is hoping to get his sore shoulder through the season by returning to the bullpen.

Seeing the three together this series, if not on the mound, makes Chipper Jones more than nostalgic, but hopeful.

"If we can get Doggie in a Braves uniform again, it'd be perfect," Jones said. "You love to fantasize and speculate, if you could get the three of them back together in the same rotation, see how they would fare in this day. I'm sure they would hold their own. Probably not as dominant as they once were, but they'd battle and be very competitive, keep you in the game."

If the last-place Padres keep this up, it's not out of the realm of possibility to see Maddux traded come July. He has a no-trade clause but might just waive it to play for Bobby Cox one last time.

For the better part of the 10 years they played together (1993-2002), including seven years before arm problems put Smoltz in the bullpen, Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz made a case as one of the best rotations in major-league history. Together they won five Cy Young awards, nine division titles, three NL pennants and a World Series.

To find two eventual 300-game winners who played together half as long as Maddux and Glavine, you have to go back to the 1800s and Mickey Welch and Tim Keefe of the New York Giants. Throw in a 3,000-strikeout pitcher and the only one ever to win 200 or more games and save 150, and it would be hard to top.

"We witnessed something very special here for those years they were together," Braves president John Schuerholz said. "So special that it's hard to imagine it happening again."

Glavine said he knew they were a formidable rotation but not necessarily that all three might end up in the Hall of Fame. Smoltz said he had a feeling.

"I was in the midst of greatness, and I enjoyed every bit that those 10 years provided," Smoltz said. "Not to mention I beat them in golf every time that I played with them, so, that was fun, too."