Originally created 07/30/00

Pitching duo provides stability



ATLANTA -- Abbott and Costello. Sonny and Cher. Dagwood and Blondie.

Can't think of one without the other, can you? That's how the Atlanta Braves feel about their twin aces, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, who have been the major league's most prolific pitching duo for the past seven-plus seasons.

Match them together for five or six more years, and they'll challenge the record set by the Philadelphia Athletics' Eddie Plank and Chief Bender as the winningest duo in major league history. The pair of Hall of Famers, teammates from 1903-14, combined for 440 wins, 247 belonging to Plank.

Like indestructible pitching machines, Maddux and Glavine add 35 to 40 wins every season, each one drawing them closer to another of the game's immortals.

Since joining the Braves in 1993, Maddux has 138 wins and Glavine 126, their combined 264 wins surpassing the Boston Braves' duo of Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain (207) and Dodgers teammates Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser (206) on the all-time list.

Next up, three sets of Hall of Famers -- Cleveland's Bob Lemon and Early Wynn (335 wins), San Francisco's Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry (336 wins) and Los Angeles' Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale (340 wins).

"I rank Drysdale and Koufax as the most impressive duo I ever saw, but I rank Maddux and Glavine right behind them," said Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton, who has been a TBS broadcaster since 1989. "From a distance, I admire their work ethic and passion for pitching. They have a passion for their craft.

"While players are performing, they don't really carve their niche in history. But when the list comes out, the ultimate reward is that somewhere down the line they will be the standard by which others are judged."

MADDUX AND GLAVINE, born within three weeks of each other in 1966, have enjoyed similar careers. After posting identical 2-4 records in their first year in the majors, Maddux has reeled off 13 consecutive seasons of double-digit wins, while Glavine is riding a streak of 12 straight. Glavine has more 20-win seasons (4) than Maddux (2), but the numbers are reversed in Cy Young awards. Maddux won four straight Cy Youngs from 1992-95, while Glavine won in 1991 and 1998.

Maddux is the winningest pitcher in the majors since 1990, eight wins ahead of Glavine, while Glavine is the game's winningest left-hander over the past 11 years with 190 victories.

"I think Maddux was the guy of the '90s," said Glavine, who goes after his 200th career win this afternoon against the Astros. "Everybody looks at his numbers, and everybody is measured by him. Sometimes I'll sit down and see where I am compared to him, and it is surprising, a lot of the similarities. A lot of it is uncanny how similar it is."

Pitching coach Leo Mazzone has held a front-row seat for the Maddux & Glavine Show and, like Sutton, has come away impressed by their commitment and passion for pitching.

"Every day you appreciate it," he said. "You understand why some people have success and some don't. The biggest thing about their greatness is their consistency in all areas -- their approach, their preparation, their work ethic, their mental toughness. They're very special."

MADDUX MAY NOT qualify for baseball's best body, but there are plenty of hitters who will attest to the quality of his pitches and his pinpoint control. Not blessed with a dominant fastball or a knee-buckling curve, he still ranks 36th on the all-time list with 2,294 strikeouts.

There is no pitcher as unaffected by his status as one of the game's best as Maddux. He surpassed 200 wins in 1998, just one of 94 pitchers in 125 years to reach that total, and if he continues to average 17 wins, he'll reach 300 wins during the 2004 season. Yet, he remains blissfully ignorant of his Hall of Fame credentials.

"You always wonder when you retire what kind of name are you going to leave behind," Maddux said. "I pitch against guys who are bigger, stronger, throw harder, have better stuff. I don't try to explain (my success), I'm just glad it happened. Regardless of what happens, I'd look back on my career if it ended today and have nothing but good things to say about it."

Three hundred wins is generally acknowledged as a milestone needed for entrance into the Hall of Fame. But there are many baseball writers who feel Maddux already is a lock for the Hall, based on the numbers he's produced in 14 seasons. It's hard to argue against automatic enshrinement.

Maddux is on his way to a 13th-straight season with at least 15 wins and 200 innings, and he's claimed four ERA titles and been awarded 10 straight Gold Gloves. He has led the majors in wins and ERA (2.49) over the last 10 years and his 2.81 career ERA is first among active starting pitchers.

Certainly Maddux ranks as one of the greatest pitchers of his generation and before he's done he'll undoubtedly rank high among the game's all-time greats.

"I might not be as good as I once was, but I can still be good enough," he said. "I still feel like I'm capable of getting my team into the seventh and eighth inning, where we still have a good chance to win. That's what starting pitching is all about. If you can do that 30 times a year, your team's going to probably win 25 of them. That's kind of what you're after."

Yet, all the numbers and recognition don't mean anything to him. The man who can walk through any hotel lobby when the Braves are on the road and not be recognized prefers his anonymity. He'd rather grade himself a good father than a Cy Young winner.

"I love being a father," said Maddux, who has a 6-year-old daughter, Amanda, and a 3-year-old son, Chase. "I enjoy it a lot more than I ever thought I would. I really thought I had a good life. Being a baseball player is pretty good, living in Las Vegas, making a lot of money, I thought all those things were great, and I'd never change them for the world. Then I found out how much better it is with kids. It's 10 times better, and I wouldn't change back for anything."

GLAVINE WON HIS first Cy Young in 1991 when he went 20-11 with a 2.55 ERA, then took home his second award in 1998 with a league-high 20 victories and a career-low 2.47 earned run average. In 1993, he went 22-6 and became the first National League pitcher with three-straight 20-win seasons since Ferguson Jenkins (1967-72).

Glavine trails only Phil Niekro in Atlanta history with 199 wins and trails only Hall of Famer Spahn as the franchise's winningest left-hander.

"I think it's fairly safe to say, my accomplishments have been overshadowed a little bit, but not to the point that I haven't gotten credit for what I've done," Glavine said. "I'm comfortable being in the background. I'm not looking to be somebody who gets all the attention.

"There's no question that I realize and appreciate how special it's been to be around someone as talented as Greg. In a lot of ways it's been good for my career having him here. It's good to be around a guy that good; you can pick his brain and watch what he does. I think we take the pressure off each other to win every time out."

Like Maddux, Glavine doesn't have exceptional stuff. His success comes from the command and placement of his pitches, particularly on the outside part of the plate. During the past decade, he has averaged 16.4 wins per season. If he continues that pace, he will reach 300 wins in 2006.

"I don't know if at this point in time 300 is realistic," said Glavine, who will turn 35 before opening day next season. "Is it absolutely out of the question? No. It's probably at best, 50-50. I think more about getting to 200 this year and then go beyond that. I think I've looked more realistically at 250, but then again, you don't want to get too far ahead of yourself because who knows what can happen."

It's not fair that Glavine plays Tonto to Maddux's Lone Ranger, but it seems he's always pitched in his teammate's shadow. Yet, he's steadily compiling Hall of Fame numbers of his own and if he continues pitching until he's 40, he should reach 300, which probably will lead to enshrinement.

The question is, will he stick around long enough to give himself a shot at the milestone?

"The hardest part about playing now is leaving home," Glavine said. "It's tough leaving the kids on a 10- or 12-day road trip, particularly when they get to the age when they know you're going. But I also realize that there's a pretty good chance that at 40 years old I'm going to be retired, and I'll have the rest of my life that I can spend with my kids. In the end, that's what I think about.

"As much as I'm in a hurry to get home and be with my family, I don't want to be in a hurry to end what is already a short career. As much as I want to be with my kids, I don't want to get to a point someday where I'm saying to myself, `gosh, I wish I had played another year or two."'

THE QUESTION OF longevity is particularly compelling today because of two factors -- money and injuries. The million-dollar salaries mean pitchers don't have to work 20 years to accumulate a fortune, and few pitchers can remain injury-free that long for a shot at 300 wins.

As a 23-year veteran of the major leagues, Sutton has seen thousands of pitchers come and go, and he recognizes the unique attributes of Maddux and Glavine. But he believes the duo won't pitch 20 years to reach the milestone.

"As you get older, your priorities change," he said. "They're going to have to weigh their passion for pitching against the sacrifices they're going to have to make."

But whether Maddux and Glavine reach 250 wins or 300, whether they're eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame, they already have left their mark on the game.

Reach Bill Zack at bzack30143@aol.com.