Originally created 07/31/00

Milestone gets more prestigious



Whether or not baseball ever sees another 300-game winner will depend on Roger Clemens' health the next four seasons and if Greg Maddux's arm can keep sturdy during the next decade.

The prospects for joining baseball's most exclusive pitching fraternity are that dim.

The are so many variables to pitching victories these days that it's not clear if Clemens can spackle together another 44 wins, or whether Maddux can milk 67 more victories from an arm that seems to be growing more weary with each inning tallied.

21st century baseball revolves around hitters, not pitchers. Watch Baseball Tonight for 15 minutes and that point gets drilled home. It's more probable to see today's sluggers take aim at 600, maybe 700 home runs, than to see pitchers exhibit the necessary sustained brilliance and even bring 300 wins into sight.

Which brings us to Tom Glavine, who became baseball's 96th pitcher to get two-thirds of the way to 300 Sunday with a 6-3 win over Houston at Turner Field.

At 34, Glavine's chances of having 10 more 10-win seasons, or even five more 20-win seasons, seems remote. What's amazing about Glavine's record is that his wins, losses and no decisions are all in triple figures.

Glavine, though, has never been about overpowering numbers. He's baseball's winningest active lefty because he's the game's best nibbler, the game's biggest tease. Glavine quietly puts people to sleep. You don't think he causes much damage, but nine innings later, the scoreboard indicates how much pain his nibbling can inflict.

Getting to 200 adds to Glavine's resume of two Cy Youngs, a World Series MVP and 13 solid seasons with the same franchise.

The day will come when 200 wins, maybe even 250 wins but no longer 300, becomes the benchmark to measure baseball's greatest arms. When that happens, you'll see history reflect brightly on Glavine's quiet career.

But before that happens, a continental shift in thought is needed from the Hall of Fame voters. In an era with a livelier ball, smaller parks, shrinking strike zones and muscled-up hitters, the pitchers get no assistance while on the mound. Hopefully Hall voters will understand this, readjust their thinking and grant pitchers the benefit of the doubt the game no longer affords them.

The Braves celebrated as if Glavine, who won his first game for them in 1987 and won the franchise's biggest game during the 1990s, had passed one of the game's major milestones.

Because if you thought reaching 300 proved an enormous task, getting to 200 is proving to be just as mountainous.

The 2000 season began with only 26 pitchers on active rosters with at least 100 wins. Two have been added since -- the Mets' Al Leiter and the Yankees' Denny Neagle, each reaching triple digits the past month.

And one, the Dodgers' Orel Hershiser, retired in midseason with 204 wins.

Of those 26, 10 have eclipsed the 150-win hurdle: Clemens, Maddux and Glavine, along with Dwight Gooden (193), David Cone (181), Randy Johnson (175), Chuck Finley (174), Kevin Brown (167), David Wells (157) and John Smoltz (157).

These are the game's best pitchers, yet all have at least 13 seasons of tread.

Pedro Martinez might be on the fastest track to 200, having won his 119th game Friday night in only his eighth full season. Injuries, though, have plagued his frail frame, and durability remains a question mark.

Then look at the game's other winningest pitchers, like Mike Mussina (142 wins), Andy Benes (141) and Kevin Appier (129), and 200 wins seems out of sight. It just makes Glavine's accomplishments all the more mystical.

He might not reach 300, but his next stop should be Cooperstown.

Reach Rick Dorsey at (706) 823-3219.