Monday, April 14, 2008

One of the Best!

Greg Maddux. I have not always been a fan. After all, he spent most of his career pitching for the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves, two franchises at the absolute bottom of my list (I'm loyal to my Cardinals!).

In the past few seasons, however, I've come to have great respect for Greg Maddux, and I now see him as the incredible pitcher he has always been. He is certainly bound for the Hall of Fame. He may very well be the best pitcher the Major Leagues have seen since Walter Johnson, even though sentimentality still puts Nolan Ryan at the top of that list. Roger Clemens has been knocked down a few rungs. And, Satchel Paige was not allowed to shine in his prime, or he would have owned the list!

Greg Maddux won his 349th game lst night. He needs 6 more wins to eclipse Clemens, and he will do that by mid-season. He defeated the Dodgers, and afterward Dodger manager Joe Torre said this: "I've always had a lot of respect for guys who just say, 'Here it is, and if you beat me, you beat me.' That's the way he's always gone about his business," Torre said. "You don't have to throw the ball 95 miles an hour to be a successful pitcher. I mean, I grew up in the big leagues with Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette, and those guys who relied more on command than on blowing people away."

"A lot of times Maddux will beat you with his reputation," Torre added. "Sometimes, hitters go up there trying to look for too many things. But he's always going to give you a pitch to hit. The thing is, he has the knack of reading hitters' body language. It seems every time you take a pitch it's a strike, and every time you swing, it's not. He just doesn't throw the ball straight -- and he's got the guts of a burglar."

Here is my list of the best starting pitchers in Major League Baseball since Walter Johnson.

1. Walter Johnson (the next pticher who amasses 400 wins can challenge him)

2. Satchel Paige (if only he had been allowed to play in the ML's in his prime!)

3. Greg Maddux (the stats do not lie, even if most come in a Cubs or Braves uniform)

4. Nolan Ryan (if he'd only had some run support)

5. Sandy Koufax (the best run of 5 seasons of any pitcher, ever)

6. Warren Spahn (too often, the forgotten man)

7. Bob Feller (perhaps the first big-time fastball pitcher)

8. Bob Gibson (his 1968 season may be the best ever)

9. Steve Carlton / Tom Seaver (great pitchers from the same era)

11. Rogers Clemens (he hasn't fallen off the list . . . yet! His pre-1998-steroids stats alone dwarf that of many pitchers)

What pitchers are on your list?