Greg Maddux will be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Contentious debates and philosophical questions surround many of his colleagues on the 2014 ballot, but Maddux is in. We have known that for a while.
By each and every measure Maddux is one of the greatest starting pitchers baseball has ever seen. He won 355 games in his career and finished with a career ERA of 3.16. He won four Cy Young awards and finished in the top five in five other seasons. He painted corners, baffled hitters, fielded his position (18 gold glove awards), and even bunted and batted well.
Among the uncomfortable debates about the steroid era and who should and shouldn’t be elected, there has been something refreshing about having Maddux on the ballot. It gives us a chance to focus on his play on the field and wax poetic about some of the things that make us love baseball in the first place.
David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution caught up with Maddux earlier this week. For his part, Maddux deflects any talk about his Hall of Fame resume to the people who were around him during his career. He said the following about his long-time manager Bobby Cox:
I had the privilege of playing with him for 11 years. He certainly taught me an awful lot about the game and how to win and how to prepare, how to play 162 games. I learned oodles from him. And to be able to pitch beside Glavine and watch 35 of his games (annually) for 11 years was special.”
He also went out of his way to credit his defenders:
Having Rafael Furcal and Andruw Jones playing behind you, they covered up a lot of our mistakes. Bobby was excellent at always having good defenders behind his pitchers. If we kept it in the park it seemed like somebody caught it all the time. That was probably one of the biggest reasons.”
Maddux wore glasses, played with a visible edge on the field (always the first off the bench for a potential brawl), and deflected credit off the field. In a time where voting is mired with questions, he deserves to be a sure thing for Cooperstown.