Greg Maddux retires

Greg Maddux has just announced his retirement. He is perhaps the greatest non-juicing pitcher of his era: 355 victories, 4 Cy Youngs and 18 Gold Gloves, a sure first ballot Hall of Famer. We in the Church of Baseball are grateful and wish him well.

The New York Times writes:

Here is all you need to know about the esteem in which Greg Maddux is held in major league baseball: he is announcing his retirement right now in a conference room at the Bellagio, and Ned Colletti, the general manager of the Dodgers, is standing behind the rows of reporters, taking a photo with his cellphone.

“I’m just here, really, to say thank you – thank you to everybody in baseball,” Maddux said, after an introduction from his agent, Scott Boras. “I appreciate everything the game has given me. It’s going to be hard to walk away, obviously, but it’s time. I still think I can play this game, but not as well as I would like to. So it’s time to say goodbye.”

Maddux retires with more victories than any living pitcher; he has 355 wins or one more than Roger Clemens. In his final season, with the Padres and the Dodgers, Maddux won his 18th Gold Glove award and led the National League in fewest walks per nine innings for the ninth time.

In all, he captured four Cy Young awards, helped the Braves to the 1995 World Series title and broke Cy Young’s record for consecutive seasons of 15 or more victories, with 17. His career E.R.A. was 3.16, and his achievements are chronicled well here, by Joe Posnanski.

Maddux, 42, said he plans to take a year off but did not rule out coaching. His brother, Mike, is a well-respected pitching coach for the Texas Rangers.

“I don’t really feel like I know a whole lot about anything,” Maddux said, “but I know a few things about baseball.”

Richard Justice of The Sporting News says:

Greg Maddux will be remembered as the best pitcher of his generation. In the end, there’s not much debate about that.

Others are in the discussion. Randy Johnson and Tom Glavine. Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez and Mike Mussina…

No pitcher was more consistent than Maddux. No one tortured hitters with precision more than Maddux.

He looked bookish, sounded boring, wouldn’t give you a great quote if his life depended on it. He was admired by his peers, perhaps more than any other ballplayer.

He was funny, too. He could crack on a teammate with lines that were brutal, profane and hilarious.

He prepared like no other. When Jimy Williams managed the Astros, he summoned me one day while his team was taking batting practice.

“When you get a chance,” he said, “look in the dugout behind you.”

There was Greg Maddux, sitting alone, studying the swing of every hitter he’d face that night.

It was a little thing, something most pitchers don’t do. Maddux studied video, read scouting reports and had a photographic memory (though he didn’t need it).

If there was one more advantage to be gained from watching hitters take swings hours before a game, Maddux was going to gain that advantage.

I asked him about it some weeks later, and, typically, he didn’t answer. He mumbled something about just killing time.

I actually don’t know exactly what he said because he sometimes spoke so softly and said so little that it wasn’t worth the trouble.

I know this: Greg Maddux has a great book in him. He gave away very little of the good stuff during those 23 seasons that’ll officially end with his retirement Monday.

“In all honesty, I have felt this game has given me more than I ever thought it would in the first place,” he said late last season.

He didn’t offer that much insight very often. For instance, asked how he was going to celebrate his 300th victory, he offered a Maddux gem.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ll do something.”

He could also be a great pitching coach, because he turned pitching into a graduate school endeavor. Other pitchers threw harder. Other pitchers were most imposing physically.

Don’t dwell on the fact that he didn’t really look like an athlete. That’s silly. He had astonishing control. He had movement, too. He could change speeds and keep hitters off-balance.

Those skills are every bit as valuable as throwing 100 mph and leaving fans breathless. Maddux was prepared. He sometimes knew opposing hitters better than they knew themselves.

Former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazone tells of the time he was giving his pitchers a scouting report on the Yankees before the 1996 World Series.

When he’d finished, Maddux deadpanned: “That’s not right. I’ve been watching film of Williams for two weeks.”

Maddux mentioned what he’d seen of Bernie Williams.

“Well, then the hell with this report,” Mazzone said. “We go with what Mad Dog says.”

Quotes by Greg Maddux.

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