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Could Maddux be last to 300?07/22/2004 4:45 PM ET
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Greg Maddux may be the last Major League pitcher to win 300 games. His former teammate Tom Glavine thinks so.
"There are so few people who have played the game and have gotten there, and that makes it a special and unique accomplishment," said the Mets left-hander, who began this season 49 wins shy of 300. "After Greg, I don't know if you're going to see any more."
Arizona's Randy Johnson agrees.
"I don't think 300 wins will be achieved beyond Greg Maddux," said the Diamondbacks left-hander, who started the season 70 wins away from the milestone. "I think the bar will come down considerably for pitchers when it comes to evaluating how [they] are. That being said, with the bar coming down, it's a lot to be said for anybody who wins 300.
"Obviously, Greg has been consistent over the years, and that's why he has come so close. And being healthy, too. He's gotten what he deserves. He's one of the premier pitchers and has been. It's inevitable that he'll win his 300th game."
Roger Clemens notched his 300th victory last season and when Maddux accomplishes that, he'll be the 22nd player to do so.
The 38-year-old right-hander is the only Major League pitcher to win at least 15 games in 16 consecutive seasons. That consistency is one of the reasons he's close to achieving the magical 300.
"He's the epitome of what pitching is all about," said Cincinnati pitching coach Don Gullett. "He doesn't try to throw the ball by people. He understands the importance of location and ball movement and changing his speeds.
"Obviously, he's very intelligent about how he goes about attacking each hitter, and their strengths and weaknesses. He's like a surgeon out there. That's why he's successful."
Maddux doesn't like to talk about 300. He doesn't want to look ahead.
"He knows the numbers and what he's accomplished, but he doesn't like talking about it," said Glavine. "He might tell you he doesn't know how many wins he needs, but I guarantee you he does.
"I think that's his way of not wanting to talk about something that it's not time to talk about. He knows 300 wins is within his reach, and barring some major catastrophe, he's going to get there. To him, the most important thing is who his next game is. That's how he chooses to think -- or has to think -- based on what his preparation is. And it's worked for him."
The young Cubs pitchers are learning how cerebral Maddux is. When he signed with Chicago, there was talk about how he would be a mentor for Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano. Maddux downplayed that, but the three are learning from the veteran.
"Obviously, he knows quite a bit about it," said Wood. "Sometimes he's a little deeper than I thought people were on the mound. I've got a lot to learn. It's been fun having him around and fun to watch him pitch and see him do his work in between."
"Thinking-wise," Wood explained. "Sometimes I don't think as much as he does, which could be a bad thing -- or it could be a good thing. We haven't figured out which one it is, good or bad."
Wood began this season with 59 big league wins. Prior had 24. Former big league pitcher and current San Francisco broadcaster Mike Krukow, who posted a 124-117 record over 14 seasons, thinks the two also have a chance at 300.
Prior's not sure. Injuries have bugged the young right-hander, who did not make his first start of 2004 until June 4 because of a painful right Achilles and has battled a sore elbow since then. In addition, the emphasis on relievers and the pressure of pitch counts has altered a pitcher's chances of finishing what he starts.
"I think the game has changed to the point where it's driven by getting your starters through six [innings], then turning it over to specialized relievers," said Prior. "You don't see a lot of complete games any more. If you have two or three innings left in a game, a lot can happen, especially if it's a two- or three-run game.
"Three hundred wins means staying healthy, longevity, being lucky a lot of times. The fact that [Maddux] was with the Braves when they were winning close to 100 games a year helps. There are a lot of factors that go into winning 300 games. The only way you don't do it by being on a good team is being a freak like Nolan [Ryan] and playing for 28 years and just being around."
"I can't even relate to it," said Cincinnati pitcher Todd Jones of achieving 300 wins. "I don't think you can start thinking about it until you're at 250 and your arm hasn't fallen off."
And 250 could be the new milestone.
"In this day and age of five-man rotations and bullpens and everything else, winning 300 games is next to impossible," said Glavine. "With a five-man rotation, the odds of winning 20 games are [low]. You push that number down to 15, 16 a year, and the 300 number will come down with it. You're looking at guys getting to that 250 plateau as being a really big accomplishment and the 300 plateau almost being virtually impossible.
"You don't get the opportunity to win as many games any more with the five-man rotation and the way the offenses are nowadays. It's harder and harder for starters to stay in there and get the decisions. The bullpen has become such a commodity, starting pitchers are being taken out of games that are tied and don't get the chance to win anymore."
Fernando Valenzuela agrees. He pitched 17 years and had a career 173-153 record.
"It's hard not only to pitch every fifth day but to win the games," said Valenzuela, now a broadcaster with the Los Angeles Dodgers. "Sometimes you pitch good and don't have the offense and support from the team, and it goes as a no-decision. This game is a team game. Everybody has to do it together to win games."
Tom Seaver remembers his milestone game, on Aug. 4, 1985. He was pitching for the Chicago White Sox, and pitching coach Dave Duncan was acting manager in place of skipper Tony La Russa, who had been ejected in the second inning. The White Sox were playing the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
"It's the ninth inning, two guys on, 4-1 ballgame, Yankee Stadium," he said. "Duncan comes out and he says, 'If you think I'm taking you out of this game in front of 60,000 people at Yankee Stadium, you're out of your mind.'"
Seaver got the win.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.