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The best ever?

A few thoughts upon the retirement of Greg Maddux

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Maddux’s string of 17 consecutive 15-plus-win seasons may never be beaten.
Scott Raab

I saw the news of Greg Maddux’s retirement on a crawl, and I told my wife, and she asked how old he was, and I said 45, because his MLB career lasted 23 seasons. So he got to The Show young, and by the time I grew fully aware of him as a Brave, I had missed his Cubby years, and he was already a master.

By “master” I’m saying that the guy was as good as any pitcher I saw pitch. And I go back to Koufax and Gibson and Marichal.

But that’s just anecdotal; any old fart can give you that. If you pay close attention to baseball stats, which I do, what you see there—for years and years and years and years—is someone whose dominance over the vast bulk of his career was matched by only a handful of men during the whole span of baseball history. I play an online baseball simulation game based on all the available historical data for thousands of real-life baseball players, including old old-timers and Negro Leaguers; you can check it out at Simnasium.com. The highest-priced pitcher on that site—by the numbers as played out in countless thousands of simulated games—is Maddux.

In short—and according to one bunch of diamond junkies who crunch baseball stats obsessively—he is clearly the most valuable pitcher in baseball history. Maddux is also the most controversial player on the website, because his superiority in the context, facing lineups with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby, is incredible. His control and durability are the subject of endless, sometimes angry, debate. Something, goes the argument, must be wrong with the coding for Greg Maddux, because he’s just too fucking good.

Greg Maddux in his element.

Folks get upset because his performance—and hey, for all I know there is something wrong with his coding—settles the argument about who’s the best ever: Maddux, plain and simple.

Who knows? What I love is that the whole brouhaha is based on the same five words that the 20,000-plus real-life batters he faced all likely spoke at one time or another: He’s just too fucking good.

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