Results tagged ‘ Greg Maddux ’

Material brought to you at the expense of McGwire and Kiffin

While I will admit to previous consumption of alcohol, I’m not willing to concede that this substance assisted me while I spent time at wedding receptions perfecting dance moves that have hopefully never been imitated.  

I mean, those same convulsions have occurred after an early-morning shot of V-8.   

Seriously though, it was both comical and maddening to hear Mark McGwire’s unwillingness to concede that steroids allowed him to morph into one of the most powerful creatures the game of baseball has ever seen.    

As McGwire continued to speak to Bob Costas during his hour-long acknowledgement address on Monday night, I could only think that it might be time for Saturday Night Live’s producers to resurrect that “Really” skit they did about Michael Vick a few years back.

McGwire has the right to maintain his opinion that these steroids didn’t serve as performance or statistical enhancers.  But as he minimizes their benefit by saying that he simply used them in a therapeutic manner to expedite the healing process, doesn’t he also show disregard for the determination many others have shown while dealing with the daily grinds of this game.  
While watching Monday’s interview, I couldn’t help but think about Tom Glavine.  Here’s a 300-game winner who arguably came close to maximizing the potential success he could gain through the game.  But how much better might his troublesome left shoulder felt had he consumed these chemicals that allow the body to bounce back quicker than normal?  

Over the past couple of years, Chipper Jones has said that he is disturbed about the fact that history will forever look suspiciously at the statistics that he and every other player from this era produce.  
 
Like this is sad but true, so too is the fact that we’ve reached a point where very little surprises me when it comes to this subject.
 
Of course if you were to tell me that Glavine was structurally enhanced by anything more than the occasional shot of cortisone, then I’d probably respond with something like, “yeah and Lane Kiffin will become as USC’s version of Joe Paterno.”  

Cy Young Trio:  Some of you were discussing the fractured state of Atlanta’s Cy Young trio after Greg Maddux was hired as an assistant to Cubs general manager Jim Hendry.  

While I understand why some of you wonder whether this was a slap in the face to the Braves, I didn’t see this as surprising.   When he was still with the Braves, Maddux told me that the game’s business model had always led him to stay away from making anything other than Las Vegas his family’s permanent residence.

Maddux loved the Braves and his family loves the city of Atlanta.  But his earliest ties are to the Cubs and his more recent dealings have been with Cubs GM Jim Hendry.   Truthfully, I really don’t know how well he got to know Frank Wren, who joined the Braves in September of 1999 and was still the club’s assistant GM when Maddux went to Chicago after the 2003 season.  

These special assistant roles are usually reserved for guys who have strong relationships and some kind of history with the GMs.   With this in mind, I just think the better fit at this time was for Maddux to lock horns with Hendry.   

My question is, does this arrangement provide any more reason to debate which hat Maddux should be wearing when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame?

Now to round up the update on the Cy Young trio, John Smoltz took time about two months ago to begin mending his relationship with the organization.  Everything seems to be heading in the right direction on that front.  

So while Smoltz might never again throw a pitch for the Braves, I don’t think he’ll feel the desire to stay completely away from Turner Field during his retirement years.

As for Glavine, I think he still has a right to feel just as infuriated as some of those Tennessee students and fans who have creatively found ways to destroy their Lane Kiffin t-shirts.   But this guy is a class act I get the sense that his relationship with the organization will also be repaired in the near future.

Speaking of former Braves left-handers, Chuck James is expected to begin throwing for teams within the next week.  The 28-year-old southpaw missed all of the 2009 season while recovering from shoulder surgery.   

While the Braves might have a need for somebody like James to improve their organizational depth in the starting pitching department, the southpaw may still be upset about how they handled his shoulder which bothered him for more than a year before he was completely shut down.
  
Chris Resop spent the past season and a half pitching in Japan and now he’s ready to once again compete for a spot in the Braves bullpen. He has signed a Minor League contract and received an invitation to Spring Training.  

The 27-year-old right-hander, who made 16 appearances with the 2008 Braves, is excited about his arm strength and the sink that he’s recently gained with his two-seam fastball. 
 
Catch you later this week.   Follow me on Twitter @mlbbowman

Smoltz will forever be a Brave

This was truly a sad afternoon for the Braves.  While John Smoltz might have spent the past few months wearing a Red Sox uniform, he’s forever a Brave and arguably the most succesful athlete to ever play for one of Atlanta’s professional organizations.

When the Red Sox announced this afternoon that Smoltz had been designated for assignment, Braves general manager Frank Wren didn’t pump his fist or perform a celebratory dance. 

Instead like everybody else who has ever known the veteran hurler, he felt sympathetic to emotional battle that is waging within Smoltz. 

While Wren might have been correct in his assessment that Smoltz’s shoulder would prevent him from being an asset in the Atlanta rotation this year, Smoltz was anything but wrong to accept yet another great challenge in foreign territory.

Smoltz’s days as a starting pitcher are likely complete.  But after he takes some time to mull his options at his Atlanta residence this weekend, there’s a chance he’ll opt to go to the Minors and prepare himself to spend the final weeks of this season as a reliever. 

Smoltz sent me a text earlier this afternoon saying that he’d call later.  If that call doesn’t come until Sunday or Monday, I won’t be surprised.  For the first time since he struggled during the first half of the  1991 season, he’s in a position where he’s wondering if he is still capable of finding success at the Major League level. 

While I wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility that Smoltz would sign with the Braves and attempt to regain his form with Triple-A Gwinnett, I think it’s much safer to assume that he’ll return to the Red Sox and spend the next couple of weeks attempting to right himself with their Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket.

Right now, Smoltz doesn’t even know for certain whether he’d be capable of coming out of the bullpen as few as  three times in a week.  This is a question that can only be answered by him going to the Minors and testing the strength and durability of his shoulder.

The Red Sox seem to be open to this arrangement and the ever-competitive Smoltz would seemingly welcome the ability to accept yet another challenge. 

But if this was indeed the end of Smoltz days on the mound, Braves fans can shed a tear for one of their legends and then celebrate the fact that he at least now will be returning home with the opportunity to be a part of their organization for the rest of his life.

There’s no doubt that Smoltz has some hard feelings toward the Braves organization.  But hopefully his relationships with members of the club’s upper management can be mended qhick enough for him and Tom Glavine to soon have the opportunity to experience the same kind of joy that Greg Maddux found a few weeks ago,  when his Braves career was celebrated at Turner Field.   

Maddux open to helping Braves during Spring Training

Braves manager Bobby Cox has said that he’d like to have Greg Maddux serve as a special instructor during Spring Training and it appears the four-time Cy Young Award winner is interested in the possibility of spending at least a week or two in this role.

“I would 100 percent think about it, absolutely,”  said Maddux, who played for Cox in Atlanta from 1993-2003.   
    
After ending his 23-season Major League career with his retirement in December, Maddux opted to spend a week this year serving as a special Spring Training instructor for the Padres, who had utilized him in their starting rotation during the 2007 and ’08 seasons.

“It was pretty easy for me to get to Arizona,” Maddux said. “I played with that team the last two years so I knew all the players. It was more of a fun thing than an actual coaching experience. Having an opportunity to sit back with the coaches and hear what they say about the players, it was something I enjoyed.”

This Spring Training assignment with the Padres provided  Maddux the opportunity to remain close to his Las Vegas home.  But Cox remains hopeful that he’ll be able to lure the legendary hurler to Florida for a few weeks to benefit the Braves pitchers with his great intellect. 

“We’d love to have him,” Cox said. “He’s welcome any time.” 

While Maddux hasn’t completely closed the door on the possibility of accepting a full-time coaching role in the future, it seems he’s currently more interested in spending time with his wife and two children.
  
Along with watching his 12-year-old son, Chase, play baseball, Maddux has enjoyed the regular father-son outings that they’ve regularly shared on the golf course. 

“I don’t miss (playing) as much as I thought I would, which is a good thing,” Maddux said. “I’m enjoying being home. It does feel like it’s still the offseason. I still consider myself a baseball player, but it’s the offseason still. I’m enjoying going to my kids’ games and playing catch-up.” 

Cox was certainly moved on Friday, when the Braves inducted Maddux into their Hall of Fame and then retired his No. 31 jersey.   The 11-0 win his club claimed over the Mets only brightened a day the 68-year-old manager will seemingly never forget. 

“I’d have to say that was one of the best days I’ve ever experienced in baseball,”  Cox said. 

Maddux: The Great Entertainer

While driving to Greg Maddux’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony this
morning, I was thinking  I’d blog about some of my best Maddux-related
stories.  But upon further review, I decided that in the best interest
of remaining employed, I’d keep some of those hilarious comments and
events out of the eyesight of innocent children.

When I was
working on Maddux’s retirement story in December, Chipper Jones
referred to the four-time Cy Young Award winner as the “the same
dirtbag he’s always been.”

“He’s one of the grossest guys I’ve ever been
around in my life,” Jones said.  “That was part of his charm. That’s how he kept the
clubhouse mood light. That’s how he entertained himself.”

Maddux
might have occasionally tainted some sanitary socks before throwing
them back in the clubhouse bin for an unsuspecting teammate to grab. 
And there might have been some occasions when was thoroughly amused by
the telling of some of the world’s crudest jokes. 

But at the
end of the day, he was essentially just a guy’s-guy, who would have
been the one of the most popular inhabitants of the nation’s best frat
houses.

While his 355 career wins, four consecutive Cy Young
Awards and 18 Gold Glove Awards made him extraordinary, the fact that
he remained ordinary is the primary reason that he was so beloved by
teammates, coaches, media members and anybody else, who had the
pleasure to know him as something more than simply the greatest pitcher
of his generation.

During Friday’s induction ceremony, Braves
broadcaster Don Sutton may have provided Maddux the greatest compliment
while pointing out that he’d watched Sandy Koufax, Tom Seaver Roberto
Clemente, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays play. 

“None of them gave
me the thrill that I got while watching you,” Sutton said.  “It was a
remarkable experience.  I used to sit up there and try to think with
you, but then I’d realize that I was as overmatched as those hitters.”

There
were a number of comical stories told throughout the day and with
little surprise some of the funniest were provided by Maddux’s longtime
pitching coach, Leo Mazzone. 

Mazzone once again told the
story about the exchange he had with Maddux during his 89-pitch,
three-hit masterpiece at Yankee Stadium in 1997.  After umpire John
Hirschbeck stopped Maddux as he came back toward the dugout after a
half-inning, Mazzone asked, “What did he say to you.”

“He told
me, I’m as good as advertised,” Maddux replied. “Isn’t that (something)
Leo, now I also have to live up to the expectations of the umpires.”

Mazzone
also talked about a dominant stretch of Maddux’s career, during which
the legendary hurler pointed out that he’d gone at least two months
without being visited on the mound by his pitching coach.

“He
said Leo you haven’t been out to the mound this year and I said, “What
for?” Mazzone said. “Then he said, “Well it gets kind of lonely out
there.”  He said, ‘I’m tired of talking to Chipper, you know you have
to pick your spots with the umpires and Eddie Perez doesn’t speak
English.”

So
after Maddux arranged for Mazzone to visit the mound when he looked
into the dugout during his next start, this was essentially the
exchange that ensued:

Maddux:  How you doing coach, how am I looking?
Mazzone:  Pretty good Mad Dog, you’ve got a three-hit shutout going.
Maddux: Well it was nice talking to you.

Jones
also repeated the story about how he ran over Maddux during the first
inning of his Opening Day start in 1995.  For those who forget, Jones,
who was beginning his first full year with the Braves, aggressively
attacked Barry Bonds’ pop-up to the first-base side of the mound and in
the process rolled the man who had won the previous three National
League Cy Young Awards.

When he looked up and saw Maddux also
on the ground, Jones heard a message that he relayed during Friday’s
ceremony by regularly utilzing the words, “bleep” and “bleepin”.

“I got a tongue-lashing that my father never even thought about giving me,” Jones said.

Adding
a portion of the story I’d never previously heard, Jones said that
Maddux did at least congratulate him after he drove home the season’s
first run during the bottom half of the same inning.  

According to Jones, Maddux said, “Hey Larry, nice job.  That’s awesome.  Now stay the bleep away from me.”

Because
he was at  his son’s baseball tournament in Florida, Tom Glavine wasn’t
able to attend Friday’s events.  But via a video he provided a
congratulatory message and talked about how special it was to be part
of the great Braves starting rotations that included himself, John
Smoltz and Maddux.

“It’s a well-deserved honor and I hope
someday that the trio of Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz can meet up again
in Cooperstown,” Glavine said.  

McCann deserves an All-Star start

As an objective journalist, I’m not supposed to serve as Brian McCann’s campaign manager.  But while presenting the facts, it seems like it would be pretty easy to persuade you to click here  and show McCann the final-week support he needs to earn the nod as the National League’s starting catcher during this year’s All-Star Game.
 
When the latest ballot results were released on Monday, it wasn’t too surprising to see that Yadier Molina was still leading the way among NL catchers.  St. Louis fans have always shown strong All-Star support to their favorite Cardinals.
 
But it didn’t make much sense to see that over the course of seven days, Molina had doubled his lead over McCann to 315,973 votes.
 
While hitting .279 with five homers and a .736 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage), Molina is enjoying a solid season and if you want to bring defense into the equation, then maybe you can make a case for him pleasing the hometown fans with his presence in the starting lineup during this year’s All-Star Game, which will be played at Busch Stadium on July 14.
 
But even while accounting for their gloves can you truly say that Molina is more deserving than McCann, whose .318 batting average is 39 points higher than Molina’s mark, which ranks second among NL catchers? 

In addition, McCann’s .915 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage)  is 169 points better than any other NL catcher.
 
Having essentially missed the month of April while dealing with blurred vision, McCann doesn’t possess the same kind of power number that have helped him gain an All-Star selection during each of his first three full Major League seasons. 

But even with this long absence, McCann ranks second among NL catchers in homers (6) and third with 29  RBIs. 

With 52 fewer at-bats, McCann has tallied five more RBIs than Yadier Molina.  And in 63 fewer at-bats, he has moved to within 12 RBIs of the leading mark posted by San Francisco’s Bengie Molina, who also paces the NL catchers with 10 homers. 

Dating back to the start of the 2006 season, McCann leads all Major League catchers in doubles, homers, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.   

While these marks shouldn’t necessarily affect this year’s voting, they do serve as further proof that McCann and Minnesota’s Joe Mauer have undoubtedly established themselves as the game’s top offensive catchers. 

With this in mind, there’s little doubt that McCann will gain a fourth consecutive All-Star appearance.  But while he’ll never admit it, the satisfaction of this latest selection would be accompanied with the disappointment that will be felt if he doesn’t get the starting nod that he seemingly deserves. 

Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times with the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites until July 2 at 11:59 p.m. ET. 

The Yankees are here:
   When the Yankees last visited Turner Field in 2000, the opener of that three-game series pitted Greg Maddux against Roger Clemens.    During this battle between eventual 300-game winners, Maddux allowed seven earned runs and 13 hits in 5 2/3 innings.  But with Clemens allowing six runs  — four earned —  in five innings, the Braves claimed an 11-7 win that was aided by Brian Jordan’s  four-RBI performance.
 
With Tommy Hanson slated to start against Chien-Ming Wang tonight, this week’s series opener doesn’t provide the same kind of epic pitching matchup.  But it’s going to be fun to see how Hanson handles himself while staring at the Yankee pinstripes during what will be just his fourth Major League start.
  
When asked yesterday about the potential anxiety he might experience while pitching to Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez, Hanson said, “They’re hitters, so if I make my pitches, I feel like I’m going to be alright.”
 
If asked to compare Hanson to former Braves, I’d have to say he possesses Kevin Millwood’s quiet confidence and John Smoltz’s dominant arsenal.  The kid is going to be special and his celebrity will instantaneously grow if he produces a gem in front of the New York media tonight.
 
Heyward update:  Jason Heyward missed three weeks with a strained right oblique.  Since returning to the Class A Myrtle Beach lineup last week, he has four hits in 17 at-bats.   The rosters for this year’s Futures Game will be announced later this week and there’s obviously a chance that Heyward will be among those invited to participate. 

Something memorable will occur

During the final day of last year’s September series in Philadelphia, Jeff Francoeur sat in the dugout and talked about how he was looking forward to being back in that same spot to open this season. 

At the time, he specifically mentioned being here on the afternoon of April 6.  But that was before the Phillies won a World Series and prompted ESPN to choose tonight’s game as the one that will kick off Major League Baseball’s season. 

This marks the second straight year that the Braves will participate in the first game played on United States soil.  Last year in Washington, the Nationals were opening a new stadium and George Bush was present to throw the first pitch, which drew an ovation only trumped by the one elicited after Ryan Zimmerman drilled the evening’s final pitch over the left-centerfield wall.

After tonight, this long marathon will include 161 more regular season games and
there’s sure to be some pitching matchups that will create some
midseason energy.  But until you get to October, it’s hard to match the
adrenaline you feel leading into an Opening Night (Day) game. 

Something will happen tonight that you’ll remember for many years to come.    

I seriously can’t remember the second game that was played during any of the past four seasons.  But  Ihave vivid memories of each of the Opening Day contests that were played during this span.  In 2005, the Marlins ruined John Smoltz’s return to the rotation and in 2006, Tim Hudson teamed with Derek Lowe to allow the Braves and Dodgers to stage an 11-10 offensive slugfest that was decided by Ryan Langerhans’ eighth-inning solo homer.  

In 2007, Edgar Renteria hit a late-inning opposite-field homer that propelled the Braves to victory over the Phillies and then last year, Zimmerman gave Nationals fans reason to celebrate by christening the stadium with its first walk-off homer.

The Braves opened the 2007 season with a three-game sweep in Philadelphia and then, six months later, watched the Phillies celebrate the first of two consecutive division titles.

Obviously nothing will be detemined tonight, this week or even this month.  But you can be assured that something memorable will happen tonight. 

Speaking of memorable, I’m looking forward to July 17, when the Braves retire Greg Maddux’s number.  It was an absolute pleasure to watch him on the mound and a true honor to get to know him.  Analytical, hilarious, crude, competitive and humble are all appropriate descriptions.

To provide an example that his analytical skills functioned away from the mound, I’ll tell you about a day in 2003, when we were in Puerto Rico.  Chipper Jones told me that Mark DeRosa had visited a store and bought a can of dip that he was sure must have been transported on The Mayflower. 

After relaying DeRosa’s humorous line, Maddux simply looked at me and said, “It wouldn’t have been the Mayflower.  I think the Pinta or Santa Maria were the boats that would have landed down here.”

It doesn’t matter whether the Pinta or Santa Maria actually arrived in Puerto Rico.  The point is that Maddux was always thinking and while taking joy in his argumentitive skills, he always made you feel like he was that much smarter than you.  But he always did so in a very humble manner.

Maddux had a great impact on a number of pitchers, including Derek Lowe, who will make his Braves debut tonight against Brett Myers and the Phillies. 

This marks the fourth straight year the Braves have opened on the road and their only two Opening Day wins during this span came in games that were started by Lowe (2006 Dodgers) and Myers (2007 Phillies).

Will Jordan Schafer be the one who provides the lasting memory while making his Major League debut tonight?  Or will it be Francoeur, who would love to take the opportunity to show a national television audience why this year will be so much different than last year.   
 

 

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