Competitiveness fueled Glavine, Maddux
As a sports journalist in Atlanta, I often saw Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine up close and personal with the Braves, so I'll share this observation, but don't tell anybody: They were fiercely competitive. I mean, they battled each other over everything. Golf. Ping pong. March Madness pools. Jeopardy. Alligator wrestling. Karaoke. Sky diving. Hot-dog eating on the Fourth of July.
OK, some of that isn't true, but you get the idea. During the decade that Maddux and Glavine played together for the Braves through 2002, one was Muhammad Ali to the other's Joe Frazier, but they competed in the friendliest of ways. Not surprisingly, their little duels included all aspects of baseball, especially pitching, which is why they sit among the latest electees to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Said Glavine of Maddux: "Greg had a huge impact on me, both from a standpoint of what he provided for our team, and in doing so made me want to work harder and be better to keep up, but also learning from him about the things that he did to do what he did."
What Maddux did was a lot. The same went for Glavine, who was the left-handed version of Maddux, with pitches that barely sliced through the wind. They both were masters at pinpoint control on the outside corner of the plate, and the next hitter that consistently outsmarts either one of them will be the first. So it makes sense that they both won more than 300 games (355 for Maddux, 305 for Glavine). In fact, Maddux finished the 1990s with more victories than any pitcher in the Major Leagues at 176, and Glavine was second at 164.
Then there were the multiple Cy Young Awards. Maddux captured four of them to Glavine's two, but Glavine was second in the Cy Young Award voting twice and third twice.
As for 20-victory seasons, Glavine had five to Maddux's two.
So take that, Greg.
Glavine only would hint of saying as much with a smile. So would John Smoltz, another Braves pitcher from that era. Not only did Smoltz join the various competitions involving Maddux and Glavine inside and outside of the balllpark, he often prospered in them. He also won the Cy Young Award as a starting pitcher, but he spent part of his career as one of the game's most potent closers before switching back to starting. Smoltz should reach Cooperstown next year.
Steve Avery won't. Neither will Pete Smith, Kevin Millwood, Charlie Leibrandt, Denny Neagle or any other pitcher who shared the starting rotation with the Braves' Big Three of Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz to build the foundation for a record 14 consecutive division titles, five National League pennants and the 1995 World Series title.
Did I mention they all were competitive at being competitive?
"Being around guys like John and Greg and so many other guys that were here over the years, people always talk about that competition we had on the pitching staff, and we had it," Glavine said. "But it was always in a fun way, always in a respectful way, always in a way that we honestly drove each other to be better. Whether it was pitching -- ultimately the No. 1 thing -- or hitting, fielding, bunting, you name it."
Let's start with hitting, and let's stick with Maddux and Glavine since they are the stars of the moment. While Glavine batted .220 or better (including .289 in 1996) during four of the 10 seasons they were together, Maddux only did so twice. Glavine also had seven years in that stretch with double-digit sacrifice hits (including a Major League-leading 17 in 2001) to Maddux's four.
Now let's move to fielding ...
If you're partisan toward Glavine, let's not.
But don't get me wrong. The athletically gifted Glavine was sensational on defense, and he showed as much by committing more than one error (2) in a season just once during his time with Maddux, and that was in 1993. During three of those Maddux-Glavine years, Glavine went errorless, and those seasons came in a row through 2002. It's just that Maddux continued in his as the best fielding pitcher of all time, and he has a record 18 Gold Gloves to prove it.
That said, the pitching thing is why Maddux and Glavine will have busts in Cooperstown, and here's where this particular competition rose to a higher level in Glavine's mind.
"I think Greg's greatest influence on me was the way he would go out there and have a game plan and execute that game plan or change that game plan based, not only on what he wanted to do, but what hitters were telling him, how they were reacting," Glavine said, confessing that he was more of a thrower than a thinker before Maddux joined the Braves before the 1993 season. Added Glavine, on the cerebral approach to pitching, "That's not anything that I really paid attention to up until talking to Greg Maddux. My game plan always was, 'Here's what I want to do, and I'm going to go out there and try to do it, and, hopefully, I'm going to try and beat you.'"
The thing is, Glavine wasn't going to beat hitters regularly with his old approach, and when it came to the Braves' pitching competition, he wasn't going to beat You Know Who.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.