Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday 7/27 Hall of Fame Quickie

I informally keep a running list of my favorite players of all-time, by sport.

In baseball, the list is topped by Ryne Sandberg, then Cal Ripken.

No. 3 is Greg Maddux, who goes into the Hall of Fame today.

"Peak Maddux" is the most remarkable pitcher I have watched in my lifetime ("Peak Pedro" is close, but I hate the Red Sox, so.)

Peak Maddux is what I imagine it was like watching Peak Koufax or Peak Walter Johnson. That is the level Maddux is/was at (although he was better, longer than Koufax by a wide margin.)

A huge part of Maddux's appeal was his average size. He wasn't some kind of hulk like Clemens or giant like Randy Johnson.

Maddux was relatable. He dominated with approach. Typically, "guile" is associated with marginal nibblers - crafty average. Maddux was "power guile," which is just about the best combination you could ask for.

He was brilliant. But he also came across as totally cool - he didn't ooze intensity; it felt natural, as if befuddling hitters and pinpoint mastery of the strike zone was you in the backyard.

Among the highest compliments you can pay a player is that thy were the best of their generation. That's Maddux.

There are other power pitchers, obviously. (In wondering whether we'd see a pitcher as good as Maddux again, King Felix - currently still in his peak -comes to mind.)

But no one combined a mortal look with immortal results like Maddux.

- D.S.

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