Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz. Coaches dream of a starting rotation with the talent that these three possessed.
In the '90s, facing the Atlanta Braves was something no hitter wanted to do. The plate was widened by six inches on either side—that was the complaint, at least. Some defended this argument by saying, "It was earned."
No matter how you feel about it, it didn't matter if they got those six inches or not.
This trio complemented each other so well, unlike any other trio of our time. Maddux and Glavine possessed pinpoint control. Neither was particularly overpowering, they just threw with different arms and each had substantial movement on every pitch.
After facing the first two, it was never easy facing the flame-thrower, Smoltz. It was even harder to adjust from day to day, when the rotation went Maddux, Smoltz, and then Glavine.
In a decade when it seemed like offense was rising year in and year out, these three pitchers continued to keep Atlanta at the top of the league in pitching.
Not only did they prevent teams from uncorking on the Braves, but they continued to dominate. They carried this trend into the new millennium.
In their careers, Maddux (350-222, 3.14 ERA), Glavine (305-202, 3.53 ERA), and Smoltz (210-147, 3.26 ERA) have compiled 865 wins with a 3.30 earned run average, combined.
Along with the wins, Smoltz tacked on 154 saves in 169 attempts in a three year span. In 20 seasons, minus '01 and '08 when he has a combined 10 starts and '02-'04 when he had zero, Smoltz averaged 13.4 wins per year. When adding that average into the five seasons he was injured or was closer, you now have a pitcher with 268 career wins.
In 2008, Smoltz and Glavine have spent the majority of the season on the disabled list. Maddux is 3-8, with a 4.21 ERA, and hasn't had a full season ERA under 4.00 since 2003, when it was was 3.96. Imagine what that 3.14 ERA looked like prior to 2003.
With their ERAs and injuries increasing, I think it is time for the big three to "hang 'em up."
First, the Braves need to reacquire Maddux from San Diego. I think San Diego would let him return without much of a fight. Then the three need to retire at the end of 2008.
If the Hall of Fame voters have a respect for the game, all three of them will be enshrined in 2013.