Shanks: Braves’ rotation in 1990s was the best

sports@macon.comJanuary 11, 2014 

Through all the discussion this past week about the baseball players who should have made the Hall of Fame and the ones who didn’t even deserve consideration due to potential use of performance enhancing drugs, there were two players from our neck of the woods who actually got into Cooperstown.

Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux will join their former manager Bobby Cox in what will be a “Braves day” on July 27. Make your plans now to travel somewhere far away from New York City and closer to Canada to watch three Braves get the highest honor in baseball.

The expectation is John Smoltz will join the club next year, which will almost guarantee that we can call Atlanta’s rotation from 1990s the best in baseball history.

Glavine, Maddux and Smoltz were in the Braves’ rotation together from 1993 through 1999. The next season, Smoltz got hurt and then went to the bullpen after he recovered from his elbow injury. In that seven-year span, the Atlanta trio had 340 wins, 166 losses and a 2.92 ERA.

To have three pitchers in one rotation for seven years with a combined winning percentage of .672 is impressive. The three won five of the seven Cy Young Awards in that period.

That dominance is something we’ll probably never see again, particularly with how free agency has made it very difficult for teams to keep pitchers in a rotation together that long.

Look at what happened to Oakland’s grand trio a decade ago. From 2000 through 2004, the Athletics had Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson in their rotation. That trio had a record of 234 wins and 119 losses in that five-year span. The combined ERA was 3.54.

But Hudson and Mulder were traded off after 2004, and Zito followed them out the door two years later. Only Hudson has a chance to make the Hall of Fame, as Mulder got hurt and Zito struggled after he left Oakland to go across the bay to San Francisco.

The best recent trio might be with San Francisco, where for the past four seasons Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum have combined for a 147-129 record and a 3.39 ERA.

Look at the trio the Braves had last season that was very successful. Kris Medlen, Julio Teheran and Mike Minor combined for 42 wins and 29 losses and a 3.17 ERA. That was pretty impressive, but can those three keep it up moving forward, or will free agency or injuries get in the way of creating a new big three for the Braves?

In the past 50 years, it’s hard to find any rotation that compares to the one the Braves had in the 1990s.

The New York Mets had Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver (two Hall of Famers) along with Jerry Koosman in the same rotation from 1968 through 1971, but Ryan’s career didn’t really take off until after he was traded to the California Angels.

The Baltimore Orioles actually had two different six-year stretches with impressive trios. The first was from 1969 through 1974, when Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally combined for 342 wins and 182 losses -- a .653 winning percentage.

Then at the end of Palmer’s career, from 1978 through 1983, he joined Mike Flanagan and Scott McGregor to go 261 and 154 in a six-year period for a .629 winning percentage.

Palmer is the only Orioles pitcher in the Hall.

But to have three pitchers who will be in Cooperstown in one rotation for seven years? That likely will never happen again.

We were extremely lucky to have these starting pitchers up the road in Atlanta. If you were able to watch those seven years of baseball, it’ll probably be something you’ll tell your grandchildren about 30 years from now.

It was special, and we’ll realize it even more when Maddux and Glavine step up to the podium in Cooperstown this summer.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at Follow Bill at and e-mail him at

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