Glavine last hurrah for 300 club?

Mlb Week

August 13, 2006|By DAN CONNOLLY

Tom Glavine said he thinks about it only when someone else brings it up.

But Glavine, one of baseball's greatest straight shooters, isn't going to lie and say it's just another number.

Now that he is this close, the New York Mets lefty wants to reach 300 wins, which, if he stays healthy, he'll likely get sometime next season.

"It's just a difficult thing to do nowadays," said Glavine, 40, who lost in his bid for career win No. 288 at RFK Stadium Friday. "If I am able to do it, No. 1, that would certainly be a cool thing. And No. 2, that I could possibly be the last one to ever do it, that's kind of a neat thing too."

Yes, realistically, Glavine could be the final pitcher to achieve what only 22 others have -- beginning with Pud Galvin of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1888.

"After Glavine, those other guys are going to be cutting it real close," said Orioles pitching coach Leo Mazzone, who coached both Glavine and 300-winner Greg Maddux in Atlanta.

It's not their fault, Mazzone says, it's just the myriad factors that work against today's pitchers, most specifically fewer starts per season.

"It's the way the game of baseball is now structured and the evolution of pitching," Mazzone said. "Because of no more four-man rotations, nobody coming back a day early hardly at all, no more complete games, the so-called setup guy, smaller strike zones and smaller ballparks."

Besides Glavine, only two currently active pitchers have a legitimate shot at 300: The New York Yankees' Randy Johnson (275) and Mike Mussina (237).

"Those two guys could, depending on how long they want to pitch," Glavine said.

Johnson turns 43 in September and, considering he hasn't won 20 or more games in a season since 2002, he likely would have to pitch into 2008 to hit the milestone. Mussina, 38 in December, would likely have to stick around four more seasons.

"Standing here today, I don't see myself trying to make a run at it," Mussina said last week. "Playing for that long, the last two years depend on the first two. If an injury happens or a bad year happens, it puts it completely out of reach, then you can't even consider it."

Of the other eight active pitchers with more than 150 career wins, only 34-year-olds Pedro Martinez (206 wins) and Andy Pettitte (183), are younger than 39.

"In most cases, you have to win 200 games in the last 12 years of your career," Mussina said. "You're talking about somebody that's 39-, 40-, 41-years-old, and unless you are unique and gifted and been doing it for 18 or 20 years, the odds are tough."

It's so difficult that Oakland's Barry Zito has 98 wins at 28, but he'd have to average an unrealistic 20 wins per season for the next decade to be on the milestone's doorstep at 38.

So the exclusive club very well could close with Glavine. Then again, maybe the next 300-game winner hasn't yet thrown a major league pitch.

"You never know," said Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan, who won 167 games in his big league career. "I think I went back once upon a time and looked at gaps in history and there were no 300-game winners for like [20] years. And then there were five."

Five times since the modern era began, baseball has gone more than 10 years in between new 300-game winners. The longest gap was 20 years, from when Lefty Grove got his in 1941 until Warren Spahn in 1961. Two seasons later, Early Wynn hit the milestone and then almost 19 more years passed before Gaylord Perry's 300th win in 1982. In the next four seasons after Perry, four more pitchers reached it.

Although there are no specific requirements, 300 wins has brought with it the key into baseball's Hall of Fame entrance. All 20 of the 300-game winners eligible for Cooperstown are in, and the other two, the Los Angeles Dodgers' Greg Maddux and the Houston Astros' Roger Clemens, most likely will be.

Of the 22 pitchers that have won between 250 and 300 games, however, only 11 are in -- with just two still active, Glavine and Johnson.

Three pitchers, Baltimore native Bobby Mathews (297) of the pre-modern era and more recent hurlers Tommy John (288) and Bert Blyleven (287) finished a solid season's win total from 300 and haven't gained Hall admittance. Maybe that changes within the next decade or two if 250 becomes the new 300.

"I have thought that might be the wave of the future," Flanagan said. "I think about guys like Blyleven and Tommy John and 280 in my estimation should be in. And maybe when those guys get in, maybe that brings it down a little bit."

But no matter how the game changes -- and how random the number may be -- some fans and baseball people will always see 300 wins as the ultimate accomplishment.

"Pitching numbers will be lowered and offensive numbers will stay the same or be even higher. The whole game is geared around offense," Mazzone said. "All numbers in the pitching department will be lowered. But I'm going to stay stubborn and say [the standard] should still be 300."

Winning pitchers

Current major league pitchers with more than 150 career wins (through Friday's games).

Name Age Wins

Roger Clemens 44 345

Greg Maddux 40 328

Tom Glavine 40 287

Randy Johnson 42 275

Mike Mussina 37 237

David Wells 43 228

Jamie Moyer 43 211

Curt Schilling 39 206

Pedro Martinez 34 206

Kenny Rogers 41 201

John Smoltz 39 187

Andy Pettitte 34 183

Tim Wakefield 40 151

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