Friday, March 25, 2016

Best players of the last 30 years, #25: Tom Glavine

The crafty lefty is one of many notable archetypes from the world of baseball. Not as famous or well-regarded as the slugger, the speed merchant, or the flamethrower, the crafty lefty is a pitcher (left-handed, of course) who doesn't seem to have the same tremendous physical gifts some possess, who doesn't have a fastball that lights up the radar gun, but who somehow still gets a lot of guys out, presumably with a mixture of wits, wiles, and voodoo magic. According to the popular view, a crafty lefty doesn't have as much talent as most other pitchers, but on the right day, or even for the right season, a crafty lefty can become the most frustrating pitcher in the world to face. If the crafty lefty puts things together like that just not upon occasion, or for a good year or two, but is instead able to do it over and over again for two mostly uninterrupted decades of success, were they really a crafty lefty?

If so, Tom Glavine was arguably the greatest crafty lefty in baseball history.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Best players of the last 30 years, #26: John Smoltz

I can't think of another player who had a career quite like John Smoltz had. He was a 22nd round draft pick, not the sort of player who seems destined to even make the Major Leagues, much less star there. In his first full season he was an All-Star, and he eventually won a Cy Young. A serious injury sidelined him for a full season though, and then not long after his return, he was moved to the bullpen. Almost immediately he became one of the best closers in the game. Then, after a few years in that role, he shifted back to the starting rotation, and was almost every bit as good as he had been a decade earlier. That's not taking the road less traveled, it's using a machete to carve out a new path entirely.