Sports Opinion:

The upcoming MLB season is going to pose one of the best pitching rotations of all time.

But is it the greatest?

The Phillies acquired Cliff Lee once again in addition to the other four starting pitchers: Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, Roy Halladay and Joe Blanton.

The mid 1990s’ Atlanta Braves had the best pitching rotation to ever grace a mound in the steroid era. Four of the five starting pitchers for the Braves consisted of Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Denny Neagle.

The Braves’ starters won seven Cy Young Awards. Maddux is a three-time award winner, Glavine won two and Smoltz capped it off with one.

Maddux and Glavine are known as the “true pitchers,” not just hard throwers like Smoltz who would blow away the batter. Maddux is the only pitcher ever to record 15 wins in 17 straight seasons. Second in this category is CY Young with 15 consecutive seasons of 15 wins or more. He also holds the record for the most Gold Gloves with 18.

Maddux was a baseball phenomenon who could outthink his opponents, not just blow a fastball by them. Glavine was a five-time 20-game winner and one of 24 pitchers to ever reach 300 career wins.

This Braves squad played in an era when less strict drug testing occurred, making it easier for hitters to “juice” and hit more home runs. Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine are all safe bets for their induction to Cooperstown, The Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Phillies pitchers have combined for three Cy Young Awards, two of which have gone to Halladay and one to Lee. Halladay threw the 20th perfect game in MLB history last season against the Marlins and a no hitter in his first ever postseason game against the Reds. Halladay struck out 219 batters in 250 innings, only allowing 30 walks.

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Halladay led the National League in wins, innings pitched, and was the seventh player ever to record 250 or more innings with 30 or fewer walks, just last season. Lee is also an experienced pitcher who is a leader and keeps a calm, cool persona while on the mound. The crafty left-hander earned his “Comeback Player of the Year Award” in 2008 after having a stellar 22-3 season.

It is a different decade that the Phillies rotation is pitching in. The rotation is young and has not reached its peak yet. The Phillies are unlikely to make a “Cy Young Award” run like the Braves did or to outthink hitters like the Braves did.

The Phillies have hard throwers in all of their staff members, but over time velocity does decline and they will not have the same pop on the ball as their age increases. It is for these reasons I believe there will be no repeat of what the Atlanta Braves pitching staff managed to do during the 1990s. Halladay, Lee and Oswalt may all get inducted in the Hall of Fame when it is said and done, but they made their mark in a time when there were fewer drug enhanced hitters to pitch around.

It will be interesting to see how well the Phillies do this season with their dominating pitching staff, but I do not believe it will receive the same amount of accreditation as the Braves did.


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