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Fearsome Foursome (Plus One)

This week, Gary Smith profiled the Phillies starting rotation in SI’s Baseball Preview issue.

And in the latest edition of the New York Times Magazine, Pat Jordan takes on Philadelphia’s four aces:

Mike Schmidt was standing behind a batting cage, still as trim as during his playing days. A handsome, middle-aged man with swept-back, silvery hair and a thick mustache. I asked him what he thought of the four Phillies pitchers.

“Well,” he said, “now when the Phillies come to town, the other team knows they’re being challenged by four No. 1 pitchers. They have to amp up their mental game. I used to see my at-bats the night before a game when I laid my head down on the pillow. Gibson, Seaver, Ryan. I had to have a plan. When I went to Houston, they had three good pitchers. The fourth was Nolan Ryan. I could go to sleep with the other three, but Ryan kept me awake. Ryan! Ryan! Ryan! My plan was, don’t miss his fastball if he threw it over the plate. If he got two strikes on me, I’d have to face his curveball.” He turned and looked at me with his small blue eyes, which had fear in them. “Ryan was scary!” he said. He shook his head, as if seeing Ryan on the mound. Ryan began his motion and fired the ball at his head. Schmidt had a split second to make a decision. Was it a 100 m.p.h. fastball that could kill him if it hit him in the head, or was it that wicked curveball? If he dove away from the plate and the pitch was a curveball that broke over the plate, he’d look like a fool and a coward. But if it wasn’t a curveball, if it was that 100 m.p.h. fastball, and he didn’t dive away from the plate . . . well, he didn’t even want to think about that.

“Ryan, Gibson, Seaver, they made you defensive,” he said. “Does that make sense? You were afraid of the ball. There’s no fear of the ball today with cutters, splitters and changeups.”

“What about the Phillies’ four pitchers?” I said.

“They’re not scary,” he said. “Even if they all win 20 games, the Phillies don’t have a pitcher who strikes fear in a hitter.”

Two very different takes on “the best rotation in baseball” from two very different writers.

And while we are talking pitching, here’s Steve Rushin’s piece on the Braves’ five aces from the 1993 SI Baseball Preview.


1 Mattpat11   ~  Apr 1, 2011 10:17 pm

I still say the Phillies don't make the NLCS.

2 thelarmis   ~  Apr 2, 2011 12:35 am

hell, the Braves may very well take the NL East.

3 Just Fair   ~  Apr 2, 2011 12:45 am

I was chatting up my JV kids today and I asked them if they had ever heard of Tom Glavine. "What position did he play?" Ugh. Modamn kids!

4 cult of basebaal   ~  Apr 2, 2011 3:30 am

Generally speaking, I like Jordan, but what a pile of canting bullshit.

Like Clemens, Johnson and Martinez didn't have stuff.

Utter nonsense.

5 knuckles   ~  Apr 2, 2011 8:13 am

Yo Alex- minor things, but are you gonna put the upcoming games and probables in the sidebar like in years past?
If ya do, it's one less reason for me to need to visit ESPN.com.


6 The Mick536   ~  Apr 2, 2011 8:17 am

Now here is a post that added to my collective knowledge of the game. Forgot about Avery and Liebrandt.

[5] Still need to go to the site for pictures.

[2] My pick, too.

7 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Apr 2, 2011 8:48 am

36 hours late but finally sat down with some Guinness and Game One on mlb TV. So nice to see Tex get one on the board early, and loved Curtis' tater. The JobaRafMo beast is going to slay all late inning dragons this season. A-Rod got busted show boating but great to see him swinging the bat so well. And Joey Joe Joe still looks like he needs some codeine to relax!

8 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Apr 2, 2011 11:29 am

God, that's so vivid. I love that. I felt the fear myself.
Indeed, diving away from the plate and the ball falls in for a strike.

Randy Johnson in his prime was the last guy I remember seeing make hitters behave like that.

He'd through a slider to lefties that would end up on the outsider corner and they'd be bailing practically before the ball left his hand.

9 williamnyy23   ~  Apr 2, 2011 1:08 pm

[4] I am still trying to figure out how Niekro's "trick stuff" and Matthewson's changeup square with the following statement from Jordan: "Pitchers today are con men, pickpockets, masters of deception. Their weapons are small pitches: cutters, splitters, circle changeups."

10 williamnyy23   ~  Apr 2, 2011 1:17 pm

Also evident is Jordan doesn't know what a quality start is, which he derisively identifies it as seven innings. It's odd that so many older fans and players can't accept the fact that throwing 9 innings in 1968 is not the same as doing the same thing today.

11 Alex Belth   ~  Apr 2, 2011 2:24 pm

I liked parts of Pat's article, especially describing different pitches and some of the mechanics but agree with you William that today's line ups are more difficult 1-9.

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