Maddux doesn't guarantee anything

Four teams -- Chicago, Philadelphia, Florida, and Houston -- are touting their rotations as the best in the NL.

Updated: February 19, 2004, 9:53 AM ET
By Jim Baker | MLB Insider
Twenty years ago it was in the bag. They might as well have started etching the trophy the day spring training opened. The Chicago White Sox had won their division the year before by 20 games. They had four relatively young starting pitchers, including the defending Cy Young award winner and he had the worst ERA of the bunch. On top of that, they had added one of the greatest pitchers of all time to round out their starting rotation. There was simply no way they could lose.

But they did. While it didn't help that they scored 121 fewer runs the next year, only two of the five men in their vaunted rotation made a decent showing in '84. The veteran -- Tom Seaver -- who seemed like gravy when he was added, nearly turned out to be their ace.

Why are these Sox from two decades ago relevant today? With any number of teams banking on uber-rotations heading into the 2004 season, it's important to remember that there is nothing more tenuous in this world than a starting rotation. So many terrible things can happen to pitchers, that the idea that an entire rotation can go through the year intact while all performing at peak capacity is almost impossible to comprehend.

Jim Baker is an author at Baseball Prospectus and a frequent contributor to Page 2. You can e-mail Jim at