Tim Hudson will be inducted Saturday night in the Braves Hall of Fame, and a former teammate recently elected to the baseball shrine – the one in Cooperstown, N.Y. – was happy the plucky pitcher would join a prominent group in the team’s hall.
“Oh, no doubt,” said Chipper Jones, a 2013 Braves Hall of Fame inductee who was first-ballot electee Wednesday to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. “Huddy was as important, if not more important, than any of the Big Three back in the day.”
The “Big Three” were Braves pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, all Cy Young Award winners who teamed with Jones on Braves powerhouse teams of the ’90s and early 2000s. All three are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Smoltz’s final four Braves seasons (2005-08) overlapped with Hudson’s first four with the team. Jones was teammates with Hudson teammate through 2012.
Hudson, a Phenix City, Ala., native and former Auburn star, had a 222-133 record, 3.49 ERA, 2,080 strikeouts and four All-Star appearances in 17 major league seasons with Oakland, the Braves and San Francisco. He was 113-72 in nine seasons with the Braves through 2013 and will be inducted in the Braves Hall of Fame along with longtime broadcaster Joe Simpson, who’ll work his 27th season for the Braves in 2018.
Jones wasn’t comparing Hudson with Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz in terms of overall careers, but in the role that Hudson had with the Braves at a time when their rotation didn’t feature multiple Cy Young Award winners and future Hall of Famers.
“I mean, Huddy was the bona-fide ace,” Jones said, “he was the guy who stopped losing streaks, the guy who prolonged winning streaks. He was the guy who, every fifth day when he took the mound, we expected to win. And that’s what true aces do for you. He didn’t have the luxury of having the other two studs that the Big Three did. So more of the onus fell on him than the Big Three, and he answered the call every fifth day and gave us a chance to win, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Hudson debuted with Oakland in 199 and won 92 games in six seasons with the Athletics, including 20 wins in 2000 when he was the American League Cy Young Award runner-up.
Traded to the Braves in December 2004, he recorded 13 or more wins in six of nine seasons with the Braves, finishing with the third-best winning percentage (.611) in Atlanta history and ranking fifth in wins, ERA (3.56), starts (243), strikeouts (997) and innings (1,573).
After missing the 2009 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, Hudson went 17-9 with a 2.83 ERA in 2010 and was named a National League All-Star and the league’s Comeback Player of the Year.
Though his 222 wins are low by Cooperstown standards, Hudson is one of only 21 pitchers in major league history with at least 200 wins, 2,000 strikeouts and a winning percentage of .600 or higher. That winning percentage could at least help him stay on the writers’ National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for a few years of consideration after he becomes eligible in 2021.
“I think you’re exactly right. I think he falls into that (gray area),” Jones said. “I don’t know how his numbers compared, but he reminds me of a consistently excellent Mike Mussina. I don’t know exactly what the career numbers are, but Huddy kind of falls into that category for me. I could see Huddy certainly sticking on the ballot for conversation for quite a few years.”