The heartbreaking tale of Greg Maddux begins on June 4, 1984, when the Cubs were lucky enough to snap Maddux up with the third pick of the second round of the draft. Later in that round, the Atlanta Braves took his longtime rotation mate, Tom Glavine. Maddux signed with the Cubs two weeks later, and was assigned to the Pikeville Cubs.
If you’re enough of a Cubs fan that you realize “Hire Jim Essian” is a Cubs blog, certainly you’ve seen Greg Maddux pitch at least a handful of times throughout his 23-year career. You’ve seen batters look impossibly lost at the plate against Maddux. You’ve heard stories of how Maddux set up Jeff Bagwell for a specific pitch MONTHS in advance. Now, imagine, for a moment, Greg Maddux facing 18-year-old hitters. Maddux must have cut a swath of broken bats, hearts, and dreams through the Appalachian League. His first year of professional baseball was his wildest year ever, as he walked 41 hitters while only striking out 62 in 85 2/3 innings. I suspect this was a long con by Maddux. As an 18-year-old boy, he was already baiting the MLB into allowing him to throw oh so many knee-buckling first-pitch strikes.
Maddux worked his way quickly through the Cubs’ minor league system, compiling a 36-15 record and a 2.86 ERA. While he showed uncharacteristic “wildness,” he allowed only 16 home runs in an astonishing 491 1/3 innings.
Maddux got his first cup of coffee on September 2, 1986. Nolan Ryan took on Jamie Moyer in an 18-inning game at Wrigley Field which saw 17 different pitchers take the mound. Maddux was the last of those pitchers. In the top of the 18th, Maddux surrendered a solo home run to Billy Hatcher. The 8-7 loss was pinned on Maddux, but his masterful MLB career was off and running.
Maddux began the 1987 season back in AAA, but four starts with the Iowa Cubs at the beginning of the 1987 season, during which he went 3-0 with an 0.98 ERA were enough for the Cubs to call him up permanently. Oh, and he also threw two complete games. Maddux was inserted into the 1987 rotation. In 27 starts, Maddux went 6-14 with a 5.61 ERA. And so, the long con continued, as that would be the worst season of Maddux’s career.
In 1988, Maddux rewarded the Cubs for keeping him in the rotation. As a 22-year-old, he won 18 games and compiled a 3.18 ERA. He also tossed three shutouts and threw nine complete games in 34 starts. Maddux was selected for the 1988 All-Star Game at Riverfront Stadium, but didn’t get a chance to pitch for the NL All-Stars’ in a 2-1 loss.
Maddux won the following number of games over the next four years with the Cubs: 19, 15, 15, 20. That last, combined with his 2.18 ERA in 1992, won him his first Cy Young Award and his second All-Star nomination. However, Maddux’s free agency was looming after the 1992 season. Unfortunately for the Cubs, (1) general manager Larry Himes was a fucking idiot, and (2) Scott Boras was Maddux’s agent. Instead of figuring out how to keep his best pitcher with the team, Himes accused Boras of shady dealing and instead pursued Jose Guzman, Dan Plesac, and Candy Maldonado. Maddux signed an absurdly low 5-year, $28M deal with the Atlanta Braves. And the heads of Cubs fans everywhere EXPLODED WITH RAGE. In 1993, Guzman and Plesac went a combined 14-11 with the Cubs. Maddux went 20-10 with Atlanta.
If that wasn’t infuriating enough, Maddux’s very first start in a Braves uniform was on Opening Day, April 5, 1993. At Wrigley Field. Maddux threw 8 1/3 innings of shutout baseball before turning the game over to Mike Stanton, who held on for the save in a 1-0 Braves win. Mike Morgan was the tough-luck loser for the Cubs. Because in life, when you’re Mike Morgan, THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU.
Maddux pitched for 11 years with the Atlanta Braves, and I think you know the story. But here it is in its painful rehashed glory. He went 194-88 with a 2.63 ERA with the Braves. He averaged a ridiculous 18 wins, 230 innings pitched, 166 strikeouts, and a crazy 35 walks. He won the Cy Young Award in each of his first three years with the Braves, he made six All-Star Games, and he won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves with the Braves (13 consecutive if you count the three he won with the Cubs). Looking at Maddux’s numbers breaks my heart. He had consecutive ERAs in 1994 and 1995 of 1.56 and 1.63. His ERA+ for those years was an absurd 271 and 262, respectively.
In an emotional press conference, Maddux agreed to return to the Cubs after the 2004 season. Maddux must have been tired of his 16 straight seasons with 15 or more wins. After winning 16 games with the 2004 Cubs, a stretch which including his 300th career win, Maddux went a disappointing 13-15 in 2005. At the trade deadline in 2006, Professor Maddux had the wisdom to trade himself to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Cesar Izturis. In his first game with the Dodgers, Maddux threw six innings of shutout baseball against the Cincinnati Reds. And Cubs fans sighed. Maddux finished up the 2006 season strong, going 6-3 with a 3.30 ERA with the Dodgers.
After the 2006 season, Maddux signed with the San Diego Padres, who then swapped him back to the Dodgers as a waiver deal during the 2008 season. Maddux retired after the 2008 season, and left one hell of an MLB career. In 740 career starts, Maddux went 355-227 with 3,371 strikeouts, a 3.16 ERA, and a 1.143 WHIP. He’s one of the last 300-game winners the game will ever see, and he carried himself professionally as a pitcher, hitter, and fielder, collecting 18 Gold Gloves along the way. But he was even better against the Cubs.
In 24 starts against his former team, Maddux went 12-4 with a 2.65 ERA and a 0.961 WHIP. In 169 2/3 innings versus the Cubs, Maddux walked only 18 batters while striking out 117. He threw three complete games against the Cubs, including one shutout. Oh, and in three postseason appearances versus the Cubs, Maddux has given up only four runs in 14 innings.
The Cubs wisely hired Maddux as assistant to general manager Jim Hendry prior to the 2010 season. The Cubs figured it was the only way Maddux could stop killing them. It remains to be seen if Maddux will stick around after Hendry’s long-overdue departure. If he does, however, I’m sure the Cardinals will hire him as G.M./pitching coach/fifth starter, and he will lead them to 10 straight World Series titles.
Why You Should Hate Him: If my love letter to Greg above wasn’t obvious enough, it’s impossible to hate Greg Maddux. You can only hate the Cubs for depriving you of 11 seasons of watching him win in blue pinstripes. But certainly this game fills you with rage. After watching the ginger clown that is Ryan Dempster walk 80 Dodgers in Game 1 of the 2008 NLDS, maybe you’d already turned off the television for the bottom of the 9th inning. If you didn’t, though, you would have seen a 43-year-old Maddux take the mound for the Dodgers. With the Dodgers leading 7-2, Maddux retired Mark DeRosa, Daryle Ward, and Alfonso Soriano to seal the Dodger victory. He allowed only a weak (weren’t they all?) single to Ryan Theriot. It took Maddux only 13 pitches (10 strikes) to get through what would be his last inning pitched at Wrigley Field. It should have been as a Cub, Greg. Also, Dempster fucking sucks. Please let him go if you decide to stick around.
Did You Know? Maddux always had a deep respect for the game. Enough so to name his kids Amanda “Paige” and “Satchel” Chase Maddux. Now I feel sort of bad that I named one of my dogs Maddux.
Also, there’s no way I would fail to post this.
I fucking love Greg Maddux.