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Born on April 14, 1966 in San Angelo, Texas, Greg Maddux (Gregory Alan Maddux) played for the Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers over the course of his 21 year career. Maddux broke into the bigs on September 3, 1986 with the Chicago Cubs, and put up a 5.61 ERA in 155.2 innings pitched in 1987, his rookie year.
Most people believe that Greg Maddux's best season was 1995, when he posted a 1.63 ERA, won 19 games and struck out 181 batters, winning his fourth consecutive Cy Young Award.
News, Opinion, and Rumors
The Early Years and Rise to the Top
Maddux, arguably the greatest pitcher of his generation (mentioned often alongside Roger Clemens, had an inauspicious start to his career. In 1986, he tossed only 31 innings, but put up 5.52 ERA (73 ERA+) with a WHIP over 1.75. In his first full season, 1987, at age 21, Maddux went 6-14 with a 5.61 ERA (76 ERA+), and was rocked with a WHIP of over 1.6.
But Maddux matured quickly. The next season he made his first All-Star game, and by 1989, he was a bona fide Cy Young contender, finishing third behind San Diego Padres closer Mark Davis and Houston Astros ace Mike Scott.
After two solid years, Maddux became arguably the best pitcher in the game. In 1992, Maddux won 20 games, put up a 2.18 ERA (third in the NL, behind Bob Swift and Bob Tewksbury), a 1.011 WHIP (second behind Curt Schilling), and struck out 199 batters (third behind John Smoltz and David Cone), while leading the league in games started, IP, and winning the Cy Young going away, earning twenty of 24 votes. Only he and future teammate Tom Glavine received first place votes.
The Ace to the Braves
In December of that year, Maddux, who earned roughly $4 million the previous year as a Chicago Cub, filed for free agency, and signed with a five-year, $28 million contract the Atlanta Braves. At the time, his $5.6 million average salary was a record high.
- Selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 2nd round of the free-agent draft (June 4, 1984 - signed on June 19, 1984).
- Avoided arbitration by signing a one year, $4.2 million deal with the Chicago Cubs in January, 1992.
- Granted free agency on (October 26, 1992).
- Signed by the Atlanta Braves (December 9, 1992) to a five year, $28 million deal. At the time, his average salary ($5.6 million) was a record.
- Signed a five year, $57.5 million contract extension with the Atlanta Braves in August 1997, paying him a $3 million signing bonus, $9 million in 1998, $10 million in 1999, $10.5 million in 2000, and $12.5 million in each of 2001 and 2002.
- Granted free agency (on October 29, 2002).
- Accepted arbitration with the Atlanta Braves on (December 19, 2002). In February 2003, Maddux re-signed another extension with the Braves, a one-year, $14.75 million deal. Maddux had floated a $16 million salary to the arbitrator, to which the Braves responded with a $13.5 million offer—the extension split the difference.
- Granted free agency on (October 29, 2003).
- Signed by the Chicago Cubs on (March 23, 2004). The deal was worth $24 million over three years ($6 million in 2004, $9 million each in 2005 and 2006) and was voidable the Cubs if the team did not pitch 400 or more innings during the first two years of the contract.
- Traded by the Chicago Cubs with $2 million to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Cesar Izturis on (July 31, 2006).
- Granted free agency on (October 31, 2006).
- Signed by the San Diego Padres (December 13, 2006) to a one year, $10 million contract with a mutual option ($8.75 MM player, $11 MM club) for 2008, with various incentives. Instead of exercising the options, the two sides agreed to a one year, $10 million deal for the 2008 season (November 19, 100)
- Is the only pitcher tow have won 10+ games in 20 consecutive seasons.
- Holds the National League record for most consecutive innings pitched without surrendering a walk (72.3), set during the 2001 season.
- Maddux holds the record for career Gold Glove awards, with 17. He has won the award every year from 1990 to 2007, excepting Mike Hampton's win in 2003.
Maddux as Pitching Guru
- [W]hen Brad Penny and Maddux were teammates on the Dodgers, during the last two months of 2006, they had a conversation one day that led Penny to reach a stunning conclusion: This guy knows my stuff better than I do. It was eerie, really, how easily Maddux dissected Penny's repertoire and suggested ways to maximize it. Penny, figuring he'd take advantage of the situation, asked Maddux to call a game for him against the Cubs. And so, on the night of Sept. 13, Penny glanced into the dugout before every delivery and found Maddux, who signaled the next pitch by looking toward different parts of the ballpark. Penny threw seven scoreless innings with no walks and beat the Cubs 6-0. "Maddux probably won't tell you that story," Penny says. He's right.
And there are many other anecdotes that further support the legend of Maddux. Most famously Maddux was on the bench as his Atlanta Braves faced Jose Hernandez of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Per one account, Maddux yelled "Watch this, we might need to call an ambulance for the first base coach." One pitch later, Hernandez hit a liner right off the first base coaches chest, as Maddux's teammates sat in awe. Maddux explained that Hernandez "Hernandez had been jammed inside by Braves pitchers for the whole series and [Maddux] could tell from the shift in his batting stance he was going to rip one towards the first base coach's box."
Others may be as much myth as fact. In one, Maddux is facing Jeff Bagwell and the Houston Astros late in an early-season game, and Maddux is tossing a shutout. Bagwell, recall broke up Maddux's early career bid for a no-hitter with a solo homer in the bottom of the eight.
In this, one of many rematches, Maddux "repeatedly shook off catcher Eddie Perez's signs and threw Bagwell an inside fastball which they both knew was his favorite pitch. Bagwell clocked it for a home run and angry Perez confronted Maddux in the clubhouse asking him why he would throw that pitch. Maddux explained that sometime later that season he would face Bagwell in a more important situation and he would be expecting that pitch. Perez was still annoyed that he had "blown" a shutout. Towards the end of that season, the Braves did indeed play an important game against the Astros and Maddux struck Bagwell out late in the game with the bases loaded."
However, a quick inspection of Bagwell's home run log proves this story to be at best a fictionalization. The closest match to the story above occurred on September 18, 1996, with Maddux and the Braves holding onto a 6-1 lead with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. On the third pitch, Bagwell took Maddux deep, for the Astros second run -- and penultimate hit -- of the afternoon. Maddux and Bagwell would face off again that game, in the top of the 9th, with Bagwell flying out to right. The Astros and Braves would not play again until the 1997 season.
The lack of accuracy of the above story calls into question the following story, enjoyable as it may be:
- [It's] a close game in which there were runners on first and third, one out and a left handed batter due up. Braves Manager Bobby Cox came out to the mound to ask him if he wanted to intentionally walk the batter to set up a double play. "No thanks," Maddux replied and went on to describe the exact sequence of pitches he would throw the next two batters and what they would do. As a stunned Cox watched, he did almost exactly what he had said he would (the third out was a pop up that went just fair of third while Maddux had said it would be on the foul side of 3rd).
Maddux himself attributes his reputation as his humble persona allows: "Whenever you've had a little success in this game, people think you know more than you do."
Greg Maddux, sometimes known by his nicknames "Maddog" or "The Professor" (when he would wear glasses in between his starts before undergoing laser eye surgery later in his career), dominated hitters more with uncanny control and a masterful mental edge.
Maddux in his prime rarely touched or exceeded 90 mph as it usually rested around 87-88 mph, and as of the end of 2007 Maddux's best fastball only reaches 84 mph. But, Maddux spots that fastball better than almost any pitcher in the game with his absurdly great control. Maddux also knows how to sink and cut his fastball. The two-seamer he throws commonly starts in off the plate to left-handed batters looking as if it is going to be a ball only to dart over the inside corner at the last second---many a great hitter has found himself looking at that pitch for strike three when facing Greg Maddux. Maddux always has proven adept at changing speeds to throw off the timing of hitters, utilizing a devastating changeup floating down and away from hitters. In addition, Maddux would also sometimes throw a slurvy curveball about 8-9 times a game to keep hitters honest. But, changing speeds on 4-seamers, cutters, sinkers, two-seam comebackers, and changeups usually would dominate major league hitters.