Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Greg Maddux

Gregory Alan "Greg" Maddux (born April 14, 1966), nicknamed "Mad Dog" and "The Professor", is a former Major League Baseball pitcher. He was the first pitcher in major league history to win the Cy Young Award for four consecutive years (1992–1995), a feat matched only by Randy Johnson (1999–2002). During those four consecutive seasons, Maddux had a 75-29 record with a 1.98 ERA, while allowing less than one runner per inning. Maddux is the only pitcher in MLB history to win at least 15 games for 17 straight seasons. In addition, he holds the record for most Gold Gloves with eighteen. A superb control pitcher, Maddux won more games during the 1990s than any other pitcher, and is 8th on the all-time career wins list, with 355. Since the start of the post-1920 live-ball era, only Warren Spahn (363) recorded more career wins than Maddux. He is one of only 10 pitchers ever to achieve both 300 wins and 3000 strikeouts. He currently works in the Cubs' front office. Maddux was born in San Angelo, Texas, but spent much of his childhood in Madrid, Spain, where the United States Air Force had stationed his father. His father exposed him to baseball at an early age, and kindled his passion for the sport.

Upon his return to Las Vegas, Nevada, Maddux and his brother Mike trained under the supervision of Rusty Medar, a former scout from the majors. Medar preached the value of movement and location above velocity, and advised throwing softer when in a jam instead of harder; Maddux would later say, "I believed it. I don't know why. I just did." Though Medar died before Maddux graduated from Valley High School in Las Vegas, he instilled a firm foundation that would anchor Maddux’ future career. Maddux currently lives in the same community. Mike Maddux was drafted in 1982. When scouts went to observe the elder Maddux, their father Dave told them, "You will be back later for the little one." Despite having a successful high school career, Maddux did not receive many athletic scholarship offers to play college baseball. This prompted Maddux to declare eligibility for the 1984 Major League Baseball Draft after graduation. Some teams were unimpressed by Maddux' skinny build, but Chicago Cubs scout Doug Mapson saw past the physique. Mapson wrote a glowing review that read in part, "I really believe this boy would be the number one player in the country if only he looked a bit more physical." Maddux was drafted in the second round of the 1984 Major League Baseball Draft by the Cubs, and made his major league debut in September 1986; at the time, he was the youngest player in the majors. His first appearance in a major league game was as a pinch runner (for catcher Jody Davis) in the 17th inning against the Houston Astros. Maddux then pitched in the 18th inning, allowing a home run to Billy Hatcher and taking the loss. His first start, five days later, was a complete game win. In his fifth and final start of 1986, Maddux defeated his older brother, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Mike, marking the first time rookie brothers had pitched against each other. Mike Maddux was well used to his younger brother's competitive spirit, saying of their youth, "If Greg couldn't win, he didn't want to play, plain and simple."

In 1987, his first full season in the majors, Maddux struggled to a 6–14 record and 5.61 ERA, but he flourished in 1988, finishing 18–8 with a 3.18 ERA. This began a streak of 17 straight seasons in which Maddux recorded 15 or more wins, the longest such streak in history. Cy Young ranks second with 15 straight 15-win seasons. A highlight of his 1988 season came on May 11, when he threw a three-hit, 10-inning shutout against the Padres. Maddux established himself as the Cubs' ace in 1989, winning 19 games, including a September game at Montreal's Olympic Stadium that clinched the Cubs' second-ever National League Eastern Division championship. Manager Don Zimmer tabbed him to start Game One of the National League Championship Series against the San Francisco Giants. He allowed eight runs and was relieved after surrendering Will Clark's grand slam home run with two outs in the fourth. Maddux believed that just before the grand slam, Clark was able to read his lips during a conference at the mound between Maddux and Zimmer. After that incident, Maddux always covered his mouth with his glove during conversations on the mound. Maddux took a no-decision in Game Four. After consecutive 15-win seasons in 1990 and 1991, Maddux won 20 games in 1992, tied for the NL lead, and was voted his first National League Cy Young Award. Free agency was pending for Maddux, but contract talks with the Cubs became contentious and eventually ceased. Both Chicago general manager Larry Himes and Maddux' agent, Scott Boras, accused the other of failing to negotiate in good faith. The Cubs eventually decided to pursue other free agents, including Jose Guzman, Dan Plesac, and Candy Maldonado. After seven seasons in Chicago, Maddux signed a five-year, $28 million deal with the Atlanta Braves. Maddux's second stint with the Chicago Cubs lasted until mid-2006, when he was traded for the first time in his career, to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Coincidentally, on September 28, 2007, Maddux would help the Cubs one last time, by beating the Brewers and therefore eliminating them from their playoff race against the Cubs. The Cubs would face the Arizona Diamondbacks in a dramatic playoffseries

He made his Braves' debut as their opening day starter against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, beating his former teammates 1–0. It was a good start to another strong Maddux season. He led the NL in ERA for the first time while posting a 20–10 record. Maddux won his second straight Cy Young Award, and the Braves took their rotation of Maddux, 22-game winner Tom Glavine, 18-game winner Steve Avery, and 15-game winner John Smoltz to the postseason. Maddux won against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Two of the NLCS, but with Atlanta trailing 3 games to 2, took the loss in the decisive Game Six. During the strike-shortened 1994 season, Maddux posted an ERA of 1.56, the second lowest since Bob Gibson's historic 1.12 in 1968, the last year of the elevated mound, and the lowest in the majors since Dwight Gooden's 1.53 in 1985. It pleased Maddux that his 1994 batting average (.222) was higher than his ERA (at least colloquially, if not mathematically). Maddux also led the National League in wins (with 16) and innings pitched (202) in his third Cy Young-winning year. Maddux also finished 5th in National League Most Valuable Player voting in 1994. In the following 1995 season, Maddux was 19–2 and posted the third-lowest ERA since Gibson's: 1.63. Maddux became the first pitcher to post back-to-back ERAs under 1.80 since Walter Johnson in 1918 (1.27) and 1919 (1.49). Maddux's 1.63 ERA came in a year when the overall league ERA was 4.23. Since the introduction of the live-ball era in 1920, there have only been five pitchers to have full-season ERAs under 1.65: Gibson and Luis Tiant in the anomalous 1968 season, Gooden in 1985, and Greg Maddux, twice. Maddux's 19 wins led the National League, for the third time in four seasons. On May 28, 1995, he beat the Astros, losing a no-hitter on an eighth-inning home run to Jeff Bagwell. It was the only nine-inning one-hitter of his career. In June and July, Maddux threw 51 consecutive innings without issuing a walk. Maddux pitched effectively in all three of the Braves' postseason series, winning a game in each. His Game One victory in the 1995 World Series was vintage Maddux: 9 innings, 2 hits, no walks, and no earned runs in a 3-2 pitcher's duel with Orel Hershiser. Maddux took the loss in Game Five, but the Atlanta Braves won their first World Series championship two days later. Following the 1995 season, Maddux won his fourth straight Cy Young Award, a major league record, and his second consecutive unanimous award. (Randy Johnson would win four consecutive Cy Young Awards from 1999–2002.) Maddux also finished third in that year's National League Most Valuable Player voting. The Atlanta Braves also made good on a preseason promise to their pitching rotation, installing a putting green in the locker room at the newly built Turner Field following the World Series victory.

Maddux returned to the Cubs as a free agent prior to the 2004 season. On August 7, 2004, Maddux defeated the San Francisco Giants, 8-4, to garner his 300th career victory. In April 2005, he beat Roger Clemens for his 306th win in the first National League matchup between 300-game winners in 113 years. On July 26, 2005, Maddux struck out Omar Vizquel to become the thirteenth member of the 3000 strikeout club and only the ninth pitcher with both 300 wins and 3,000 strikeouts, having reached both marks against the San Francisco Giants. Maddux finished as one of the four pitchers to top 3,000 strikeouts while having allowed fewer than 1,000 walks (he had 999). The other four pitchers who have accomplished this feat are Ferguson Jenkins, Curt Schilling, and Pedro Martínez. Maddux's 13–15 record in 2005 was his first losing record since 1987, and snapped a string of seventeen consecutive seasons with 15 or more wins (Cy Young had surpassed the 15-win total for 15 straight years; both Young and Maddux reached 13+ wins for 19 consecutive seasons. This is even more impressive considering that Cy Young pitched in an era with no more than 4 regular starters that would average more than 40+ games per season, whereas Maddux pitched in an era with a 5-man rotation which results in a maximum of 32-33 starts per season). Maddux was acquired by the Dodgers, then in the thick of a playoff race. In his first Dodger start, Maddux threw six no-hit innings, before a rain delay interrupted his L.A. debut. In his next start, it took just 68 pitches for Maddux to throw eight shutout innings. On August 30, 2006, he got his 330th career win, passing Steve Carlton to take sole possession of 10th on the all-time list. On September 30, 2006, Maddux pitched seven innings in San Francisco, allowing two runs and three hits in a 4–2 victory over the Giants, clinching a postseason spot for the Dodgers and notching another 15-win season. It was Maddux's 18th season among his league's Top 10 for wins, breaking a record he'd shared with Cy Young and Warren Spahn, who did it 17 times apiece. However, the Dodgers were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Mets; Maddux started the third and final game, throwing an ineffective no-decision. Maddux was honored with a Fielding Bible Award as the best fielding pitcher in MLB for 2006.

On December 5, 2006, Maddux agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal with the San Diego Padres with a player option for the 2008 season, an option that Maddux later exercised (at a reported $10 million). Maddux earned his 338th victory in the game that Trevor Hoffman earned his milestone 500th save. On August 24, 2007, he won his 343rd game to take sole possession of ninth place on the all-time win list. He achieved another milestone with the same win, becoming the only pitcher in the major leagues to have 20 consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins and placing him second on the list for most 10-win seasons, tied with Nolan Ryan and behind Don Sutton, who has 21. Also in 2007, Maddux reached 13 wins for the 20th consecutive season, passing Cy Young for that major league record. He finished the season with a career total 347 wins. Maddux won a record 17th Gold Glove award in 2007. On May 10, 2008, Maddux won his 350th game. Maddux was traded back to the Los Angeles Dodgers on August 19 for two players to be named later or cash considerations by the San Diego Padres. His return to Los Angeles was unlike his debut, though, as he allowed 7 earned runs on 9 hits while taking a loss against the Philadelphia Phillies. Maddux pitched his 5,000th career inning against the San Francisco Giants on September 19. On September 27, in his final start of the season, he won his 355th game, moving him ahead of Roger Clemens into 8th place in all-time wins. Maddux ranks tenth in career strikeouts with 3,371. His strikeout total is balanced against 999 walks. For the 2008 season, he posted an 8–13 record. His 1.4 walks per 9 innings pitched were the best in the majors. After the Dodgers won the National League West, Maddux was moved to the bullpen after manager Joe Torre decided to go with a three man rotation. Maddux pitched four innings of relief during the series (which the Dodgers lost), allowing no runs. Maddux received his 18th Gold Glove Award in November 2008, extending his own major league record. A month later, he announced his retirement.

On January 11, 2010, Maddux was hired by the Chicago Cubs to be an assistant to General Manager Jim Hendry. In his return to Chicago, he will focus on developing pitchers' styles and techniques throughout the organization, including minor league affiliates. Maddux relied on his command, composure, and guile to outwit hitters. Though his fastball touched 93 mph in his first few seasons, his velocity steadily declined throughout his career, and was never his principal focus as a pitcher. Maddux was also noted for the late movement on his sinker (two-seam fastball), which, combined with his peerless control, made him one of the most effective groundball pitchers in history. While his strikeout totals were average, hitters were often unable to make solid contact with his pitches. Maddux alternated his two-seam fastball and four-seam fastball with an excellent circle changeup. Though these served as his primary pitches, he also utilized a cutter, a curveball, and a slider. Maddux was renowned for focusing on the outside corner. This approach was emphasized under former Atlanta Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone. He would begin by throwing strikes with his fastball down and away, then expand the strike zone with his changeup—sometimes obtaining borderline strike calls from umpires simply on the strength of his reputation. To complement this strategy, Maddux would throw his two-seam fastball inside (especially to left-handed hitters), obtaining many called-third strikes to keep hitters guessing. In addition, his propensity for throwing strikes and avoiding walks kept his pitch counts low; Maddux would routinely reach the seventh or eighth inning with pitch counts below 80, a rarity in the modern era. Dodgers general manager Fred Claire admired Maddux's pitching consistency, saying "It's almost like a guy lining up a 60-foot-6-inch putt... he is just so disciplined, so repetitive in his pitches." Speaking about Maddux's accuracy, Orel Hershiser said, "This guy can throw a ball in a teacup." Baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs talked about facing Maddux: "It seems like he's inside your mind with you. When he knows you're not going to swing, he throws a straight one. He sees into the future. It's like he has a crystal ball hidden inside his glove."

Maddux has been credited by many of his teammates with a preternatural ability to outthink his opponents and anticipate results. Braves catcher Eddie Pérez tells the story of Maddux intentionally allowing a home run to the Astros' Jeff Bagwell, in anticipation of facing Bagwell in the playoffs months later. Maddux felt Bagwell would instinctively be looking for the same pitch again, which Maddux would then refuse to throw. On another occasion while sitting on the bench, Maddux once told his teammates, "Watch this, we might need to call an ambulance for the first base coach." The batter, Los Angeles' José Hernández, drove the next pitch into the chest of the Dodgers' first base coach. Maddux had noticed that Hernandez, who'd been pitched inside by Braves pitching during the series, had shifted his batting stance slightly. On another occasion, a former teammate, outfielder Marquis Grissom, recalled a game in 1996 when Maddux was having trouble spotting his fastball. Between innings, Greg told Marquis, "Gary Sheffield is coming up next inning. I am going to throw him a slider and make him just miss it so he hits it to the warning track." The at-bat went as Maddux had predicted. In his 2009 book, "The Annual Baseball Gold Mine" baseball statistics guru Bill James found Maddux to be far and away the most underrated player in baseball history. The methodology for this included the fact that though Maddux only won 20 games twice, he five times won 19 games. He also had only one season of 200 or more strikeouts but had seasons of 199, 198 and 197 respectively which diminished his reputation as a strikeout pitcher. In addition to that James also argued that although he had 18 seasons of 200 or more innings pitched, he also had three seasons of 199.1, 198 and 194 innings pitched. In 1999, Maddux ranked 39th on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, the highest-ranking pitcher then active. He was also nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. However, when TSN updated their list in 2005, Maddux had fallen to number 51. The Cubs retired jersey number 31 on May 3, 2009 in honor of both Maddux and Ferguson Jenkins. The Atlanta Braves retired Maddux's number 31, on July 17, 2009.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Total Pageviews

Popular Posts