Chicago Cubs: Greg Maddux
CHICAGO -- The comparisons to Hall of Fame great Greg Maddux aren't going to go away anytime soon for Chicago Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks. Not after he threw a gem against the Milwaukee Brewers in 2 hours, 22 minutes to beat them 3-0 on Tuesday night.
Hendricks is a throwback, to a day when radar guns didn't dominate the conversation and working quickly was the norm.
"That's something I've always done since I was little," Hendricks said after lasting 7 1/3 innings. "The pace of the game is big for me. Every time I go out there I just feel like I can make pitches. It grows each start."
His fan base is growing with each start as well. In his last three, he won in Los Angeles against the first-place Dodgers, beat the Colorado Rockies in hitter-friendly Coors Field and took down the Central-leading Brewers. He's doing it with a mental approach to the game we haven't seen in Chicago since, well, let’s just say in a long time. His ERA is a nifty 1.73 after six career starts.
"He's repeated his outings in terms of execution and the calmness he shows out there," manager Rick Renteria said. "He did a nice job of keeping them off balance, and was very efficient."
In some previous starts, Hendricks has given up some hard contact but not a lot of damage. On Tuesday, he gave up neither as the Brewers barely got good wood on the ball. According to ESPN Stats & Information, of the 25 balls put in play against Hendricks, only four were considered hard hit. Hendricks admitted he made only a few mistakes. The Brewers concurred, at least according to the Cubs first baseman.
"When guys get on base they're saying he's tough," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "He's sneaky. The best part is he can induce the [double-play] ball, whenever."
There was family to thank, teammates and coaches he appreciated and a few people who were key to his development at a young age. He showed love and respect to his wife Kathy for holding down the fort at home. He explained why his Hall of Fame plaque won't have a logo on the cap since he was unable to choose between the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves.
Appropriately at the head of the rotation among Hall of Fame inductees, it took less than five minutes for Maddux to mix in a little potty humor during what he called the first speech of his life.
"My brother, Mike, led by example," he said about his sibling who is also the pitching coach of the Texas Rangers. "Everything I was about to do on and off the field, he had already done. I was very fortunate to have a brother that I could learn from. He even taught me a little bit about science. It has to do with a little methane and a lighter, and I still get a huge kick out of it today. That's funny, huh? OK."
In his more serious moments, Maddux expressed appreciation to the four franchises for which he pitched, focusing most on the Cubs and Braves, obviously. He ended his career with the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers.
"With the Cubs, I had the opportunity to play with Andre Dawson, Rick Sutcliffe, Ryne Sandberg and two fine catchers, Damon Berryhill and Joe Girardi," he said. "The city of Chicago and the Cub fans were awesome, maybe the best in baseball."
The comment managed to bring out some groans from a large contingent of Atlanta fans in the crowd estimated to be 48,000 strong. He made up for it seconds later when talking about his free-agent move from Chicago to Atlanta.
"I picked Atlanta because I finally wanted to get a World Series ring and start a family," he said. "All right, sorry, Chicago, but yeah."
Maddux eventually did get that ring in 1995, with his career bringing him back to Chicago in 2004.
"I love Chicago so much," Maddux said. "The first time I played there, that I was very grateful that Gary Hughes and Jim Hendry brought me back over to Chicago. That would give me a second chance to win there, and maybe retire where it all started, but I wouldn't be a Cub if I couldn't handle a little heartache and we missed the postseason by one game my first year back.
"I was thankful I got a chance to play for Dusty Baker and work with Larry Rothschild. I enjoyed throwing most of my games to Henry Blanco and Michael Barrett, and again, it was even funnier when they would get hit in the face [with foul tips]."
For a first speech, Maddux handled the moment with aplomb. He didn't have to explain why he will go in to the Hall of Fame without picking the Braves over the Cubs or the Cubs over the Braves. He did anyway.
"People ask me why I have no Hall of Fame plaque, no logo, or why my Hall of Fame plaque has no logo," he said. "I spent 12 years in Chicago, 11 in Atlanta and both places are very special to me. Without experiences in both cities, I would not be standing here today."
He crafted 355 victories over a storied 23-year career that at its peak earned him four consecutive Cy Young Awards from 1992-95.
If quick-pitching a batter who didn't quite have his feet set could get Maddux back in the count, or get the out he needed, he wouldn't shy away from such a tactic.
"You're always looking for any edge you can get," Maddux said Saturday. "You're always trying to find out what's the easiest pitch to throw in any situation."
His savvy approach will lead to his Hall of Fame induction Sunday, and in typical Maddux fashion, the low-key pitcher will keep it short and sweet. He has 10 minutes to give his speech, but Maddux estimates he will only need seven.
Why take a long time to finish off what can be done so much sooner? Like his pinpoint precision from the mound, the speech figures to be precise and won't deal with too much fluff.
His gift of precision, though, wasn't just something he inherited.
"It's something you're always working on," he said of his ability to throw a ball wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted. "It wasn't like, 'Oh yeah, I can do it.' You're always constantly working on it and trying to improve.
"I think if you look at your delivery from the time you entered the game to the time you left the game, it's obviously a lot better when you left. It's a continuous thing where all you're really trying to do is get better."
Despite his accomplishments in the game, baseball still gives him a thrill. He had a memorable encounter as recently as Friday night.
"I got a chance to talk to Tom Seaver and that was pretty cool," Maddux said. "He played for the Reds and he was a good pitcher and somebody I tried to watch when he pitched. I wish maybe the games back then were more than just Saturdays."
He no longer has any more Saturdays on the field, but he continues to have the love from the two cities where he spent the bulk of his career. Maddux spent his first seven seasons with the Chicago Cubs and the next 11 with the Atlanta Braves, before returning to Chicago for 2½ more years.
"I appreciate both cities," he said. "I had two careers, one in Chicago and one in Atlanta when it boils down to it. I love both places."
Everywhere else and everybody else he loves will be mentioned Sunday in the most precise of speeches.
"I never wrote a speech before. I've never given a speech before so to sit here and have your first speech be at this event, I'll wish I went to class those days when you had to get up and give a speech," Maddux said. "I'll say what I want to say and hopefully the people I mention in the speech understand that I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for them. I took a piece from everybody. Everybody in that speech I took a piece from."
Renteria’s first season on a big league bench was in 2008 with the San Diego Padres. Maddux made 26 starts with the Padres that season, his last in the majors.
"He was a very intuitive," Renteria said of the 20-time Gold Glove winner. "He could literally sit in the dugout and say, 'This guy is going to hit this ball right between his legs right now,' and, sure enough, boom, the guy would hit it right between his legs.
"He had a knack of recognizing and knowing where a ball was going to be projected. It was evident when you saw him fielding when he pitched. Many times he’d already be moving to the area where the ball was going to be batted to and had a step up on fielding the ball."
Renteria marveled at Maddux’s longevity and ability to stay healthy, something that’s become rare for today’s pitchers. Maddux played 23 seasons in the big leagues and during that time had just one stint on the disabled list. He tossed more than 200 innings 18 times in an era when reliever use increased significantly.
"I think that the ability for him to stay healthy and do what he did is a gift," Renteria said. "You’re either born with the genes to be able to do things like that or you’re not.
"I think there’s some things that contribute to the deterioration of the body at some point, but he was able to find something that kept him on the field a long time."
Maddux played the first seven years of his career with the Cubs, winning the first of his four consecutive Cy Youngs in 1992, before returning for parts of three seasons, beginning in 2004.
Maddux won 355 games with a 3.16 career ERA.
He’ll join Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre as 2014 Hall of Fame inductees.
There were no big introductions of new star players, nor even the buzz of a recent Hall of Fame electee, Greg Maddux, walking around. He had prior commitments.
Last year the Cubs made headlines on convention weekend by unveiling their ambitious Wrigley Field renovation project, but this year all they could tell their fans was it’s getting closer to starting -- that is if the final hurdle with rooftop owners can be overcome. It’s little news that they announced a four-year offseason project instead of five, considering the first year was eaten up by politics anyway.
Having all their top prospects in one place while celebrating the 30th anniversary of the division-winning 1984 team felt nice, but those things should have been the icing on the cake -- not the cake itself. Having a new manager and coaching staff to introduce to fans produced some interest, but even then the buzz wasn’t exactly loud. It might be a good staff, but it’s not one well known to the average Cubs fan. Only Bill Mueller and possibly Eric Hinske bring some name recognition.
The irony of the weekend is the most talked about player -- and the one who can create the biggest buzz of the offseason -- is the one the team talked very little about: Japanese free-agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
“I’m going to respect the request of confidentiality that’s come from the agent and the player, just let things play out,” team president Theo Epstein said on Friday.
“Sandberg has a personal thing, and Maddux had something with the (Texas) Rangers,” Cubs Director of Marketing Alison Miller said Saturday. “We’re also inviting them later in the season. Sandberg will be hard, given his manager duties.”
Maddux was elected to the Hall of Fame earlier this month and is employed by Texas, while Sandberg is manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. It could have made for an awkward return to a fan convention, but the Cubs are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the division-winning 1984 team. Sandberg won MVP that season.
Maddux will return during the season as the Cubs are inviting former players back as the team celebrates the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field.
“Maddux said he would love to come,” Miller said. “He’s expressed interest in coming to a game in early April.”
April 23rd is the date the team will actually celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first game, and Miller is hopeful Maddux can attend.
As for Sosa, the organization and player ended things on bad terms in 2004 when he left Wrigley Field before the end of the final game of the season. The Cubs traded him the following January. Owner Tom Ricketts believes Sosa will return to the organization one day.
“We have to work through some things before that happens,” he said.
Here is a gallery of our Top 50.
Who did we miss?
Did Kerry Wood belong? Randy Hundley?
Should Shawon Dunston have been left off?
For a team with so few championships, there is no shortage of Hall of Famers who have donned the Cubs jersey.
Maddux joined the Texas Rangers, where his brother Mike is the pitching coach, as a special assistant.
"Yeah, it's true. I'm going to go work with my brother in Texas," Maddux told ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine. "I really enjoyed my time with the Cubs, and I'm going to miss the people over there.
"But I can't pass on an opportunity to work with my brother and the Texas Rangers."
Read the entire story.
The Cubs' team of executives will have the candidate watch video and break down game simulations. The candidate will then tell the front office team -- president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer and VP of scouting and player development Jason McLeod -- what they would do in those situations. Questions could range from asking the candidate whether he’d pinch hit or bring in a reliever or make a defensive change.
"We created some game simulations where we hand them stats and lineup cards as well as the history of the bullpen use. Then we have them watch key innings of this game. At that point we kind of walk them along through the game, then we stop [the video] and try to create a real life situation. Now he can see first and third and one out so he knows who's available in the pen and he knows who the other manager has available for pinch-hitting situations."
Written tests are also part of the process.
"We incorporate lists, some we want an immediate answer to, some we give a hour to kind of compose their thoughts," Epstein said. "It's kind of a fun process where we got to know the candidates really well. We'll have a different process with different personnel involved [this time], but we will incorporate some of those same aspects."
The system was developed by Epstein in Boston in order to get a better feel for the managing technique of each individual. The Red Sox, under new GM Ben Cherington, have continued to use the same techniques in their interviews now.
The logic behind this type of interview is that it helps to determine how people perform in real game situations under pressure. The Red Sox chose Terry Francona from that process, Tampa Ray manager Joe Maddon finished second.
The Cubs do not have a direct time table on hiring a manager. My best guess is that the process will take at least two weeks. Chairman Tom Ricketts and his family will be brought into the equation as the Cubs’ top executives get close to making a decision.
ATLANTA -- Long-time Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox had his No. 6 jersey retired during a ceremony before Friday’s game. Cox had two stints as manager and one as GM with the franchise. He won five pennants and one World Series.
One of the guest speakers for the presentation was Chicago Cubs front office employee Greg Maddux, who pitched for Cox from 1993-04.
Maddux discussed Cox as a quality manager and a quality person.
“Everybody respected him,” Maddux said. “He was honest with his players. He was very good at giving players credit when we won and taking the blame when we lost. He handled the media well. And he always had something positive to say to get you ready for your next [game].”
Maddux, like many of Cox’s former players, was always happy to see the same guy day in and day out.
“He was very consistent with his attitude,” Maddux said. “He was very even keel. Never waivered, whether it was winning 2-1 or losing 2-1. He relaxed us, allowed us to have fun off the field, and when the game started, we were ready to play.”
Maddux is finishing his second year as a special assistant to Cubs GM Jim Hendry. For now, he’d like to stay in that role.
“I want to do exactly what I’ve been doing,” Maddux said. “I want to do the same things for now, let the kids grow up and then make a decision.”
Maddux toured the minor leagues for the Cubs as part of his job over the past two seasons.
“I enjoy the job,” Maddux said. “Being in the minor leagues again this season, I was glad to see some progress from the players. Nice to see them grow and mature. Hopefully most of them keep getting better.”
Maddux was asked if he thought any Cubs prospects he saw were ready for the big leagues.
“A couple of good relievers,” he said. “They can help, I believe. But you never know what they are going to do until they go out and do it. The potential is there. You just have to go out and do it.”
Towers said during his initial interviews after taking the Diamondbacks job that Maddux would be a great pitching coach or bench coach.
Cubs GM Jim Hendry, who was in Scottsdale, Ariz. on Tuesday and Wednesday to interview Ryne Sandberg for the Cubs' managerial job, also spent time with Maddux in Mesa, Ariz. on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"I spent the last couple of days with Greg, and quite a bit of time with him this summer," Hendry said. "Greg and I have a real good work relationship. Greg's intent is to stay with the Cubs and do what he's doing now. And I'm sure we'll have some more expansive duties for him. I've had numerous conversations with him since Lou [Piniella] left, including the managerial process."
Hendry was asked about his reaction to Towers' comment.
"Kevin and I are friends," Hendry said. "It didn't really bother me, because I already knew what Greg was going to do. I don't blame anybody for wanting Greg Maddux. We're thrilled Greg has chosen to be with the Cubs. He and I months ago addressed what he wanted to do next year."
Hendry hired Maddux as a special assistant before the 2010 season. The 355-game winner began his career in the Cubs organization in 1986 and pitched with them until 1993, when he signed a free-agent contract with the Atlanta Braves. Maddux returned to win his 300th game as a Cub when he signed a free-agent contract in 2005.
"When Greg is on your team you're better," Hendry said. "He's exactly what I wanted him to be, and I have no doubt that he has helped a lot of people in this camp. He'd be the last guy to take any credit for that or talk about himself."
Hendry was pretty right-on about his commentary about Maddux. I asked the 355-game winner what spring training has been like for him.
"This has been a fun spring training, one I've enjoyed and learned a lot," Maddux said. "I enjoy being around the players and exchanging ideas. I hope to continue to keep learning at this level."
Hendry went on to talk about the impact Maddux has had during his first spring training as a front office executive.
"I'm thrilled he's here," Hendry said. "It's been a positive in every capacity. He's going to be capable of doing a lot of important jobs down the road, if he chooses. He's about as smart a player as we've ever seen."
Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelanny, and Sean Marshall are just a few of the pitchers who have given Maddux credit for technical and psychological support.
"He's the most successful non-promoting person I've ever met," Hendry said of Maddux.
Maddux will be with the Cubs' minor-league affiliates the first couple months of the season. He will also spend time with assistant general manager Randy Bush and super scout Gary Hughes, learning how to break down games from a scouting perspective. Maddux will also spend time with the Cubs' big-league team as well as have some flexibility to go back to Las Vegas and California for family time.
The Cub outfielder also told me he’s hoping to play in a lot of games this year. He was surprised when I told him he only played 117 last year and 107 in 2008.
“If I’m healthy, I’ll put up some numbers,” Soriano said.
Manager Lou Piniella said Soriano will be held out of the team’s first two Cactus League games. Piniella said Soriano will start against the Chicago White Sox on Saturday in Mesa. The Cubs manager also reiterated that multiple positions are open to win on the team’s 25-man roster.
“There are some jobs to be won here,” Piniella said. “I think as many as five jobs can be won here.”
Piniella needs to fill two bullpen slots, two bench roles and two starting rotation slots, but the Cub manager said one or two of the contenders for the starting pitching spot will most likely end up in the bullpen.
Piniella also said that his lineup is “pretty well set.”
“We do have some competition at second base and we’ll see how that works out,” he said.
The Cub skipper said the job will be split between Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker and there are no other contenders in camp.
Piniella had a quick thought on Soriano and his expectations for the outfielder.
“Hitting in the six hole will save his legs a little more,” Piniella said. “What we need from Alfonso is more power and RBI production and the six hole is a really, really nice hole ... in a National League lineup. I know he’s comfortable with [hitting sixth] because I asked him.”
Piniella was asked about his thoughts on the Cubs’ new spring training facility and how that would affect the work that the players get in on a daily basis.
“First of all, you don’t have two moves to make from [Fitch Park to Hohokam Park, approximately one mile],” Piniella said. “I remember the years I was with Seattle we had four major league fields and we had two minor league fields. We had six fields we could do our working.”
Asked about the Hohokam setup, Piniella said, “It’s limited, but it’s a workable thing. Look, we haven’t [lost] because of the facilities here, but you can get more work done with a newer, more functional complex.”
I asked Piniella if he could imagine Cactus League play without the Cubs.
“Well, they have been an institution here,” Piniella said. “A lot of your Midwestern people come to Arizona because of Cub baseball here, but a lot of Midwesterners go to the West Coast of Florida, too. I know that because I’ve lived there my whole life. Yeah, it would be hard to imagine baseball here without the Cubs being a mainstay.”
- Right handed pitcher Randy Wells will start the Cubs’ first Cactus League game on Thursday. The Cubs pitcher has had some productive skull sessions with Greg Maddux, who’s working in camp for the first time as a team executive. "Greg has talked to me about setting up hitters,” Wells said. “He’s talked to me about thinking two or three pitches ahead of where I’m at. It’s been great to have him in camp. He’s been available to all the guys.”
The hiring of Greg Maddux as a special assistant to Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry might be the best personnel addition any team has made this season. Job description-wise Maddux will work with players at the major and minor league levels during spring training and then put on his evaluating hat throughout the season as he roams the organization's minor league teams and gives advice to Hendry and assistant general manager Randy Bush on trades and signings.
Ron Vesely/Getty Images
The Cubs retired No. 31 in honor of Greg Maddux and Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins at a May 3, 2009 ceremony at Wrigley Field.
I asked Maddux if this new job is a prelude to a managing career.
"No, not right now," Maddux said. "I'm just going to slowly get back involved in the game."
Maddux, however, did leave the door open on a possible managerial career in the future.
"Things might change down the road," Maddux said. "But right now I just want to help in areas I can help in."
Maddux did tell me last summer on the day he and Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins had their No. 31 jersey retired by the Cubs that he'd like to manage one day. He also told me at the time he'd like to watch his kids grow up a bit, so he thought his time table to manage would be three to four years.
The new gig for Maddux will incorporate the best of both worlds of baseball and home life.
"There's a lot of room to maneuver in the job," Maddux said. "I'm not going to be putting in the time the coaching staff does or Jim himself. I will have some time to get away to try and balance [baseball and home life]. I love baseball and I miss the game. I'm looking forward to getting back into it. I'm going to do what I can to balance work and home life."
Last summer, Braves manager Bobby Cox, who will retire after 2010 having spent 21 consecutive years managing the team, told me that if Maddux managed, he'd like to work for him.
" You tell Greg if he's going to manage I'd like to be his bench coach," Cox said.
Cox went on to tell me that Maddux is the brightest baseball man he'd ever been around.
Maddux' s new boss, Hendry , doesn't argue with Cox's analysis of the future Hall of Fame pitcher.
"I totally agree with Bobby," Hendry said. "Greg's a cut above all the people I've met in the game and what he can bring to the table. Like I said before, when Greg Maddux walks through your front door as an employee, you just got a lot better."
I asked Hendry what role Maddux will play in the way of being an adviser.
"I see him fulfilling a tremendous variety of roles," Hendry said. "When we discussed him coming aboard he was very adamant about the fact that he wanted to be a very productive employee. This isn't a personal services contract or 'show up at an appearance and sign balls' situation. This is something Greg really wants to sink his teeth into. He'll help our minor league people at every level and he'll evaluate and assist [assistant general manager Randy Bush] in trades. He'll have input at all levels of our organization, including our big league staff."
"He's going to be the hitting coach of the Cardinals," Maddux said. "So maybe he's trying to clean up the past a little bit and move forward. I had a lot of respect for him as a player. He was one of the most intimidating hitters I ever faced and he was one of the toughest outs in the game. There was always a lot of speculation that guys were on that stuff. [As a pitcher] you had to do the best you could to pitch around it."
The Chicago Cubs may have made their most important acquisition of the offseason Monday by adding a future Hall of Famer.
The organization will announce Monday afternoon that 350-game winner Greg Maddux has been signed to become a special assistant to general manager Jim Hendry in 2010.
Maddux's duties will include helping with instruction for both major-leaguers and minor-leaguers during spring training, as well as scouting duties throughout the season.
According to a source with knowledge of the signing, Maddux will be at the beck and call of Hendry during the season to evaluate minor-league affiliates and give the general manger input when trades or free-agent signings are being considered.
Maddux retired after the 2008 season with the San Diego Padres. A four-time Cy Young Award winner, the right-hander had two stints with the Cubs. Originally Maddux came up through the Cubs organization, making his major-league debut in 1986.
He left as a free agent in 1993 after winning his first Cy Young in 1992. From '93 to 2003, Maddux pitched for the Atlanta Braves, who made the playoffs every season with Maddux.
He returned to the Cubs in 2004 and was traded at the tail end of the 2006 season to the Dodgers for shortstop Cesar Izturis. Maddux won his 300th game as a Cub on the road in San Francisco during the 2005 season.
Among baseball people, Maddux is considered one of the best and brightest when it comes to the thinking man's part part of the game.
Maddux called many a pitch for catchers during games he wasn't pitching. Urban legend has Maddux calling every pitch for Cubs starter Frank Castillo during his four-hit, one-run performance in a game in 1992.
The 43-year-old Las Vegas native will be eligible for Hall of Fame voting in Jan., 2014. He, along with Ferguson Jenkins, had his Cubs No. 31 retired last summer in Wrigley Field.