Normally at this time we’d be covering the things that went on in the MLB markets in the past week, but this week we’ll stand aside to tip our caps to one of the most brilliant pitchers our generation has seen or will ever see. Winter meetings are going on right now, and you can get all kinds of updates from MLB Trade Rumors, as well as great updates directly from Vegas from Will Carroll, John Perrotto, and Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus.
Dear Greg Maddux,
Or maybe that should say “Mr. Maddux” or “Professor Maddux.” I don’t know. But please don’t really be retiring. I mean, I know why you’re doing it; it’s probably time and I do respect you for hanging it up before you become a shell of your glorious self, but this announcement of The End makes me realize how much of my childhood I wasted when I should have been watching you pitch. Now I feel like I didn’t appreciate you enough, and it’s too late.
But a lot of people were smarter than I, and took the time to follow you, whether you were with the Cubs, Braves, Cubs (again), Dodgers, Padres, or Dodgers (again). So I’ll shut up now and let other people bid you farewell, because they’ve all said it better than I can.
“I never presumed to think with Maddux or have a deeper understanding of why he was so good. I just loved watching him pitch, loved the whole scene, loved seeing the frustration batters would show, loved the way umpires over the course of a game became willing co-coconspirators, loved the way catchers would just let the ball tumble into the glove without moving, loved the way Maddux would fidget when he didn’t have all of his stuff working, loved it all. He was Mozart, I was Salieri, and no I couldn’t reproduce it, no I couldn’t get close to it, but I felt like I could hear the music.”
Gene Wojciechowski: Well, I couldn’t actually pick a quote, this was too good. Just go read the whole thing. It’s good.
“He is baseball’s beautiful mind, and yet Maddux kept his gift covered with a thick blanket of humility. Never in sports will you find this kind of greatness accompanied by such an utter lack of ego and entitlement. In 2004, when I asked him how much longer he might pitch, he told me, ‘I’m not worried about it. I’m already on extra credit.’ I replied, ‘Greg, you’ve been telling me that for years.’ He replied, ‘I’ve been meaning it for years, too.’”
“You all know the numbers. 355 wins says the most. You all know the style. He didn’t overpower, he didn’t walk anyone, he moved the ball at will and he hit any spot he so desired.His baseball IQ is off the charts and it’s been well documented. I can’t imagine him staying away from the game, but it’s hard to picture him as a coach. Sometimes when you’re so good, it can’t be hard to teach others — just like you’re not going to see Michael Jordan on the sidelines coaching ever.Whatever the future holds for Maddux, I wish him the best of luck. He’s done everything with class and has been a first-rate major league ballplayer. He’s the greatest pitcher I’ve ever seen, and will probably ever see.”
The year was 1992, and Maddux would be eligible for free agency at season’s end. [Longtime scout Dick] Tidrow was at Wrigley Field that spring to scout for the Yankees, who were interested in acquiring Maddux.
Tidrow came up with an excuse to go into the Cubs’ clubhouse before the game, just to see how Maddux prepares.
The way Maddux prepared that day was to sit at a table playing solitaire. Tidrow walked past him, Maddux didn’t look up, nothing at all was said, and neither man acknowledged the other’s presence with as much as a nod.
That September, Tidrow returned to Wrigley Field to take another look at Maddux. Same drill – he went into the clubhouse to check out the imminent free agent who was about to win the first of his four straight Cy Young Awards.
Again Tidrow walked past Maddux, who again was sitting at a table playing solitaire. Remember, this was months after Tidrow’s initial visit.
Finally Maddux said, “Back again, huh?”