Greg Maddux wasn’t just great, he was a complete freak of nature. There has never and will never be another one like him. He might not have looked like an elite athlete that completely dominated his competition during his career, but he most certainly was.
I understand that he had some sentimental feelings towards Chicago because he started his career there, but we all know the truth. He won more Cy Young Awards, plus a championship with the Braves, plus he was part of the greatest starting rotation in baseball history with the Braves.
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So sure, Maddux wanted his hat on his Cooperstown plaque to be neutral, but we don’t care. He’s a Brave. Maddux is so great that he could have worn anything he wanted to on his plaque. He could have worn a Toronto Maple Leafs beanie on his plaque. The man is Greg Maddux and he’s ours.
Greg Maddux was the best pitcher during a decade when offense was at its peak performance. As we know all too well, the 90’s were filled with bulked up steroid using offensive machines. Meanwhile Greg Maddux won more games during the 1990’s than any other pitcher in baseball.
Greg Maddux is the only guy to win at least 15 games for 17 straight seasons, and literally the only guy who could consistently outsmart Greg Maddux was Tony Gwynn. In 107 at bats against Maddux, Gwynn slashed .415/.476/.521. This is insanely impressive given how dominant Maddux was during his career, especially during the 90’s.
But since Tony Gwynn was the really only guy who could handle him, Maddux won four consecutive Cy Young Awards from 92-95 and had an ERA of 1.98 during those four years.
When you think of pitchers, you often think of very one dimensional players. Fans and pitchers themselves seem to think this way. We often forget that the pitcher is a defensive position, and an important one at that. Greg Maddux never forgot this.
Greg Maddux won a Gold Glove Award every year from the time I was in second grade to when I was a freshman in college. The most dominant pitcher was also the best defensively. Its almost too good to be true. If you had the honor of watching Greg Maddux pitch, you saw that these GGs appeared to be freakishly intentional. He was a master at getting a batter to hit one right back at him.
When it came to making things happen just the way he wanted them to, Greg Maddux was a complete savage.
This one time Bobby Cox visited Maddux on the mound with runners on second and third and two outs. Bobby was worried about the situation, hence the mound visit, and wanted to calm Maddux down. Instead, Maddux calmed Bobby down. When Bobby suggested to Maddux that he intentionally walk the batter, Maddux explained to Bobby exactly what he planned to do.
Maddux told Bobby not to worry and laid out the sequence of his next three pitches. He told him that he’d get him to pop up foul to third base on the third pitch. Which is exactly what happened, bringing the inning to an end.
He once called in the outfield and told Otis Nixon to move back and to the left and to stand just on the edge of the warning track and to not move. Otis told reporters afterwards the he didn’t have to move his glove and was completely freaked out.
Besides Bob Feller, Maddux was perhaps the best at remembering everything. If Greg Maddux struck you out in April, he’d remember exactly how he struck you out once he saw you again in August or September. His memory was like a database.
My favorite Greg Maddux memory is probably Game 4 of the 1995 World Series. The Braves won that game 3-2, but during the game Maddux threw a ball straight for Eddie Murray‘s head. Now, to put this in context, Murray was, at that time, a well respected veteran, non-contentious, and perhaps the last guy a pitcher would really have any beef with. But Maddux wanted to send a message to the Cleveland Indians and didn’t care about Murray’s reputation nor his feelings.
He “let one slip” right for Murray’s ear, at which point the benches cleared. Cleveland’s starting pitcher that night, Orel Hershiser, approached Maddux on the mound and questioned him. Maddux just said that it slipped. Hersheiser reminded Maddux that he was Greg Maddux and that baseballs don’t slip from Greg Maddux.
On the next pitch Murray drilled a line drive straight for Maddux’s head at which point Maddux ducked and caught it sending Murray back to the dugout.
Greg Maddux was a dominant power pitcher despite low velocity. Maddux could throw in the mid-90’s if he wanted to, but he always said he didn’t need to. He was that good. Perhaps one of the reasons he did this was because he wanted to pitch for a long time, which he did.
Maddux threw 198 or more innings in every single season from age-22 to age-41: 20 consecutive seasons. Mad Dog even threw 200 innings in 1994, despite Major League Baseball ending their season on a strike.