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Saturday, January 18

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Cubs Thu Jan 09 2014

Greg Maddux: A No-Doubt Hall of Famer

Cubs_200.pngThe question about Greg Maddux's bid for the Hall of Fame was never "will he get in?" but rather, Hhow close will it be to unanimous?" The answer is 16 because of weird beliefs about nobody deserving to be a first ballot Hall of Famer because Babe Ruth wasn't, or a has-been writer seeking attention by only voting for Jack Morris on his 15th and final year on the ballot.

His numbers were stunning in both old age stats and progressive era sabermetrics. 355 wins, a 3.16 ERA, and a mind-blowing complete game every seventh time he toed the rubber on average. He was worth 106.8 wins above a replacement level pitcher for his career, and walked only 999 batters (and just 822 unintentionally) in his 5,008 innings pitched. Sure, he also struck out more than 3,300 hitters, but he'd much rather bait you into a pop-up or a bouncer back to the mound than waste time and energy trying to throw it past you.

He was the definition of reliability, taking the ball every fifth day like clockwork. The stat to back it up might be my personal favorite: 21 consecutive years (from age 22 to 42), he threw 194 innings or more. And the number would undoubtedly be 200 or more had managers not found it necessary to pinch hit for him late in games.

The only sad part of the story, from a Chicago perspective, is that he couldn't win all four of his Cy Young's and 18 Gold Gloves as a member of the Chicago Cubs.

The Braves offered him a contract he couldn't refuse, and one the Tribune Company somehow did not match. It took just $28 million over five years to woo him away from Chicago. Pennies in comparison to the bloated salaries of the new millennium, but at the time, the richest contract in the history of baseball on a per year basis.

Larry Himes, the Cubs general manager at the time of Maddux's departure (and, incredibly, the GM of the Sox when they drafted Frank Thomas), told Boers and Bernstein on 670 The Score yesterday that he would probably still be the Cubs GM if he was given the proper funds to keep Maddux around.

It's hard to argue his point, and depressing as a Cubs fan to try and picture him as a bona fide ace guiding teams that turned out to be pretty rotten after his departure. He returned to the Cubs late in his career as the organization was hoping his Jedi-like baseball powers would rub off on Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, and Carlos Zambrano, but they missed the playoffs during his final three-year run -- reaching the postseason the two years before and the year after his stint. Ewing Theory, maybe? Nahh, the Cubs couldn't crack the World Series without him either.

Cubs fans still consider him the prodigal son, even though he did a majority of his damage in a Braves uniform, and will undoubtedly be wearing an A on his hat in Cooperstown. Their collective love for Mad Dog never really wavered like it does today when players leave the team they came up with for riches elsewhere. Part of the reason is because nobody can find a bad thing to say about him. Sure, he wasn't the most forthcoming individual to the media when it came to his secrets of success, but he was more likely to prank a teammate or do something completely gross and hilarious than the most talkative goofball in the clubhouse.

Maddux was the consummate professional. He was consistently great at his craft because of his maniacal dedication to perfection. There wasn't a need to throw 95 when you could record an out just as easy -- or easier, in fact -- on a foul pop to the first basemen. He loved his teammates, and they loved him.

Too bad it all couldn't have happened in Chicago. Instead, he's the greatest player that escaped the franchise in his prime; an Atlanta Braves Hall of Famer.

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