Greg Maddux Was Very Good with Cubs, but Should Go into Hall of Fame as a Brave

Greg Maddux Was Very Good with Cubs, but Should Go into Hall of Fame as a Brave

Greg Maddux was one of the greatest pitchers of his era, perhaps the greatest control pitcher of all time, and was a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame in his first time on the ballot. And while there was maybe a little controversy over the fact that Mad Dog earned only 555 of 571 votes (97.2%), there was also a bit of a kerfuffle regarding the team on Maddux's hat in his HOF plaque.

Or, more accurately, the lack of a team on his cap. But before I go on, I've got to revisit that previous number. If I had the names of the 16 BBWAA members who didn't vote for Maddux, I'd gladly travel the country with a rubber hose administering thorough beatings. You can take your "I won't vote for anyone from PED Era" self-righteousness and kindly shove it where the sun don't shine, gentlemen.

Whew, that felt pretty good. Not as good as actually following through on my threat, but somewhat cathartic nonetheless. But let's take a really brief look at the general outline of Greg Maddux's decent tenure in the Bigs.

In a career that stretched more than 23 years, he played for the Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres, and Los Angeles Dodgers. Maddux finished as an 18-time Gold Glove winner, 8-time All-Star, 4-time Cy Young winner and NL ERA champ, and his hand is weighed down by a World Series ring. And what's more, Greg Maddux loved to pitch.

Greg Maddux is one of only four pitchers in MLB history (Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, and a Player to be Named Later) to end his career with over 3,000 strikeouts and fewer than 1,000 walks. And while he barely limboed under the walks bar with 999, Maddux pitched more than 500 more innings more than the next-closest man on the list. His BB/9 inning total is the easily the lowest of the four.

Maddux's #31 has been retired by two teams, one of which is the Chicago Cubs. But despite their history of disappointment, mediocrity and outright failure, Greg Maddux isn't even the best pitcher in Cubs history. He is, however, the greatest pitcher in Atlanta Braves history, which is why he should be rocking that stylized A into Cooperstown.

Never one to say in 400 words what I could easily stretch to nearly 1,000, I wanted to look at a few reasons for Maddux to go in as a Brave, and a few that back my assertion that he's not the greatest Cub hurler:

1993-2003

Greg Maddux was drafted by the Cubs and made his debut in Chicago, where he pitched for 7 years before heading to the Braves. In that first stretchon the North Side, he made two All-Star teams, won three Gold Gloves and captured the first of what would eventually become four consecutive Cy Young Awards.

And just like the Prodigal Son (or Everlast), he returned to Chicago in 2004 after 11 seasons in Atlanta. Cubs fans killed the fatted calf (or was it a goat?) and welcomed him with open arms. But with an ERA well over 4.00 and the team struggling, Maddux accepted a trade to the Dodgers and was gone once more.

Regardless of where you point the finger of blame for the acrimony surrounding Maddux's first departure (for the record, it was the Cubs' fault), the fact remains that he will be remembered by most as a Brave. He pitched and won more games for Atlanta, took home 3 Cy Youngs and a World Series, and posted an ERA that was nearly one full run lower than his number with the Cubs (2.63 to 3.61).

Ferguson Jenkins

Just in case you've been racking your brain or combing the interwebs for the identity of the PTBNL (and I really hope you haven't), I wanted to end the suspense. Like Maddux, Fergie Jenkins had two separate stints with the Cubs. Like Maddux, he pitched in Chicago for 10 seasons. And, like Maddux, his #31 flies from a foul pole at Wrigley Field.

But in comparing their respective Cubs careers, Jenkins had more wins (167 to 132), a better ERA (3.20), and better total WAR (53.2 to 33.8). Maddux was quite the workhorse in his career, putting up a total of 109 complete games. But Jenkins had 154 CGs…with the Cubs alone. Sure, it was a different era; but when it comes to the Cubs, the numbers don't lie: Jenkins is the better pitcher.

Mordecai 'Three Finger' Brown

The nickname alone puts Brown in the category of best Cubs pitcher ever. The 2 World Series titles (1907, '08), 188 wins, and 1.80 ERA with the club cement his candidacy. Oh, he also had 6 straight seasons of 20+ wins (1906-11), leading the NL in saves in 4 of those years (1908-'11). That's like a better version of Maddux's former teammate John Smoltz.

Doug Dascenzo

Think Maddux had a great numbers? They're nothing compared to the 0.00 ERA and 0 hits allowed by Dascenzo, the converted OF, even if he did only pitch 5 innings. Truth be told, I felt that the first three reasons were more than enough evidence to prove my point.

You might even be able to throw Charlie Root on the list; he seems to fly under the radar in terms of Cubs history, despite a great career in Chicago. But this isn't meant to denigrate or deride Greg Maddux. Rather, I just want to lend a bit of perspective to his greatness.

At the end of the day, Maddux will be inducted into Cooperstown either way and that's really all that matters. But in this era of increasing hyper-awareness of making everyone happy, I think the HOF served to really do the opposite. Even as a Cubs fan, I think the Braves, and perhaps more importantly, their fans, deserve to see their logo on that cap.

But alas, there are only three types of fair: the World's Fair, the State Fair, and the County Fair. Everything else is not fair, despite all attempts to the contrary. The important thing is that Maddux is receiving the honor he deserves, and I think we can all be happy about that.

Do you agree? Better yet, do you disagree? Make your argument in the comments or tweet me.

@DEvanAltman

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  • fb_avatar

    I suppose there is something to be said for the fact that Maddux himself chose a blank cap, but I feel that Cooperstown should have just done the plaque with the A. After all, they've not necessarily honored other requests for specific teams with other players who moved around. Given his druthers, Hawk would've had a Cubs hat; the HOF wanted to keep the memory of the Expos alive though. And I didn't want to devolve into a whole thing about that stuff.

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    On that one, I wonder if Dawson was given the option of a blank cap. At the time he indicated that he didn't want the Expos cap, and people were saying that players would not get a choice because they were trying to sell it.

    On whether Maddux was the greatest Braves pitcher, one has to figure that he was there with Glavine and Smoltz. I don't know the comparative stats between the 3, but I don't think Braves fans were differentiating.

    Maybe what supports your main point and my last one is that after the local sports radio went off the air, suddenly the news stories changed from "3 associated with Chicago" to the network headlines of "a great day for Atlanta, with 3 in." Maddux didn't get any Cubs love there. It probably was for the best that he thanked both teams equially.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to jack:

    I think for his sake, it was certainly best that he thanked both teams, though I believe both his speech and the video preamble belied both his and the nation's view on the matter. While the video was short, maybe 3 minutes, there might have been 30 seconds of Cubs stuff in there. And that's a stretch. Maddux also talked about wanting to leave to pursue a title and start a family, "Sorry, Chicago." To me, that was the nail in the coffin.
    Sure, he was politically correct, but I can't imagine anyone having a problem with him going in as a Brave. Chicago gave him his start, but Atlanta put him on the map. Similarly, while Andre Dawson was a great player in Montreal, it was the move to Chicago that made him a superstar. I could be wrong, but my understanding is that he wanted to go in as a Cub but the HOF either coerced or strongly recommended that he do so as an Expo since he and Gary Carter were the last two possibilities for that defunct team name.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Evan Altman:

    He also said he never wanted to leave. The Cubs forced him to leave, just as they did to other popular players at that time. The fact that Maddux asked the HOF to not wear a hat (when they surely wanted him in a Braves hat) shows you how he feels about the Cubs. The "sorry Chicago" comment was off-the-cuff when people laughed, but what he was saying was that he chose the Braves over the Yankees (and their huge offer) because he wanted to win and start a family. He'd have preferred to stay in Chicago. Class act all the way with Maddux.

  • fb_avatar

    Nice that he addressed the blank cap in the speech though. Can't really argue with that. Plus, a fart joke and then the priceless "Sorry, Chicago." Well done, Greg.

  • fb_avatar

    I disagree. I think more players should go in without a hat. If you count his time in the minors, he was more a Cub than a Brave, and he never wanted to leave Chicago (thanks Larry Himes!). I think he prefers the Cubs over the Braves but he wasn't going in as a Cub when his prime years were in Atlanta. To me, any player that didn't play the overwhelming majority of his career with one team should go in without a logo. The HOF should take a lesson from Maddux and make this more common.

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