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Talking Baseball

Your weekday baseball fix. Some days.



Posted by Mike on Saturday, February 07, 2004

Mad Dog Maddux

Let's talk Greg Maddux. This guy is still unsigned with less than a week remaining until pitchers and catchers report. It's not like he is without accomplishment, Maddux has won four Cy Young awards and is only 11 wins shy of his 300th victory. He hasn't won less than 15 games in any season since 1987, which was only his second season in the majors as well as his last losing season. His performance over the last decade and a half has put him in a class reached by very few of his contemporaries. Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez are probably the only other active pitchers who can claim to be in the same class as Greg Maddux...so why is he still unsigned?

It takes a combination of issues to make a future Hall of Famer a less than desirable commodity. Here's why:

1. High salary demands. Greg Maddux is represented by Scott Boras, an agent notorious for bleeding every last cent out of teams. He likely has made Maddux's contract demands well above present market value. Free-agency is a buyer's market right now and Maddux is unlikely to get the multi-year contract in the $14-16 million range he seems to feel he deserves. I don't think many teams are willing to pay that type of money for an aging veteran who has started to get the injury bug in recent years. He hasn't been missing starts but he's been accumulating a number of minor injuries that could start to affect him at any time. This type of money would be more understandable if Maddux were still a true ace but he hasn't been that version of himself since the 2001 season.

2. Declining "stuff." Likely an effect of getting old, Maddux's actual pitches have been getting worse over the last few years. He used to be known for the pinpoint control he had, which is still present for the most part, but people seem to forget he had amazing movement on his pitches. That movement just isn't there anymore.

3. Declining statistics. Maddux has a few disturbing trends in his statistics over the last few years. Take a look, these aren't healthy numbers:

.................K/9IP..........AVG Against..........OPS Against
2000..........6.86................238.......................612
2001..........6.68................253.......................644
2002..........5.33................257.......................654
2003..........5.11................268.......................715

This isn't good stuff. His strikeout rate is declining dramatically and, at the same time, opposing batters are hitting him more often and harder. There is no real reason to believe that he will improving in any of these areas in 2004, or even maintaining his current levels. More decline is likely to occur.

In any event, I don't believe that Greg Maddux is going to help whatever team he signs with as much as they are going to hope he does. At the moment his two major suitors are Los Angeles and Chicago. This makes sense, the Dodgers have a history of throwing money at players who aren't worth it and the Cubs need to ensure that they don't make the playoffs this year or else they might be confused with a "good" franchise.

Neither situation is ideal for Maddux but there are certain benefits to each. Dodger Stadium is the kind of spacious field that Maddux needs to help maintain his stellar career numbers. He will be able to keep his ERA down and the ball inside the ballpark (Maddux gave up 24 home runs in 2003, the most of his career). Of course, the Dodgers have one of the weakest offenses in baseball so Maddux isn't likely to see much run support unless he gets amazingly lucky. Look for a Kevin Brown type season if he signs with the Dodgers, an ERA in the high 2.00s and a 13-12 record.

If Maddux signs with the Cubs he will be returning to the team that he first broke into the majors with in 1986. Chicago is a legitimate playoff contender because they have a solid rotation as it stands now and a respectable offense. Maddux would probably be their fourth starter after Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, and Carlos Zambrano. Matching up against the bottom end of other teams' rotations Maddux would likely see his 300th win well before the end of the season. His other numbers might suffer a little because of Wrigley's more intimate confines but I believe Maddux is more interested in that 300th win than putting together another season with a sub-3.00 ERA.

In the end, if Maddux wants to make it seem like he still has his old "stuff" he'll move out to Los Angeles. But if he wants another chance at the playoffs and little more publicity around his 300th win then he will be pitching for the Cubs next year. I, for one, hope he ends up with the Cubs - but let's see what Scott Boras makes him do...

Trot-ting Toward the Future
Trot Nixon has signed a three-year $19.5 million contract with the Red Sox. The deal adds much needed stability to the team for the coming years. Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, David Ortiz, Nomar Garciapara, Scott Williamson, and Jason Varitek are all eligable to become free-agents after the 2004 season. Not all of these players will be coming back, but knowing that a 25 HR, 380 OBP player will be returning is very nice considering the price.

Theo Epstein has done a fantastic job of locking up players for reasonable prices. The aquisitions of Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke along with his shrewd management of team salary has proven Theo as one of the best GMs in baseball. It's good to see that the Red Sox aren't bleeding money like they did in the past under Dan Duquette.


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