No Fanfare for Maddux's Exit

The end of <B>Greg Maddux's</B> tenure as a Brave as the arbitration deadline passed quietly Sunday night was much like most of his career - without much fanfare. BravesCenter Editor Bill Shanks takes a look back over Maddux's Hall of Fame career as an Atlanta Brave.

The 12:00am deadline passed without any great trumpet being sounded. There was no press conference at Turner Field, no quick statement from the Braves' Public Relations Department.

Greg Maddux is no longer an Atlanta Brave, and it's as if no one actually cares.

The message boards are more concerned with the futures of Kevin Millwood and Vladimir Guerrero. Who will play right field? Who will backup Estrada?

Braves fans are almost apathetic toward the ending of an era. Maddux was the best pitcher to ever wear an Atlanta Braves uniform. And now he's gone.

Just like that.

The numbers #31 put up with a tomahawk across his chest are remarkable. In his eleven seasons (1993-2003), Maddux won 194 games and lost 88. His ERA in that time: 2.63. Maddux won the Cy Young Award in 1993, 1994, and 1995 and a Gold Glove every season except his last.

His first six seasons with Atlanta will go down as the most dominating pitching in the history of the sport. From 1993-1998, Maddux was 107-42 with an ERA of 2.15. He allowed only 1151 hits in 1407.1 innings pitched.

Maddux leaves the Braves as Atlanta's all-time leader in ERA (2.63), second in complete games (61), third in wins (194), shutouts (21), and games started (363), and fourth in strikeouts (1828) and innings pitched (2526.2).

After all that, he's gone. Just like that.

For some reason, fans assume the soon-to-be thirty-eight year old Maddux is washed up. After leading the National League in games started (36) in 2003, finishing fourth in wins (16), and tying for fifth in innings pitched (218.1), fans assume he's a scrub. It's painfully obvious he'll never duplicate his great seasons, they claim.

Granted, Maddux is not the pitcher he was in 1993-98, when he was simply dominating. It's easy, I guess, to expect a 38-year old to pitch like his age dictates. But we're talking about Greg Maddux here – not Preston Hannah.

There is little doubt that much of the apathy is caused by Maddux agent, Scott Boras. A year ago, Boras lied and told the world other clubs were offering Maddux a five year contract worth $75 million. Now his nose is growing even longer by claiming that teams are offering Maddux multi-year deals worth more than $10 million a season. Again, it's simply not true. Reports have the Padres offering Maddux a two-year contract worth a total of $10 million dollars.

Boras is truly delusional, and unfortunately Maddux must believe him. Maddux will probably sign a two-year contract in the $5-$7 million dollar range – roughly the same average Atlanta probably offered him to return for one final season. He could have won his 300th game in a Braves uniform, the one that will be on his Hall of Fame plaque, and then gone to a west coast team to finish his career.

But Mr. Boras wanted to keep the market up, to accommodate his client just like he did with Chan Ho Park a few years ago. He's even filling Kevin Millwood with pipe dreams. There's little blame to go around here for this divorce besides Scott Boras. Sure wish he'd rent "Jerry Maguire" and get a clue about that mission statement ole' Jerry wrote.

At his age, Maddux is not worth more than $10 million a season. Most pitchers who won 16 games the previous season would expect a raise. But Maddux got his last big payday last season, getting almost a million bucks per victory. Wouldn't it have been ok for him to take a contract in the $6-$7 million dollar range for one season? He's made over $85 million bucks with the Braves. How much is too much?

This is painful, thinking of Maddux winning #300 in another uniform. It's a different kind of pain than losing Tom Glavine a year ago. I think we were all so stunned that Glavine would actually leave us for the hated Mets. Glavine was a Brave from day one, but it was almost like we, the fans, said, "forget him" by his decision of his next employer. But Maddux leaving is like Don Knotts leaving "The Andy Griffith Show." The Braves will probably still be good, but never the same again.

It's sometimes dangerous to say that "there will never be anyone like so and so." But I think it's safe to say there will never be anyone like Greg Maddux. Sixteen seasons of 15 wins or more in a season is unfathomable. He stayed healthy, stayed consistent, and stayed good. Maddux was an once-in-a-lifetime treat. Intelligent beyond explanation, he was a "crafty" right-hander, a term usually reserved for lefties. Maddux didn't have to throw hard, or impress stat heads with gaudy strikeout numbers. He placed the ball right in the strike zone and dared opponents to hit it. They usually missed.

When I think of Greg Maddux, I remember a game in 1994. We were in San Francisco, and Maddux did not have his best stuff. He threw a lot of pitches that night, was unusually wild as I remember. But it was if he was playing with Barry Bonds and the Giants. Almost every inning, San Francisco would get someone on base, only to watch Maddux weasel out of trouble. It was a masterpiece – like watching Picasso paint.

It was a pleasure to watch him pitch, and we all will be telling our grandchildren about him one day. For some reason, I think most of us will not truly understand his absence until opening day, when the nerdy right-hander is pitching without a tomahawk on his chest.

Bill Shanks hosts "The Braves Show" during the baseball season. He can be reached at thebravesshow@email.com

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