Mad(dux) About You

12:00 AM | Comments (0) | by Rich Funk

Depending on what blogs you read, what websites you check and what radio stations you listen to, the Cubs are in on every available player this winter, from Jake Peavy to Adam Dunn. Hell, at least one douchebag columnist thinks the Cubs have a chance at Manny Ramirez. Y'know...as long as they can find someone to take Alfonso Soriano's albatross of a contract.

Good luck with that.

I have opinions about all the Cubs options this winter. I don't think they should bring back Ryan Dempster if he gets too pricey. I think if the Cubs have a legitimate shot at Jake Peavy, they should make a move, even if it takes a package comparable to Sean Marshall, Felix Pie and Jeff Samardzija to get the job done. And if Hendry even accepts a call from Adam Dunn's agent, he should be fired immediately.

But as good or bad as any of those moves may be, I'm looking at one specific savior to come over to the North Side and help deliver World Series glory. To find this potential messiah, one only has to look to the West Coast, to the team that so quickly vanquished the Cubs in the NLDS.

Derek Lowe? I'm all for it, especially if he comes as a cheaper alternative to Ryan Dempster. Rafael Furcal? As much as I like Ryan Theriot, I love the thought of an actual leadoff hitter and general pain-in-the-ass-for-pitchers at the top of the order.

But those guys aren't who I'm thinking if.

I want Greg Maddux.

I don't need Greg Maddux to come to the Cubs as a pitcher. I mean, if he wants to pitch still and be some kind of player/coach, then he should be able to do whatever he wants. But I don't think that's what he wants to do. Rumor has it that if Maddux retires from playing that he may take some time away from baseball before considering coming back in any kind of coaching position, but I don't think he can do it. Greg would pull a (less annoying version of) Brett Favre and find himself itching to be around the game again as spring training crept up. Just take a look at this blurb from a recent ESPN interview with Maddux:

Last year, during a series at Dodger Stadium, Maddux and Heath Bell had a conversation while shagging balls during batting practice. Bell said something casually to Maddux about the hours he'd spent over 22 years in the big leagues doing that very thing—shagging balls and tossing them back to the bucket man behind second base. "You know," Maddux said, "I really should retire."

Bell, unsure if he was entering into a conversation of historical importance, stayed quiet. What was he supposed to say, really? But then, after a pause, Maddux picked up another ball and said, "Nah. Then I'd go home and do what?"

Whether he thinks he can stay away from the game or not, we all know that Maddux is going to be coaching somewhere, so the Cubs might as well nab him while he's available. The Cubs need Maddux, because he's gonna be great. And it doesn't mater what position the Cubs want to give him. As long as he's around the team, they'll be better.

The "Maddux Effect" can be seen on the Dodgers this past season. Most people will point to the Manny Ramirez trade as the event that turned around the Dodgers' season. The Manny trade was huge, but don't overlook the effect that Maddux seemed to have on the starting pitchers in LA.

before Madux was traded to LA, Derek Lowe was 9-10 with an ERA of 3.99. Good, but not great. In his 8 starts after Maddux arrived in Hollywood, Lowe was 5-1 with an ERA of 0.88. Hiroki Kuroda's pre-Maddux ERA was 3.97. After Maddux came to town, it was 2.84. Hell, look at the Dodgers' starters ERA by month:

April: 3.85
May: 4.96
June: 3.74
July: 3.57
August: 3.96
September: 3.03

Coincidence? Possibly, but I don't think so. Maddux is one of the greatest pitching minds of all time, and having him hanging around the clubhouse and talking to pitchers is going to have a very positive effect. I don't know about you, but the thought of teaming Maddux up as a mentor for Ted Lilly, Jeff Samardzija, Sean Marshall and Rich Harden makes me tingle in the pants.

But it's not just Maddux's effect on a pitching staff that makes him so valuable. The attitude that he would bring to the Cubs would be perfect come playoff time. Maddux has been to the playoffs many times and knows when it's time to get down to business. But he's also known as one of the better practical jokers in all of baseball doing everything from old classics like the hot foot and shaving cream in the face to peeing on rookies in the shower. One of the problems the Cubs had in the playoffs this year was their intensity. I think that Lou and the players tried so hard to downplay the Curse factor and the pressure of 100 World Series-less years that they actually got into their own heads. Now I'm not saying that the Cubs should go on record as saying they are cursed or admit in every interview all the pressure they feel, but I think that Maddux can bring the right mix of focus and calm that would do well for the team com playoff time, something Lou may not be able to do.

Add to all of this the fact that whether he wins a World Series or not, Lou's only going to be around for 1-2 more years, and suddenly having Maddux around to step in and possibly be able to manage the ballclub when he's gone sounds better and better.

In 2003 when the Cubs got knocked out of the playoffs by the Marlins, they went after one of the players responsible for their exit when they traded Hee Seop Choi for Derrek Lee. Let's hope that if Jim Hendry and the Cubs front office decide to do something similar this winter, they go after the Dodger that will be the most valuable to the Cubs in 2009 and beyond.

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