If Greg Maddux ever really wants back in the game, he won’t have to play Peoria and ride buses the way Ryne Sandberg did for the second act in a Hall of Fame career. It sounds like “Mad Dog” could write his own job description.
“He could do anything he really wants, but his family’s very important to him,” Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers said. “He could manage. His baseball sense is off the charts.”
Towers twice signed Maddux as the San Diego Padres GM and then tried to hire the four-time Cy Young Award winner for his field staff when he got to Arizona in 2010. At the time, Maddux wanted to stay home in Las Vegas with his wife and children and continue working as a special assistant to Cubs GM Jim Hendry.
After Hendry got fired in 2011, Maddux left for a similar part-time job with the Texas Rangers, where his older brother, Mike, is a well-regarded pitching coach.
Maddux won his World Series ring with the Atlanta Braves in 1995, and went into the Hall of Fame with teammate Tom Glavine and manager Bobby Cox over the weekend. But Maddux didn’t push for an Atlanta logo on his plaque, recognizing what Chicago meant to his career.
“I’m a huge Greg Maddux fan,” Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said Monday at an event for Class-A Kane County after returning from Cooperstown, N.Y. “He’s spent some time working with the Rangers, where he works with his brother, and I assume that’s something that works for him. But he worked for us for awhile and he was a great resource for the team.
“Who knows? Maybe some other day, but right now he’s good where he’s at.”
When a Maddux rumor popped up last fall after the Cubs fired manager Dale Sveum, a team official put it this way: A Hall of Famer probably wouldn’t know what he’s getting into with a potential 100-loss team, and might not have the patience now, but you also can’t completely dismiss such a great baseball mind.
The job went to Rick Renteria, who as a Padres coach saw Maddux up close near the end of his career.
“He was very intuitive,” Renteria said. “He’d be sitting in the dugout and say, ‘This guy is going to hit this ball right between (the pitcher’s) legs now.’ Sure enough, we’d make the pitch, and boom! The guy would hit the ball between his legs.
“He had a knack for recognizing and knowing where the ball was going to be projected. When you saw him fielding when he pitched, he was many times already moving to the area where the ball was going.”
It’s hard to imagine Maddux meeting with the media before and after every game and enjoying some of the public-messaging aspects of the job. But he’d know how to handle a pitching staff, and there’s no denying the credibility that comes with 23 years in the big leagues.
“He would always wear tennis shoes if he wasn’t pitching, but he’d watch the game,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “He knew that if we went through a certain number of players or we were making moves, we were getting close to using a pitcher to either hit or bunt or pinch-run.
“I’d look down and say: ‘Doggy, go get your shoes on.’ He’d go like this, (pointing to his feet), and he’d already have his spikes on. He paid attention.”
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It’s unclear what Maddux, 48, wants to do with the rest of his life. He made more than $150 million during his playing career, according to the salary database at Baseball-Reference.com.
But it would be crazy to bet against “Mad Dog.” Just ask former catcher Henry Blanco, who played with Maddux in Atlanta and on the North Side and now works as an Arizona coach.
“He figured out things faster than anybody else,” Blanco said. “He seemed to know what he wanted to do on that particular day, what he wanted to do with every hitter.
“He called his own game. He’d usually tell you what he wanted to do, the sequence and everything else. It was fun. That’s why I can tell everybody he was simply the best.”