Cubs could have landed Maddux brothers, but timing wasn’t right
BY CHRIS DE LUCA email@example.com March 17, 2012 8:54PM
Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux (left) says brother Greg would have joined him in Chicago had he become the Cubs’ manager this offseason. | AP
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Updated: April 19, 2012 8:42AM
LAS VEGAS — Whether it was because he spent his
formative years right off the Las Vegas strip or because of all those card games during long charters as a journeyman big-league pitcher, Mike Maddux
often resorts to poker terms when he talks.
When he was considered the top contender last fall to become the next manager of the Cubs, Maddux maintained a classic poker face. And when he pulled out of the derby, he simply issued a brief statement that left plenty of questions.
Maddux, still the pitching coach of the Texas Rangers, finally revealed his hand Saturday before an exhibition game against the Cubs in his hometown.
Maddux, 50, told the Sun-Times he pulled out of contention because he couldn’t be ‘‘all in’’ to manage the Cubs, but he also revealed younger brother Greg — the future Hall of Famer still adored on the North Side — would have tagged along as pitching coach had he come to Chicago.
That would have given the Cubs a one-two pitching punch of knowledge that couldn’t be matched in baseball.
‘‘I would say that would probably work out one way or another,’’ a slyly smiling Maddux said.
It would have been a dream team of pitching know-how. But it wasn’t meant to be this season. Not at this point in Maddux’s life.
The Cubs and Boston Red Sox were courting Maddux and Dale Sveum. The Red Sox likely were going to get the Cubs’ runner-up.
Even today, Maddux tries to be coy about where he stood in the derby.
‘‘I wouldn’t say I was the top candidate,’’ he said. ‘‘Dale Sveum is one of the best baseball guys I’ve ever been around. You know, sometimes you finish second. And if Dale finished first, that’s great. They are a better team with him.’’
But Maddux clearly recalls the moment the derby screeched to a halt. He was having dinner with his wife and two daughters in suburban Dallas.
‘‘And I said, ‘When’s the last time the four of us sat down and had dinner? It’s been awhile,’ ’’ Maddux recalled. ‘‘I said that time is passing me up, my kids are both in college now in Texas, we’ve all moved down there and it’s pretty nice to be a unit for the first time in three years.’’
He immediately put his managerial career, which undoubtedly will arrive in the near future, on hold.
‘‘It was a tough spot to try to go all in at the moment,’’ Maddux said. ‘‘I had been homeless for three years. I say that because I was living in Texas, I had a daughter in school at TCU and my wife and my younger daughter were in Wisconsin. And that’s how we lived for three years.
‘‘I told my wife that if I pursue [the Cubs job] and it happens, then you won’t see me all winter because I will go visit every player. That’s just the way I would do it. I wasn’t ready to make that commitment to really go all in. It wasn’t that difficult [to say no] because I was looking forward so much to having the four of us together.’’
As it turned out, Maddux got reunited with brother Greg, who left the Cubs as a special assistant to then-general manager Jim Hendry to take a similar position with the Rangers.
Greg has been in uniform all camp, helping Mike work with the Rangers’ pitchers. It’s the first time the Maddux brothers have worn the same uniform since they played for a Venezuelan winter-league team in 1987.
‘‘This is great, man,’’ Mike said. ‘‘We have a lot of fun together. We share the same philosophies, oddly enough. We just bring back things we did as kids that still apply. He’s got their ears. He says it, and people listen up. That’s pretty neat.’’
Cubs fans will insist it would be neater if the two had brought their act to Chicago. Cubs starting pitchers had a combined 4.79 ERA — the worst in the National League — last season, and the team entered Saturday with an NL-worst 5.88 ERA this spring.
A Maddux or two definitely would make a difference.
‘‘Greg has an incredible ability to just simplify the game,’’ Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster said. ‘‘Yeah, you can talk about it, but can you go out there and implement it? And he did that. I learned a lot from him.’’
Maybe it will happen someday in Chicago.
Wherever he ends up, Mike Maddux seems confident he will manage — someday.
‘‘I was interested, but I was not all in,’’ he said of the Cubs’ saga. ‘‘And there’s only one way I know how to do things, and that’s all in.’’