Maddux sails into Hall with overwhelming support
Four-time Cy Young Award winner on way to Cooperstown with 97.2 percent of vote
Two starts into his return from a seven-week hiatus, during an Aug. 13, 2008, outing against the Phillies at Dodger Stadium, Brad Penny suffered a relapse of the right shoulder tendinitis and bursitis that had plagued him for so long. He lasted only three innings and gave up six runs. The next day, he was placed on the disabled list once again.
And so it was that one of the greatest pitchers of the modern era spent the final months of his now Hall of Fame career in a Dodgers uniform.
Greg Maddux's resume was defined mostly by the four National League Cy Young Awards he racked up as an ace of the Cubs and Braves, using pinpoint control, late break and unparalleled smarts to baffle hitters amid the most offensively-dominated era in baseball history.
But the last two of Maddux's 355 career wins -- the eighth most all time -- came in Hollywood.
And when he needed to shore up his rotation for the stretch run in 2008, general manager Ned Colletti -- a Cubs official when Maddux was drafted by the team in 1984 -- quickly turned to "Mad Dog" for the second time in three years.
"One of my all-time favorites," Colletti said Wednesday morning, minutes before Maddux was proclaimed a Hall of Famer with 97.2 percent of the ballots cast by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, representing the eighth-highest percentage ever.
"I saw his first game, I saw his last game. I saw him win 300, I saw him strike out 3,000," Colletti said. "The greatest pitcher I was ever around and one of the greatest minds I was ever around."
Seeking help for the stretch run of 2006, Colletti acquired a 40-year-old Maddux from the Cubs for infielder Cesar Izturis. He threw six no-hit innings in his first start with the Dodgers, went 6-3 with a 3.30 ERA in the final two months and played a big part in helping Los Angeles capture the NL Wild Card berth.
With Penny returning to the DL in '08, Colletti sent two players to be named later to the Padres -- eventually Eduardo Perez and Michael Watt -- to get Maddux back on the Dodgers at age 42.
In seven starts to finish his career, Maddux posted an uncharacteristic 5.09 ERA that hardly affected his career mark of 3.16. He struck out 18 batters, putting him at 3,371 for his career (10th all time). He threw 40 2/3 innings, making him the first pitcher to surpass 5,000 since Nolan Ryan. And he won his 18th Gold Glove, more than anybody at any position.
On Wednesday, Maddux led a trio that includes Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas. Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa were elected by the Expansion Era Committee last month, and the six of them will be enshrined in Cooperstown on July 27.
"I guess it really hasn't sunk in yet," Maddux said on MLB Network shortly after the Hall of Fame announcement. "It's a tremendous honor."
"He was one of my favorite teammates," said second baseman Jeff Kent, who also finished his career with the Dodgers in '08. "I'm elated for him. This is closure for a great career."
Maddux was Hall of Fame-worthy long before he ever joined the Dodgers -- the first or the second time. His career in Los Angeles was defined mainly by how he impacted others off the mound. Like the changeup grip he taught then rookie Clayton Kershaw, or the way he showed others to prepare in the four days in between starts, or the invaluable resource he became for someone like Derek Lowe.
"He's the most prepared pitcher I've ever played with," Lowe said then. "He pays attention to even the smallest detail. He gets more out of watching video of hitters than anyone. He saw the game like a chess match. His mind is his biggest strength, knowing what guys are looking for and never throwing it."
Maddux's final start was six innings of one-run ball, and one final win, at AT&T Park on Sept. 27, 2008. His final outing was in relief of Chad Billingsley in Game 5 of the '08 NL Championship Series, when Maddux gave up two unearned runs in two innings and asked home-plate umpire Mike Winters for the ball as he walked off the mound in the fifth.
Seven weeks later, as the Winter Meetings were taking place near his home of Las Vegas, Maddux called it quits after 23 years in the big leagues -- even though Colletti would've happily welcomed him back the following season, to pitch for the Dodgers at age 43.
"He had a knack for pitching and a memory like nobody else," Colletti said upon learning Maddux's career was officially over. "He adds a real steadiness -- a successfulness you can trust to a team. I told him he'll always have a spot when I'm around."