If Mike Maddux is in fact on the verge of being announced as the Texas Rangers' new pitching coach, you have to wonder what would have happened had Milwaukee named Ken Macha as its new manager before the World Series -- or if the weather had cooperated and the Series had ended on Monday rather than Wednesday.
The league discourages major personnel announcements during the Series, but if Game Five had finished on the 27th rather than the 29th, and Macha was announced on the 28th rather than the 30th, would Maddux have felt more pressure to give Doug Melvin his decision before his Brewers contract expired on the 31st? Could that rain delay have worked in the Rangers' favor?
Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last night that Texas has "overwhelmed [Maddux] with a huge deal" that dwarfed the multi-year contract the Brewers had offered him, and that Maddux couldn't afford to turn the Rangers down. No terms were even guessed at in the story, but Melvin said "he's probably going to be one of the top-paid pitching coaches" in baseball.
The younger brother of future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, Mike pitched the final game of his 15-year big league career on July 4, 2000, pitching the sixth and seventh innings of a 10-4 Astros loss to Arizona (for whom rookie Vicente Padilla pitched the eighth). Houston released him the next day. He retired a week after that.
And then came a move that probably led to this day. Maddux had barely cleared his Houston locker out when he agreed to take a job as the pitching coach for the organization's AA affiliate, the Round Rock Express.
Which was owned by Nolan Ryan.
And managed by Jackie Moore.
The reputation that Maddux has secured for himself after three seasons in Round Rock and six in Milwaukee speaks for itself. He's known for a calm, cerebral approach and an ability to get the best out of his pitchers. For his emphasis on preparation and pitch sequencing. For his work with young arms, which was obviously a key aspect of the job description here going forward.
And for his results. In his six seasons coaching in Milwaukee, the Brewers staff had a 4.39 ERA, including a 3.87 ERA in 2008, second best in the National League. The Rangers' ERA over the same span has been 4.98, including last year's 5.97, baseball's worst.
Of course, you don't chalk a disparity like that up to the pitching coach alone. The two clubs have run completely different sets of pitchers out to the mound.
But the Rangers and Maddux-coached Brewers had Doug Davis in common, for example. Davis went 21-21, 5.09 in five Rangers seasons. Picked up by Milwaukee in 2003 -- Maddux's first season there -- after both Texas and Toronto had given up on him, Davis went 37-36, 3.92 in four Brewers seasons. It was under Maddux's watch that Davis established himself as a big league starting pitcher.
Also in his first year with the Brewers, Maddux took Danny Kolb, whom Texas had let go after he'd compiled a 5.01 ERA in parts of four frustrating seasons as a Ranger, and in his first year with Milwaukee he posted a 1.96 ERA and became the Brewers' closer. The following year he had a 2.98 ERA and made the All-Star Team. Traded to Atlanta, Kolb saw his ERA balloon back up to 5.93.
Francisco Cordero was awful in his final Rangers season, posting a 4.81 ERA, the worst of his career since his rookie campaign six years earlier. Traded that summer to Milwaukee, he put up an ERA the rest of the way of 1.69, a career best.
After pitching himself out of the big leagues in 2003, Rick Helling resurfaced with Milwaukee in 2005, and under Maddux's tutelage he unleashed a new cut fastball and posted a 2.39 ERA in seven starts and eight relief appearances.
But more to the point is the work Maddux has done with young starters Yovanni Gallardo and Manny Parra, and Ben Sheets and Davis and Chris Capuano before them.
Will this make it more likely that free agents C.C. Sabathia or Sheets (a Dallasite) could end up in Texas? Sabathia: No. Sheets: Maybe, but still a longshot.
Are the Brewers still interested in Gerald Laird, as they reportedly were in July? And if so, how if at all does Maddux's arrival impact what pitcher we'd be willing to take back?
Will this mean that Milwaukee could now hire Rick Peterson, who had seemingly been the pitching coach frontrunner here, given Macha and Peterson's time together -- with Ron Washington -- in Oakland? Would seem to make sense, though the Journal Sentinel identifies Brewers bullpen coach Bill Castro as the leading internal candidate for the job and suggests that Macha's first choice if given the opportunity to bring someone in from the outside would be Chuck Hernandez, recently dismissed by Detroit as its pitching coach.
But those questions are less important than how Maddux might get through to Brandon McCarthy and Matt Harrison, Eric Hurley and Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz and Martin Perez, Matt Cain or Zack Greinke or Clay Buchholz or Homer Bailey or Insert Name of Other Winter Acquisition Here. How well he'll mesh with Washington (who reportedly recommended Peterson) and Andy Hawkins (or whoever the bullpen coach will be). How closely his pitching philosophies fit with those of Nolan Ryan and Rick Adair.
If Maddux can be to a Rangers pitcher or two each year what Rudy Jaramillo has been to Mark DeRosa and Gary Matthews Jr. and Marlon Byrd and David Murphy, then whatever the "huge deal" from Texas was that has apparently "overwhelmed" the 47-year-old will be considered a steal. And I say that without having any idea what Maddux will be paid.
This is another step in the right direction, an aggressive move to get better on the mound, which we all know amounts to an aggressive move to get better, period.
ADDENDUM: Well, at least I know you all are reading. Many of you have correctly pointed out that I decided for some reason this morning to identify Mike Maddux as the younger brother of Greg Maddux, which of course is a mistake. Yes, they are brothers. But Mike is five years older.
(Trivia: Both debuted in the big leagues in 1986, Mike three months before Greg. They faced each other as opposing starting pitchers on September 29 of that season, with Greg earning his second big league victory and Mike his seventh big league loss in an 8-3 Cubs win over the Phillies. Neither struck the other out. Mike flew to right in his lone at-bat; Greg sacrifice-bunted Shawon Dunston to second base in the one at-bat he had before Mike got chased.)
Because Justin Smoak wasn't getting adequate playing time as a member of the Surprise Rafters' Arizona Fall League taxi squad (eligible to play only on Wednesdays and Saturdays), he has been reassigned to the league's Peoria Javelinas roster. Since the move, Smoak is 5 for 15 with a home run and a double.
Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated predicts landing spots for dozens of free agents, suggesting that Texas will sign Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez for five years and $75 million.
But then again, I'm the guy who told you a few hours ago that Mike Maddux is Greg's younger brother.
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(c) Jamey Newberg
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