Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Pestilence at Goat Riders draws a parallel between this year’s Carlos Zambrano contract negotiations and another contract dispute from the not-too-distant past:

I don’t know if Jim Hendry knows his Cubs history well. I should expect that he knows this bit though, because his former boss Andy MacPhail was brought in to clean up the mess left by Larry Himes.

By some rights, Larry Himes could have been considered a competent “Baseball Guy.” Not every executive brings a Hall of Fame caliber slugger with speed and power to a club in exchange for an aging George Bell... but Chicagoans don’t really remember that part. Cubs fans remember letting Greg Maddux walk because of a pissing match over money.

While it is only natural for Cub Fans to be concerned about Big Z bolting for a bigger payday, I think this analogy is fundamentally flawed.

The entire Maddux-left-because-the-Cubs-were-too-cheap-to-pay-him script pleases many Cub Fans. It paints Maddux as the homegrown talent who really, really wanted to stay but was driven away by vile, penny-pinching management.

And while former GM Larry Himes did his share to drive Maddux from the team (and thus has earned a good proportion of the blame), to dump it all on him is, as I noted, fundamentally flawed.

Were the Cubs too cheap to pay Maddux what he wanted? From 2007, that script sounds perfectly cromulent. But in real time, you would have noted that Himes offered Mad Dog what was (at that time) the largest contract in Cubs history. And more than what the Braves ultimately signed him for.

Did Maddux really, really want to spend the remainder of his days in blue pinstripes? Again, hearing this tale recited in 2007 is most pleasing to the ears. But in real time, you didn’t even have to read between the lines (or be a mind-reader) to hear Maddux tell you that he had no intention of re-signing with the Cubs after the 1992 season.

Nearly a decade ago, I wrote a piece detailing what was going on in real time. Alas, it has since been lost on the hard drive of a long-abandoned computer running Windows 95. Other matters prevent me from delving into the archives, but one day I will revisit this story. Consider that a promise – or a threat, if you prefer.

Cub Fans should be worried about Big Z’s future. Losing Zambrano would leave a bigger hole in the roster than losing Aramis Ramirez – and one that would be exponentially harder to fill.

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