Maddux also possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of hitters, a major reason he was unwilling to switch leagues. "People don't give Greg much credit for the amount of time he puts in watching tape and studying hitters, or how his knowledge of hitters translates into an advantage," says reliever Mike Remlinger, a teammate in Atlanta from 1999 through 2002. Maddux retains and processes information like a computer. He lives in Las Vegas and is an able, if infrequent gambler. (During a brief chat with a reporter, he suggests a craps strategy.) His recall of hitters is tremendous, and he'll share that sort of information with his staff in an ongoing dialogue. "You're going to be able to pick up a lot through talking to him about a hitter," says Clement. "We do that with each other already, but it's nice to have somebody new who's been successful and been doing it a lot longer."
All week the signing of Maddux—to a two-year, $15 million contract with a $9 million option for 2006 that vests if he throws 400 innings in '04 and '05 combined—was played as the return of Chicago's long-lost son. His current deal was portrayed as a symbolic reversal of the parsimony demonstrated by the Tribune Company when Maddux became a free agent after winning his first Cy Young Award in '92. "The Tribune Company, which has been maligned unfairly for years for making money and not putting it into the club, immediately has made a commitment to allow me to take the money we're making here [this year] and put it into the budget," says Hendry. The Tribune Company lined up more than $7 million in new revenue over the winter: The Chicago City Council approved 12 additional night games at Wrigley (to be phased in over the next three seasons), which are worth about $3 million annually; the team will move the brick wall behind home plate to add 200 premium seats that will bring in about $3 million; and most of the Sheffield and Waveland Avenue rooftop owners settled a lawsuit with the Tribune Company, agreeing to pay the Cubs 17% of their receipts—another $1.2 million to $1.7 million annually.
That money is significant because Maddux's deal reflects Hendry's willingness to exchange cheap, unproven talent for the security of proven productivity, even at an inflated price. In November the Cubs traded 24-year-old first baseman Hee Seop Choi, a lightly seasoned prospect with a $305,000 salary and lots of potential—in 202 at bats with Chicago he had a .350 on-base percentage and eight home runs—for the Florida Marlins' Gold Glove first baseman Derrek Lee, a 31-home-run hitter who'll earn $6.9 million and then become a free agent. Cruz will earn $340,000 working out of the bullpen or as a starter at Triple A Iowa. The Cubs' payroll, currently projected to be in excess of $90 million, will vie with the Dodgers' for tops in the league. That win-now mentality did much to sway Maddux. "Younger players worry more about themselves and what they have to do to get their career going and get their piece of the pie," Maddux says. "I know I did. But as you get older you care more about winning. You know this team came very close last year, very close."
He snips a lace. "Some teams are rebuilding, and some teams are eager to win," he adds. "This team is eager to win—this year." He's just there to help.