No, the New York Yankees did not offer future Hall of Famer and Atlanta Braves legend Greg Maddux a contract when the two sides met prior to the 1993 season — but it turns out they had a very good reason!
It sounds ridiculous to call a Maddux addition prior to ’93 anything other than a sure thing, knowing what we know now. Maddux’s fastball was never his calling card, so he theoretically should’ve aged well, but without a blazing heater, it was also difficult to tell if he’d ever have consistent success, let alone dominance.
In 1992, Maddux won his first Cy Young as a 26-year-old Chicago Cubs hurler, posting ridiculous numbers (20-11, 2.18, a league-leading 268 innings and his third Gold Glove). Prior to that, though, the right-hander was an innings-eater above all else, leading the league in that category ’91 as well, but with plenty of warts.
After all, he was just two seasons removed from allowing 242 hits in 237 innings pitched. Was Maddux an all-time great? Or was he Pavano before Pavano, riding an historic season (filled with plenty of induced contact) into a wave of interest on the open market? It was easy to convince yourself, as a Yankee fan watching his greatness, that your team had simply had a mistake and let him go.
Well … not quite, actually.
When Maddux arrived in the Bronx for a free agent visit in late 1992, he fully intended to sign there.
But when no contract came in the mail, the dead-serious bulldog was out … even though it turned out the team probably intended to sign him, too, if not for a near-front office tragedy.
The Yankees missed Greg Maddux in free agency for an odd reason.
According to Maddux, he considered himself an adult, and had no intention of getting wined-and-dined for no reason. Therefore, he headed to New York to take in the city and have a ball (on Broadway, out on the town, etc.), planning to leave with an offer in hand and ink the contract a few days later.
The Yankees promised Maddux’s camp (led by agent Scott Boras!) that they’d have one, too. This was Gene Michael’s Yankees during George Steinbrenner’s suspension, after all. They didn’t want a circus, either.
Sadly, an offer never materialized, but not out of spite; according to Maddux, he found out later that someone in the Yankees front office had suffered a heart attack, which obviously gummed up the process.
The reason behind the delay didn’t come until later, though, and Maddux came to believe the Bombers just weren’t interested. Needless to say, he quickly moved on.
Of course, the meat of the story is that Maddux did always want to play in Atlanta, but the Braves had reportedly been unable to clear enough payroll to give he and Scott Boras the contract that he desired.
During the Yankees’ transaction freeze, though, Atlanta came through, moving the pieces around to get Maddux exactly what he’d been looking for, which secured him and set into motion a National League dynasty for the ages.
But … yes, only a National League one, thanks to the Yankees’ adept roster-building after striking out on Maddux.
How much better could the Yanks of the ’90s have been with Maddux in their clubhouse? Honestly … it’s hard to be better than they were. Chalk this one up as one of history’s strange tidbits that ultimately settled with everyone in the right place — and, hopefully, at full health.