Surprise, Arizona – It was well past 7 am on the last Saturday, and the next day was tightly scheduled. But before they attend the meetings, the bouts, the pitchers’ field training, the Cactus League game against Kansas City, and the sundry jokes of the day that keep things clear, the Maddux brothers sat together in a room at the Texas Rangers’ compound here, pausing to contemplate the language of their profession.
Mike Maddox, 61, is back for his second stint as pitching coach with the Rangers after serving in that capacity from 2009 to 2015. His brother, Greg Maddox, 56, joined him as a special coach for three weeks, providing him with depth. Knowledge that can only come from a Hall of Famer who owns four Cy Young Awards and 18 Gold Gloves.
Gregg, who retired in 2008, is considered among the smartest players in baseball history—whether he believes it or not—but he’s had some catching up to do on modern terminology.
“A revolver. I had to know what a revolver was,” Greg said with his trademark smile that curled into a half-smile, half-smile.
What it is, he discovered, is what he knew in his day as “high cheese.”
“I said, ‘Oh, that’s a high fastball now?'” He said, shaking his head carefully. “A revolver.”
A franchise that reached the World Series in back-to-back seasons during Mike’s first role as pitching coach is pushing hard to take back what was once. The Rangers haven’t had a winning record since 2016, but they did spend $581 million on free agents, including Corey Seeger and Marcus Simien, before the 2022 season, and then another $244 million last winter for three pitchers: Jacob DeGrom, Nathan Ivaldi and Andrew Marcus. Henny.
They installed former pitcher Chris Young to run the baseball operations division, hired three-time World Series winning manager Bruce Bochy and brought back Mike Maddow.
Shortly after taking the job, Mike called on his brother to help out in spring training. Then Greg played at a popular golf tournament in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico that December with Bochy and others, and the new manager joined the hiring process. By the time the idea came up to Young, who pitched in the same Padres rotation as Gregg in 2007 and 2008 and called him one of his all-time favorite teammates, it was total press.
“Greg, in many ways, was the best coach I’ve had, and he was a teammate,” Young said. “He’s someone I’ve always respected. I think he’s a genius in the way he can explain the show and simplify the game. And it was a no-brainer to have someone like him around.”
Together, the Maddox family is in sync from their humorous philosophies down to their bawdy sense of humor.
“They’re crooked,” said Bushey, laughing. “I thought Greg was more quirky, but Mike is right there. They have some great lines. There are a lot of laughs.”
Walk by a pitchers’ meeting before practice, and you might think the stand-up comedian is serving as a guest coach. Between the seams, they make sure every session ends with a joke – volunteers are welcome.
“Everyone thinks we’re being loud because everyone’s laughing,” said Mike. “But we learn while we laugh.”
“You’re trying to make fun of things,” Greg said. “Taking ground balls can be fun. You can laugh and have a good time while doing it. At the same time, work on getting better. Practice is fun. So you try to make it fun, right?”
It goes a long way toward keeping shooters engaged. Not only were the Rangers ranked No. 3 in several major categories in 2022, but the Rangers were also No. 3 in the standings. Gregg, who has won more Gold Gloves than any player at any position, can be found every day splitting his time in the half court, working with pitchers on their field, and in the bullpen as they throw.
Two things, Mike said. “We are very like-minded, and-”
“We have pretty much the same basics,” Greg interrupted.
“Second thing,” Mike continued. “We all want to hear what Greg has to say.”
16-year veteran Ian Kennedy has worn #31 for most of his career as a tribute to Gregg. John Gray, who appeared as the Rangers’ starter #3, said that just noticing Greg watching him throw in the bullpen was exciting.
Seeing it, said Gray. “He believes in anchoring your position. Dominating the running game. Knowing where you are on the field—there’s always a place to be. He takes a lot of pride in the outs. He definitely knows how to spot weaknesses. Every swing has a weak spot.”
With stops in Milwaukee, Texas, St. Louis and Washington before the on-again, off-again Rangers, Mike has always preached the mantra of fastball driving and changing speeds. The brothers are in steady step as they spread this gospel.
One hundred percent, said Greg. “You have to do two things to promote. Control the speed of your fastball and change the velocities. Whoever pitcher does the best that day wins.
“It’s not a speed contest. It’s a pitching contest.”
Despite his reputation, Greg is still uncomfortable with the word “cerebral.” Others were smarter, he protested, he worked harder at the basics. Coaching only for half of the spring semester is tough, he said, “but hopefully you say the right things and help the players to their strengths, and hopefully they understand their strengths and play with them accordingly.”
While some players who retired 15 years ago may not resonate today, Mike Gregg’s personalities do because his 23 years in the majors crossed multiple generations. From his own experience, Greg is of the opinion that what he has to say will find at least some willing ears.
“I always loved having Phil Necro, Warren Spahn, and Johnny Sin, you know?” Greg said. “When I was a young player, I always enjoyed hearing what they had to say.”
The brothers differ in how warm they are to those around them—at the time he coached the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Greg avoided his brother’s paternal habit of putting his hand on a pitcher’s shoulder while talking to him—but they find common ground when talking about the shape of the field and the design of the field. They study the latest data and metrics while tailoring their work to individuals. “But we give it away as much as we can,” said Mike.
“The ultimate question is, where does this stadium go?” He completed. “This is where we come in and say, OK, yeah, I’m going to take one less form in a good place than all that big form and ball. I gotta lead in baseball. Location is always going to win.”
Terminology changes. The basics don’t.
“I’m learning how to throw pitches better,” said Gregg. “I’m into that. I think that’s great. And if you can use the tester to make your curveball more curveball or break your slider later on or anything you can do to help you throw pitches better, I’m into that.”
“But once you get on that hill, it’s all about the promotion.”
High cheese or gun, it doesn’t matter what the pitch is called as long as it reaches its intended location.
“I want to hear some string cheese thrown during games, too,” Greg said, grinning about a well-placed, low fastball.
The brothers take to the two-pitch sequence with the vivacity of their schoolmates, eagerly comparing developments in terms of terms. A “hook” is a slider followed by a curve.
“What is Fastball-changup?” Greg asked.
Mike replied, “Speed Dial.”
“I’d like to see double tap explode a bit more,” offered Greg, and Mike agreed that would be a good thing.
“Back to back,” said Mike, “and he hits away, usually he hits one, he hits two.” “If you make it on the first strike, it works for the second strike. Take it once, take it again.”
Silly things. fun stuff. Important articles.
And as the Rangers prepare to move on, that extra family time is a bonus.
“Speak the ball,” Greg said. “I play golf.”
Mike agreed, saying, “Act like kids.” “No different than when we were 15 and 10.”
“Yeah, there are no rules,” Greg said. “You don’t have to grow up.”
“Total coffee junkie. Tv ninja. Unapologetic problem solver. Beer expert.”