On the surface, one might look at Mad Dog's outing yesterday and say, "Dude got rocked." He did allow 7 runs--six of those coming in the top half of the first--over four innings, but only two runs were earned. It's still spring, and I don't think that this is anything to be alarmed about. Both Bobby Cox and Leo Mazzoni (former manager and pitching coach, respectively) have told the same story about the Maddux approach to Spring Training. According to his former coaches, the Professor would intentionally work batters into specific counts during Spring Training, then throw them a giant meatball. He'd let them hit the ball as hard as they could, allowing the batters to think that they got to him. During the regular season, when he'd face those batters in the same count or in a similar situation, they'd have a thought of what he was going to throw them. But instead of fulfilling those expectations, Maddux would throw them something else. He'd make the batters look foolish.
And while he's dismissed these stories as being untrue, that his coaches made it up, I can't help but wonder that there may be some truth to them. Maddux is a crafty pitcher. He likes to get in the batters' heads; he's said this. Jeff Kent has stated that Maddux doesn't look at the strike zone when he's on the mound; he looks into the batter's eyes. Head games.
Warning: bold 2008 MLB predictions to follow. Please refrain from eating, as doing so while reading these strange claims might cause you to choke.
Greg Maddux will win sixteen games this year, placing him in a tie with Warren Spahn for fifth on the all-time career wins list. This prediction, of course, is contingent on Josh Bard or anyone other than Michael Barrett working behind the plate.
Javier Vasquez will lead the White Sox in wins, again. He, too, will win sixteen games this season, two more than Mark Buehrle. Javy's been a tough luck pitcher the last three seasons. I know there was that difficult period (the whole season, basically) in 2006 when he was unable to get past the sixth, but that didn't seem to be an issue last year. The `07 Sox screwed him out of half a dozen wins with no run support and a faulty bullpen.
Kerry Wood was named the Cubs' closer today. And while Jay Marrioti might not like this, Sweet Lou has spoken. Pending he remains healthy, I'm taking the over if the threshold for Wood saves this season is set at 30. If for nothing else, I say this because I can't stand Marrioti, with his squinty eyes and puckered lips. This frop can't stand anyone who isn't named Michael Jordan.