Greg Maddux is indubitably one of the greatest pitchers ever to toe the slab. Across his 23-year MLB career, the first-ballot Hall of Famer stacked up 355 wins; four Cy Young awards; more than 3,000 strikeouts; and a sky-scraping WAR of 104.8.
Much of that excellence occurred while Maddux was a member of the Atlanta Braves. Maddux following the final season of his first Cubs stint in 1992 was a free agent, and as the reigning Cy Young winner in the NL he was highly coveted. He wound up signing a five-year, $28 million pact with the Braves, and that turned into one of the biggest free-agent steals ever, at least from the club standpoint.
To hear Maddux tell it now, though, he was on his way to being a Yankee before signing with Atlanta:
That's straight from the pitcher himself, and, yes, he said he was bound headlong for pinstripes before the team failed to make him an offer.
"I went (to New York) to sign with the Yankees," Maddux said on David Cone's Toeing the Slab podcast. "I was shocked I didn't get offered a contract. It's not college. I didn't go there just for a recruiting trip. You kind of go there to sign a contract and everything."
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At this point, it's worth noting that Maddux around the time of his Hall of Fame election in early 2014 advanced a slightly different version of events. According to Bill Madden of the New York Daily News, the Yankees and then-GM Gene Michael not only made Maddux an offer but also promised him more than the Braves did -- $37.5 million over that same five-year span. In 2014, Maddux explained his decision to Madden:
"What I told Gene at the time was that money won't necessarily decide this. The fact was, I wanted to stay in the National League and I wanted to go with a team that had a chance to win."
The Braves soon ponied up, and the rest is National League history. As for American League history, you'll recall that the decade of the 1990s still unfolded quite nicely for the Yankees. They won the World Series in 1996, 1998, and 1999, and then they added another ring in 2000. With the best pitcher in baseball in the fold for at least part of that run, perhaps they'd have hoisted one or two more trophies.
Whether or not Maddux actually received an official offer from the Yankees, it's a tantalizing hypothetical for Yankees fans. Braves fans? They'll stick to the realm of reality insofar as this matter is concerned.