Maddux decides to return to Cubs

MESA, Ariz. -- Welcome home, Greg Maddux.

You'll find Wrigley Field much as you left it, the wind blowing
in and the ivy covering the walls. The Chicago Cubs are still
playing most of their home games in the afternoons, and the
bleachers remain the hottest ticket in town. As for Cubs fans,
they're passionate and loyal, and boy, are they thrilled to have
you back.

Maddux brought his career full circle Tuesday night when he
decided to sign with the Cubs, the team that gave him his start in
the majors. No official announcement was made, but a source close
to the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity told The
Associated Press that Maddux agreed to a $24 million deal that
could go as long as three years.

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry confirmed Wednesday that the Cubs have reached agreement in principal with Maddux, pending a physical.

The third year of the deal will be guaranteed if Maddux reaches
certain criteria, including pitching a preset number of innings in

The deal is pending a physical, but the 37-year-old Maddux could
be at camp as early as Wednesday, when Cubs pitchers and catchers
report. Maddux, who spent the last 11 years with the Atlanta
Braves, was the last major free agent to agree to a deal.

The addition of Maddux, who is just 11 wins shy of 300, gives
the Cubs one of the strongest rotations in the game. He'll join
Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Matt Clement and Carlos Zambrano -- a
foursome that took the Cubs within five outs of the World Series a
year ago.

Maddux may not be the pitcher he was in his youth, but he is
still one of the game's most effective ones. He went 16-11 with a
3.96 ERA last season -- his 16th straight year with at least 15
wins. He is second among active pitchers with 289 wins, 21 behind
Roger Clemens.

He is 289-163 with a 2.89 ERA in his 18-year career.

Bringing Maddux back also goes along way toward soothing the
angst of the Cubs faithful, who never forgave the team for letting
him go in the first place. Maddux spent his first seven seasons in
Chicago, going 95-75 and winning the first of his four straight Cy
Young awards. But he left after the 1992 season in a money dispute
and went to Atlanta, where he developed into one of the great
pitchers of his era, a control freak who mixed speeds and

He was 194-88 with a 2.63 ERA during his 11-year stint in
Atlanta, setting an NL record for most consecutive innings without
a walk and becoming the poster child for consistency with his
streak of 15-win seasons.

He also helped make the Braves the dominant team in the NL.
Atlanta won a division title every year he was there, as well as
the 1995 World Series. The Cubs, meanwhile, wallowed in mediocrity
-- or worse. They've had only five winning seasons since he left,
and didn't make the playoffs again until 1998.

Going to a team that could win was believed to be high on
Maddux's list of priorities, and he'll find the Cubs much different
than what he's seen from afar these last few years. Dusty Baker
brought a new attitude in his first season, and the Cubs responded
with their first division title since 1989. They were on the verge
of going to the World Series for the first time since 1945 until a
meltdown against Florida in Game 6 of the National League
Championship Series. Florida rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win the

The Cubs should be even better this year. Hendry upgraded the
bullpen, adding LaTroy Hawkins and Kent Mercker. He also traded for
Gold Glove first baseman Derrek Lee, and bolstered the bench with
Todd Walker and Todd Hollandsworth.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.