Greg Maddux worked 11 seasons for the Atlanta Braves. Counting his minor-league time, he worked 12 seasons for the Chicago Cubs, the team that drafted him. He has agreed with the Hall of Fame’s suggestion that he not have a team logo on his Cooperstown plaque. As much as we Atlantans might hate this, it’s the right choice.
We like to believe that ballplayers belong to us forever, but they don’t really. Hank Aaron ended his career as a Milwaukee Brewer. Dale Murphy got traded to Philadelphia. Tom Glavine signed with the hated Mets as a free agent. John Smoltz was drafted by the Tigers and did a final stint with the Red Sox. Chipper Jones was the exception — he worked for no team other than the Braves — but he’s the exception that proves the rule: The realm of pro sports is a transient place.
The Hall of Fame allows inductees to finesse the issue by choosing not to choose. Tony La Russa, who managed not just the Cardinals and the A’s but also the White Sox, will likewise logo-less, and that makes sense, too. Why aggravate people if there’s a way around it?
Braves fans will say, correctly, that the best years of Maddux’s career were spent here. Maddux concedes the point. But he came up as a Cub, won his first Cy Young as a Cub and went back to the Cubs when his days as a Brave were done. (He would also do brief turns as a Dodger and a Padre.) For him and the Hall, it was a close call. So they made no call, which was the smart call.
Some Braves fans are outraged, but we live in a world where outrage isn’t exactly in short supply. Those folks will find something else to make them mad soon enough. In the meantime, let’s try a bit of perspective. It’s a logo. On a plaque. On a wall of a building in Cooperstown, N.Y. If that makes you regard Greg Maddux as a traitor to the cause (whatever that cause might be), you need to get out of the house more often.