Maddux has an outside shot at 400 wins

Maddux has outside shot at 400

PHOENIX -- Greg Maddux polished off his 344th career victory on Monday and first in Arizona's 10-year-old pop-top ballpark. And in this season chocked with Major League Baseball milestones, it may not be too premature to wonder if the veteran right-hander has a chance for 400.

At 41, going on 42 just after the 2008 season commences, Maddux is only 56 wins away from a mark reached and exceeded only twice -- by Cy Young (511) and Walter Johnson (417).

"It's conceivable," said Padres manager and former pitcher Bud Black, noting Maddux's durability, ease of arm motion and penchant for winning 10-15 games every year, before the veteran right-hander ran his record to 11-9 in a 10-2 Padres win over the Diamondbacks.

Maddux is eighth on the all-time list and second among active pitchers behind the Yankees' Roger Clemens (354), who's experiencing elbow problems and lost on Monday in New York to the Mariners. Clemens is 45 years old, has missed the first three months of the last two seasons, and is almost certainly not going to make it to 400.

Maddux has just reached his 20th consecutive season of 10 wins or more since 1988. His zenith was 20 victories each in 1992 and 1993 for the Braves and his low (exclusive of this year) was 13 in 2005 during his second tour with the Cubs.

Maddux annually makes more than 30 starts a year and has never had an arm or leg injury.

"He's got the most efficient delivery and arm action I've ever seen," said Black, who won 121 games during 15 seasons with five Major League teams.

But Maddux, who doesn't put much credence in piling up 56 more wins, said the goal is "unrealistic."

"I'd have to pitch another five or six years," he said. "And I'd have to be doing at 44 and 45 what I'm doing now. Really, I haven't thought about it. I only want to think about Saturday [night's next scheduled start at Colorado]. I don't even know if I want to play that long. I have kids."

Barry Bonds was in very much the same frame of mind when he hit his 700th homer at 41 years old near the end of the 2004 season. The last 55 to tie Hank Aaron seemed to be a mirage.

Bonds couldn't think that far ahead, he said back then. He didn't know if he could play that long. He had kids.

The record shows that Bonds hung in there, through three surgeries on his right knee that limited him to 14 games and five home runs during the 2005 season. Yet, this past Aug. 7, Bonds hit No. 756 to pass Aaron and at 761 is still going.

Maddux's eyes seemed to glaze over when broached with the comparison.

"It's nice to know somebody thinks I can do it," said Maddux, who is now 2-10 lifetime against the D-backs. "I guess we'll see who's right."

With the victory on Monday after six career losses at what is now called Chase Field, Maddux has posted a win in 31 Major League ballparks. He's won in almost every National League yard he's ever started a game, sans Washington's RFK Stadium, which will be abandoned by the Nationals at the end of this season after a three-year run.

Maddux has every intention of continuing his Hall of Fame career and said he will be back with the Padres in 2008, whether he exercises a player option for next year that can go as high as $10 million or the team simply exercises its own $11 million option.

Maddux has to log at least 200 innings to hit the $10 million mark. He's at 175 right now with a probable five regular-season starts remaining.

Kevin Towers, the team's longtime general manager, said before the game that under any circumstances Maddux will be back with the Padres next year.

"It's a great situation for him," Towers said. "He always wanted to play on a West Coast team."

Maddux agreed. "The money is immaterial," he said. "I signed a two-year deal [last offseason]. So I'll be back here."

Maddux is in his 22nd season, but first with the Padres after finishing 2006 with the Dodgers. Maddux was acquired from the Cubs at that year's July 31 non-waiver trade deadline to help Los Angeles get to the playoffs. They won the Wild Card, finishing second in the National League West to the Padres, but were ousted by the Mets in the first round.

Maddux helped with six of his victories. The next stop was 120 miles south to San Diego, where the winning has continued.

"It's a great place," he said about his current situation. "Good team, great city. The coaches, manager, management are terrific. It's everything I'd hope it would be and more."

The Padres also seem content as Maddux continues on that improbable road to 400.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.