Saturday, August 26, 2006

Greg Maddux Admits Fear of Snakes

Friday night, The Arizona Diamondbacks outlasted the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-7 in 15 innings after a walk-off home run by Orlando Hudson. Long before the issue was decided, Los Angeles starter Greg Maddux struggled through five innings in which he yielded ten hits. Afterwards, Maddux confirmed why he has had so little success against the Diamondbacks. The future Hall of Famer admitted that he has an intense fear of Snakes.

The no-decision left Maddux’s career record against Arizona at 1-9, including 0-5 at Chase Field. The futility is shocking for someone who has terrorized the rest of the National League for so long. However, none of those other clubs are known as the Snakes. It is no coincidence that all four of Maddux’s Cy Young Awards were won before the Diamondbacks entered the major leagues in 1998. Frustration boiled over for the normally unflappable pitcher last July during a 13-6 rout of his Chicago Cubs by Arizona. After allowing six earned runs in four innings, Maddux screamed to Cubs manager Dusty Baker, “I’ve had it with these motherf***ing Snakes on this motherf***ing field!”

Maddux does not know the cause for his ophidiophobia, the technical term for a fear of Snakes. Perhaps his cerebral nature backfired in this case, as ophidiophobia is a big word and therefore more likely to affect people with a strong vocabulary. His nickname of Mad Dog could also contribute, as Snakes generally bite only when they feel threatened. He might not feel such anxiety against the Diamondbacks if he were called Friendly Puppy. Whatever the origin of his phobia, one aspect is particularly confounding to observers. The most lethal type of Snake, The Big Unit, is no longer in Arizona and was far more poisonous to hitters than to pitchers.

Maddux’s fear of Snakes has extended beyond his struggles against the Diamondbacks. He refuses to watch Denver Broncos games due to the presence of Jake “The Snake” Plummer. Also, Maddux left the Atlanta Braves after the 2003 season because he dreaded another year in the same division as Phillies manager Larry Bowa. An avid golfer, Maddux refuses to be on the course with anyone who plays with King Cobra clubs. However, by remaining in the National League, he has remained safely away from the Baltimore Orioles’ top prospect, Copperhead McPython.

Other clubs will surely try to use Maddux’s fear against him as the Dodgers head down the stretch. He will likely hear constant hissing noises emanating from the opposing dugout when he takes the mound. Also, Indiana Jones will surely appear on the Jumbotron in other ballparks, complaining, “Snakes. Why’d it have to be Snakes?” The National League has caught on that just as a serpent wrought havoc for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the Diamondbacks have done likewise for Maddux in Chase Field. As noted in the Bible, Adam suffered greatly after being banished from the Garden. His ERA skyrocketed, and he suffered a torn elbow ligament – well before Tommy John surgery was available.

Fortunately for Maddux, his next start will be in Dodger Stadium on Wednesday against the Cincinnati Reds. With the Snakes still in Phoenix that night, manager Grady Little expects his pitcher to be back in top form. The Dodger front office is taking no chances, hiring renowned snake wrangler Jules Sylvester to make sure that no intruders get anywhere near Maddux.

Maddux hopes that publicly admitting his fear of Snakes will help him overcome the phobia. In the meantime, he is greatly relieved that he does not have to pitch for the Boston Red Sox. Then he would have to confront something that scares him even more than Snakes: pitching to Javy Lopez.