Maddux was running out of gas on Saturday against the Cardinals after six innings, but started the seventh with the Cubs trailing, 3-1. Baker had hoped Maddux could go seven, and the Cubs could rally for the win. Instead, St. Louis won, 5-1, and clinched the Central Division title.
"He deserves it," Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild said of Maddux's chance at another season with 15 wins. "It's significant in a lot of ways. He's already established a record that's never been done before. Greg has a lot of pride in what he does, and it's significant to him, so I think it's important."
But Maddux didn't ask.
"He never came to us," Rothschild said. "He hasn't said anything. I told him what the plans were. His take on everything is you play every game to win it. I think you're trying to win when he's pitching. Those two goals are in unity with each other."
Maddux will stay on five days' rest and start Thursday in Milwaukee, Sept. 27 against Pittsburgh, and Oct. 2 at Houston. Glendon Rusch was scheduled to go Thursday, but will get extra time and pitch on seven days' rest. Rothschild said Carlos Zambrano and Mark Prior also will get an extra day while Maddux will stay on schedule.
And if Maddux doesn't get a "W" on Thursday, will Rothschild re-think his plans?
"We'd probably look at it," Rothschild said, "but I'm not thinking along those lines right now."
Maddux has totaled enough innings in 2004 and this year to have the $9 million option year on his contract for 2006 kick in. Will he be back?
"I'm not sure," Baker said. "I'm hopeful. I'm pretty positive about it.
"But once you get home and pet the dog and go swimming and play some golf, sometimes you just don't know," Baker said. "Right now, I'm pretty positive [Maddux will be back]. I haven't asked him. You get tired of being asked. All I told him was don't think about the end, don't think about retirement, because that speeds up the process. It'll get here soon enough."
Looking ahead: The Cubs' front office will meet in early November to discuss a game plan for the off-season and what free agents to target. What type of team does Baker want?
"My team would be an everything team," Baker said. "You need balance, much like the Cardinals have. They have three or four left-handed hitters, they've got power, they've got speed, they've got defense, they've got an excellent starting rotation, they've got two lefties in the bullpen. They've got a pretty good bench. I like everything -- speed, power, defense, good pitching, balance of age, some youth, some veterans. That's very difficult to find in today's market."
Baker likes what he has seen of rookie Matt Murton and Ronny Cedeno, but cautioned that, "You've got to be a little guarded on how they make adjustments."
The Cubs will likely have money to spend because they no longer have the financial committment of Sammy Sosa's hefty contract.
"You've got a wish list," Baker said.
One of the top items is a leadoff hitter, like a Brett Butler, Darren Lewis or Willie McGee. That's hard to find.
"I've always said it's harder to get a good leadoff man than anything," Baker said. "We'll see how Kerry [Wood's] health is, and the health of Aramis [Ramirez] and the health of Nomar [Garciaparra]. Health has been an issue here."
Popping the cork: Opponents have celebrated two World Series, two National League pennants, three NL East titles, one NL Division Series and now one NL Central title at Wrigley Field.
The 1932 Yankees and 1945 Tigers won their respective World Series with wins over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The Reds won the NL pennant on Sept. 26, 1961. The Mets won the East with a win on Oct. 1, 1973; and the Phillies popped champagne at Wrigley twice to celebrate East wins -- on Sept. 27, 1977, and Sept. 28, 1983.
The Atlanta Braves won the NLDS with a win over the Cubs on Oct. 3, 1989; and the Florida Marlins beat the Cubs to win the NLCS on Oct. 15, 2003.
Minor matters: Double-A West Tenn's season is over. Carlos Marmol gave up two runs on two hits over 5 2/3 innings, but West Tenn lost to Jacksonville, 3-1, in the deciding Game 4 of the Southern League championship series on Saturday. The Jacksonville Suns won the best-of-five series, 3-1.
Brandon Sing was 3-for-4 with two doubles and drove in the Diamond Jaxx's only run. Casey McGehee was 1-for-4 with a double and scored a run.
"We couldn't get the big hit," West Tenn outfielder Adam Greenberg said. "We had runners in scoring position at times. They seemed to get the big hit when they needed it. We had our chances and played hard. We just didn't win."
Winning pitcher Justin Orenduff, pitching on 11 days' rest, gave up seven hits over 5 1/3 innings and struck out seven.
On deck: The Cubs have Monday off and then head north up Interstate 94 for a three-game series against Milwaukee. Jerome Williams will start on Tuesday night, followed by Mark Prior on Wednesday and Maddux on Thursday. The Cubs are 38-36 on the road.