I’ve come to realize that in my *ahem* several decades of fandom, I now have a favorite Cubs player at every position, and today I am going to share. My choices aren’t necessarily the best players, and some of you may disagree, but for the purposes of this exercise I just want to field an entertaining team. There’s no better way to do that than to build a lineup of my favorite Cubs players and then pretend I have a seat in the bleachers on a hot July day, cold beer in hand, hopefully with the wind howling out.
In honor of the 20th Anniversary of the Kerry Wood 20K Game…
Here's 110 Seconds from day that Kerry Wood was the Filthiest Pitcher to Ever Take a Mound. 😱 pic.twitter.com/v7oYBwWU7X
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 6, 2018
Once I’ve named my team, I’ll let the readers decide if it’s competitive or not. Let’s set the bar at the 2016 Cubs and you tell me which lineup is better and why. Since my passion for this team started in 1972, obviously some of the stars of the 1969 team won’t make the cut. I watched games before then, but I believe seeing Burt Hooton throw his no-hitter on April 16 of that season is when I became hooked. After that, I started calculating batting averages and home run projections in the journal my grandmother gave me to practice my cursive handwriting. I haven’t stopped and I still struggle with “Qs” and “Gs” when I write.
Ladies and gentlemen, please get your pencils and scorecards ready, I am going to give you today’s starting lineup.
- Rick Monday CF – I can’t remember if the left-handed hitting CF ever batted leadoff, but he had 12 seasons with a .350 OBP or better, including a .366 mark in five seasons with the Cubs.
- Ryne Sandberg 2B – One of two Hall of Fame players in my lineup, though another is a glaring omission. He’s an obvious choice and it’s not even close. I loved watching Sandberg play, and his impressive hardware collection of 10 all-star appearances, nine Gold Gloves, seven Silver Sluggers, and an MVP confirms my choice.
- Anthony Rizzo, Derrek Lee 1B – I love both players equally and they have similar career stats with the Cubs. Rizzo is the most universally beloved Cub since Ron Santo and Lee always seemed to get the big hit when needed. You can’t go wrong with either slugger.
- Sammy Sosa RF – Spare me the vitriol and the tired PED arguments. Sosa was always worth 5x the price of admission, and then some.
- Billy Williams LF – Doubles, triples, and home runs were regular occurrences when the sweet-swinging lefty batted. In 16 seasons with the Cubs, Williams amassed 4,262 total bases.
- Aramis Ramírez 3B – Remember, this is a list of my favorite players before you come at me with Kris Bryant. In fact, Bill Madlock was my second choice. That’s not a knock on Bryant, who will be the all-time greatest third baseman in team history once his career ends.
- Javier Báez SS – There is not a single player at any position as exciting as Báez. He does things on the basepaths that haven’t been done since Jackie Robinson played.
- Willson Contreras C – Two words: Bat flip. Nothing was more fun to watch than that.
- Kerry Wood RHP, Jon Lester LHP – Greg Maddux would be the popular choice, but he made winning games look boring. When Wood took the mound, he had the ability to pitch a no-hitter with 20 Ks every time out. Lester is just nails, and hey, he and Wood share the same number. By the way, Wood is my favorite Cubs player of all-time.
- Closer Mitch Williams – It’s a funny anecdote, but when Williams was with the Cubs and my friends and I attended games, we’d stock up on beers before the sales cutoff during close games because “Wild Thing” Williams was guaranteed to extend a game by a good 30-40 minutes. Plus, the extra alcohol was necessary to quell the anxiety.
- PH Mike Vail – In 671 ABs over three seasons with the Cubs, Vail slashed .317/.347/.804 with 17 homers and 115 RBI, which was like a normal year for Mark Grace. I never understood why Vail wasn’t a starter.
- UT Chico Walker – A super UT for five seasons in the mid-80s with the Cubs, Walker was an exciting mix of suspect defense and speed on the basepaths. I watched him steal two bases in one game and later sprint to the warning track for a fly ball that then landed 15 feet in front of him. At least I think I did. Bonus: His birth name is Cleotha.
- Manager Lou Piniella – Kicked sand at the umpires and threw bases into the outfield. Enough said.
As much as I wanted to, I just couldn’t find a spot for Herman Segelke, who I thought was never given a proper chance by the organization. The 7th overall pick in the 1976 draft struggled at every level despite 63 minor league wins in 123 starts. His 1982 cup of coffee earned him 4.1 big league innings in three appearances, in which the righty managed an 8.31 ERA and 2.769 WHIP. Before you judge, it’s the tiniest of sample sizes, and I had to find a way to mention him since he has the best name of anybody I’ve seen play for the North Siders.
In fact, I’m dedicating today’s column to an old friend named Craig Pinley, wherever he is. Craig, along with my old high school pitching coach and ceramics teacher Buzz Capra, and I are to my knowledge the only Segelke fans on the planet.
Cubs News & Notes
- Though he didn’t mention Tom Ricketts by name, Ian Happ gave the Cubs owner a lesson in economics and basically accused the league of contributing to a false narrative.
- Bryant wasn’t thrilled about playing in empty stadiums in the pandemic shortened season. “You can’t just go out there and just play like a pick-up game,” said the third baseman. “You need a little adrenaline.”
- The Cubs claimed outfielder Phillip Ervin off of waivers from the Mariners. Ervin is a former first round draft pick who was selected 27th overall in 2013 by the Reds. He is a .247 hitter with 17 homers, 68 RBIs and 15 steals in 237 career games.
- Manager David Ross believes better communication and a little less patience with his players could help the Cubs in 2021.
Odds & Sods
Put another way, this is why Mike Trout makes $37 million a year.
“Hitting a baseball is easy” pic.twitter.com/ctV3Ofsi2C
— Baseball Central™ (@BaseballCentraI) December 23, 2020
The Chicago White Sox are reportedly expected to sign Yoelqui Cespedes, the top international prospect according to MLB.com.
Sliding Into Home
I’m going to take advantage of a weekend holiday and take some time off, so I will be absent from this column until Monday unless something significant breaks. I truly wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and if you celebrate a different holiday, I hope yours is equally fantastic. Please accept my love and my wishes for an abundance of blessings to each of you and your families.
I’ll probably have a light week leading up to New Years Day, too.
It kind of makes you wonder just how soon it will be until Jed Hoyer names Craig Breslow as his GM.
There is no doubt in my mind that recent hires of Chris Young in Texas & now Sam Fuld in Philadelphia as new GM’s will be a huge step forward for the sport. Characteristics of both: played, can evaluate, utilize analytics, communicate,Ivy Grad, high MLB IQ’s listen lead. #Special
— Jim Bowden⚾️🏈 (@JimBowdenGM) December 22, 2020
They Said It
- “Retool, re-whatever, rebuild, none of those terms are even on the radar for me.” – David Ross
- “You don’t really see the players coming out and saying that we took a 63% loss this year. That’s not the narrative from the players, because we didn’t lose any real money. Guys still got paid. Guys still made more than zero. We didn’t have to give anything back. So it’s really tough to claim loss when it’s just money that wasn’t realized. But that’s the case on both sides, right?” – Ian Happ
Wednesday Walk Up Song
What Do You Do? by Lyle Lovett & His Large Band with Francine Reed – A gem of a find, if I must say so myself. Stumbles across it while searching for pandemic dating articles.