As I look back on the Chicago Cubs' seasons throughout my life, I remind myself that even with the Cubs' limited team success, they have had many terrific players during my lifetime. Some have even reached the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Here is my All-Cubs team (25-man roster) of my lifetime, which dates back to 1969.
Mark Grace edges out Derek Lee for first base. In 13 Cub years (1988-2000), Grace hit .308, averaged only 43 strikeouts per season, made three All Star teams, and won four gold gloves. Both were fan favorites and fantastic on defense, but I chose Grace, who was a Cub for nearly twice as long.
This is an obvious choice. Ryne Sandberg was the franchise player in the 1980s and early 90s. "Ryno" won the 1984 N.L. MVP, made ten straight All-Star teams, and won nine gold gloves and seven silver slugger awards. He also hit .385 in 10 postseason games. He retired as the record holder for home runs by a second baseman (since broken), but his defense may have put him over the hump for the Hall of Fame.
Shawon Dunston played at least parts of his first 12 years (1985-1997) with the Cubs. He had a bazooka of an arm, though not always accurate. As a Cub, Dunston hit .267 with 105 home runs (before offensive shortstops became the norm) and made two All-Star teams. Cub fans will always remember Dunston for the fan-invented Shawon-O-Meter.
This is another no-brainer. Ron Santo was a mainstay for the Cubs from 1960-1973. Even in his final five Cub years (during my life, 1969-1973), he still hit 113 home runs and drove in 476 runs. He also made three All-Star teams during these years. The Cubs could not find a steady third baseman from Santo's departure after 1973 to 2003. Santo finally found his place in the Hall of Fame - too bad he did not get to see it while alive.
From 1982 to mid 1988, Jody Davis was the Cubs' starting catcher. He hit 118 home runs during those years, made two All-Star teams, and won a gold glove. He struck out 100 times only once. He was not the best at throwing out runners, but he did top 40% a few times, leading the league with 48% in 1986.
Hall-of-Famer Billy Williams played with the Cubs from 1959-1974. As a Cub, Williams hit 392 home runs and drove in 1353 runs in 16 total seasons. During my life, Williams hit .304 with 164 home runs and 593 RBI in six years. He was also on base at .379 during this stretch. As with Santo at third, the Cubs spent many years looking for a steady left fielder after Williams left after 1974.
I had a tough time choosing between Bob Dernier (1984-1987) and Rick Monday (1972-1976) for center field. Monday was far better with the bat, but center field is a defensive position, so I choose Dernier. He won the gold glove and sparked a 1984 division title with his performance in the outfield. Dernier also had blazing speed, averaging 30 steals per year as a Cub.
I mean no slight at all to Andre Dawson, but Sammy Sosa became an icon in right field from 1992-2004. Yes, I know of Sosa's questionable end to his Cub career and PED use, but he did club 545 home runs, breaking Ernie Banks' team record. He hit 60+ home runs three times. He also drove in over 1400 runs as a Cub for 13 years.
From 1969-1973, Ferguson Jenkins went 101-72 as a Cub with a 3.27 ERA. He threw 107 complete games (21 per year), including 20 shutouts. He won a Cy Young award and made two All-Star teams during this stretch. Although he pitched for three other teams, Jenkins is in the Hall of Fame as a Cub.
Lee Smith joined the Cubs in 1980 and became the closer in 1982 just as closers became so prevalent. Smith averaged 30 saves per year with a 2.85 ERA from 1982-1987. He averaged 96 strikeouts in 99 innings per year. Smith retired as the all-time saves leader (since broken), and he absolutely deserves Hall of Fame induction.
Reserves: OF: Alfonso Soriano, Rick Monday, Andre Dawson
IF: Aramis Ramirez, Starlin Castro, Manny Trillo, Derek Lee
C: Randy Hundley
Starting Pitchers: Greg Maddux, Rick Sutcliffe, Carlos Zambrano, Kerry Wood,
Relief Pitchers: Sean Marshall, Randy Myers, Bruce Sutter
If the Cubs could have had this roster together -- all in their prime - then they could have won a few World Series.
Note: I did not forget Ernie Banks. Mr. Cub is an all-time legend, but he had only one full season (1969) during my life.
Baseball Reference, Individual Player Pages (Linked Above), baseball-reference.com
Raymond grew up in Florida and began watching the Cubs on WGN in 1982. He became a fan in 1984 when Ryne Sandberg hit the two famous game-tying home runs off Cardinals closer and former Cub Bruce Sutter. Raymond then solidified his team loyalty when the Cubs won the division later that season and has been a fan ever since. He played baseball through high school and soon after became a varsity coach. Raymond previously produced radio sports talk shows and hosted a weekly MLB radio call-in show. Follow Raymond on Twitter @RayBureau.
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