Friday, July 13, 2018

A Tour of Cubs History with Johnny's BFG as the Guide

I was completely satisfied with my winnings from the Big Fun Game hosted at Johnny's o Trading Spot.  I really was.  I had picked a stack of HOF players on modern cards.  However, when Bo from Baseball Cards Come to Life reached out to me about swapping prizes, it was mighty tempting.  Bo had come away with some Cubs media guides, and he was wondering if I, a Cubs fan, would be interested.  It was an intriguing proposal, as I had no idea what cards would be in the stack and what I might possibly need.  On the other hand, I had cards already.  Lots of cards, and I would undoubtedly buy more.  I didn't own any media guides and most likely never would.  So I bit.  We swapped prizes and I got the Cubs media guides.

They were much bigger than I expected.  I guess I was thinking more along the lines of a game program, but these are basically almanacs.  Very cool.  I opened up the 1970 guide and found myself looking at Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, and Don Kessinger on the first page I saw.  That's history!  To post them, I've been doing my research.  I could tell you all the information given in the guide, but most of that pertains to the previous season.  I want to see how the year of the media guide shook out.

1970--The Cubs finished 84-78, good for 2nd place, 5 games back.  Their best hitter was probably Jim Hickman, who posted a 155 OPS+, but Billy Williams hit 42 HR.  Fergie Jenkins led the pitching staff with 22 wins and 1.08 WHIP.   Shortstop Don Kessinger won the NL Gold Glove.

During the 1970 season, Jim Dunegan made his debut in April and played his last MLB game in September.  Larry Gura made his debut with the Cubs in 1970; he went on to play 16 seasons and was an All-Star 10 years later with Kansas City.  Roe Skidmore not only had a great name, but he had a great cuppacoffee career.  On September 7, 1970, he made his Major League debut pinch hitting against the Cardinals.  He picked up a hit and left his career average a pristine 1.000 in his only career at bat.

The Cubs drafted Rick Reuschel and Pete LaCock in 1970. Over the course of the season, they signed Steve Barber and released him.  They added players like Milt Pappas and Joe Pepitone.  In a somewhat strange transaction, Chicago claimed Hoyt Wilhelm in June off of waivers from the Braves.  After the season, the Cubs then traded Wilhelm--to Atlanta, who had put Wilhelm on waivers to begin with--for Hal Breeden.

1983--The '83 Cubs finished in 5th place, 19 games back with a 71-91 record.  Keith Moreland hit .302 for a 128 OPS+, while Ron Cey led the team with 24 HR in his first season as a Cub.  Rookie Dick Ruthven was the top starter, finishing with a 1.23 WHIP and 12 wins.  Only one other Cubs pitcher finished with a winning record.  Closer Lee Smith posted a 1.65 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP and 29 saves.  Ryne Sandberg won the NL Gold Glove for second basemen.

Thirteen years after drafting him in the first round, the Cubs signed Rick Reuschel and brought him back.  Thad Bosley also joined the team in in '83.  The Cubs selected Dave Martinez in the draft and saw Carmelo Martinez and Craig Lefferts both debut their long-lasting careers.  The biggest debut was that of 1981 2nd overall pick Joe Carter.  He played only one year for the Cubbies before being traded the next season to Cleveland for Rick Sutcliffe.  That wasn't a bad trade for either party.  Carter went on to a very solid career, that included some World Series heroics about a decade later for the Blue Jays.

1993--In 1993 the Cubs finished 94-68, but it was only good for 4th place, 13 games back.  Rick Wilkins was the surprising best hitter, posting a .303 average and 30 HR.  Mark Grace led the team in batting average at .325 and Randy Myers led the pitching staff with 53 saves and 10.5 K/9 innings.  Grace and Greg Maddux also won Gold Glove awards.

Through the season, the Cubs traded Heathcliff Slocumb for Jose Hernandez.  Hernandez spent 1993 in the Minors, but got the call-up the following season.  He was a regular in the Cubbies' infield for the next six seasons.  Another longtime pitcher, Paul Assenmacher, was sent to the Yankees in a three team deal.  The Cubs received Tuffy Rhodes from the Royals.  Rhodes, of course, would be a big story in 1994 for his Opening Day performance, but didn't contribute much in 1993.  The Cubs also picked up Glenallen Hill from the Indians in exchange for Candy Maldonado.  The 1993 draft brought two ballyhooed picks in Brooks Kieschnick and Kevin Orie.  1993 also saw the debuts of two fan favorite pitchers--Turk Wendell and Steve Trachsel.

I think my favorite thing about this particular media guide was the back, though.  Every other guide featured an ad for beer on the back, but not 1993.  No, 1993 was

 Donruss baseball cards!  Much more relevant to me.

1999--The late 90s were the days of Sammy Sosa for the North Siders.  1999 was no different.  Sosa hit 63 HRs en route to an NL Silver Slugger award.  The big name of the pitching staff was Kerry Wood, who was coming off a ROY season that included a 20 K game in 1998.  However, 1999's top hurler was probably newcomer Jon Lieber, who led Chicago starters with a 4.07 ERA.  And that is the 1999 season in a nutshell.  No starter finished with a winning record or posted an ERA below 4.00.  The team finished in last place, 67-95 and 30 games back.

Before the season began, the Cubs signed a bunch of veterans, probably going all in after finishing 2nd in the division the season before.  Benito Santiago, Henry Rodriguez, Gary Gaetti, and Terry Mulholland all joined as free agents, and the club traded for pitchers Mike Morgan and the aforementioned Lieber.  Even Hideo Nomo was signed for spring training, but released before the season began.  Unfortunately, the experience didn't help the team unseat the Astros.  The movement continued during the season.  Prospect Kyle Lohse was traded for Rick Aguilera.  At the deadline, the Cubs shifted gears a bit and sent Terry Mulholland and Jose Hernandez to Atlanta for prospects who were meant to be helpful later: Joey Nation, Ruben Quevedo, and Micah Bowie.  Rod Beck was sent to Boston after the deadline in return for Mark Guthrie and Cole Liniak.  In retrospect, the Cubs the prospects they received didn't pan out.  But then again, the club wasn't going anywhere with the vets they traded, so maybe everything just evened out in the end.  A lot of prospects were called up and tried, most of whom just got their coffee and left, like Steve Rain and Richie Barker.  Kyle Farnsworth made his debut, and he stayed with the team for a good while.  Jose Molina became the second Molina brother to catch in the Majors, but his time with Chicago was short-lived.

2000--The 2000 season looked similar to 1999.  Sosa hit 50 HR--this time while batting .320--and received another Silver Slugger.  Jon Lieber once again led the pitchers with a 1.20 WHIP and 4.40 ERA, and the team finished 14th in the NL in ERA.  It all added up to a dismal 65-97 record, another last place finish 30 games behind the Cardinals.

No big names came to Chicago in 2000; the team was in selling mode again.  Glenallen Hill, Henry Rodriguez, Scott Downs, and Ismael Valdes were sent packing for prospects who never really panned out.  My all-time favorite Cub, Mark Grace, spent his last season in Chicago and for Arizona as a free agent afterward.  The biggest pickup was draft pick Dontrelle Willis, who never pitched for the Cubs, but was later traded for Matt Clement.  This wasn't a great time to be a Cubs fan.  A couple players made their debut for Chicago this year and went on to Major League careers that spanned almost a decade: Scott Downs (traded later in the year) and Corey Patterson.  Two guys debuted with the team for a very short time.  Danny Young spent one week in the Majors and Tarrik Brock was done before April was over.

2006--Fast forward six years and the results look the same as 1999-2000.  Of course, there were better years in between, but I don't have their media guides.  The 2006 Cubs finished in last place, 66-96, but only 17.5 games back this time.   Aramis Ramirez was the team's best hitter, posting a 126 OPS+ and launching 38 homers.  Carlos Zambrano was the leader on the mound, posting a 16-7 record, 3.41 ERA, and 8.8 K/9.  Zambrano also won the NL Silver Slugger for pitchers, and Greg Maddux (back in Chicago!) took home the Gold Glove.

Before the season began, the Cubs brought in Juan Pierre, John Mabry, Neifi Perez, Phil Nevin, and Bob Howry.  They traded away Corey Patterson.  During the season they brought in and released Tony Womack and traded away Perez and Nevin.  No one seemed to be lasting.  Well, almost no one.  A few players made their MLB debuts and stayed with the team for a while: Sean Marshall, Angel Pagan, and Carlos Marmol.  The draft brought in Tyler Colvin and Jeff Samardzija.

2007--The following year the team appeared to turn things around.  They went worst to first, posting a 85-77 record before being swept out of the NLDS by the D-Backs.  Derrek Lee led the team with a .317 average and adding 23 HR.  Alfonso Soriano led the team with 33 HR in his first year with the Cubs.  Another player contributed in his first year at Wrigley: Ted Lilly paced the pitching staff with a 3.83 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP.  Greg Maddux (again) and Derrek Lee took home Gold Glove awards.

Some prominent players who came to Chicago for 2007 included Soriano, Jason Marquis, and Cliff Floyd.  Through the season the Cubs traded for Jason Kendall and brought Steve Trachsel back to the fold.  Unfortunately, Trachsel pitched only four games in his return, going 1-3 with an ERA of 8.31!  Billy Petrick got a cuppacoffee, pitching 9 innings in August for his career.  Sam Fuld and Felix Pie both made their debuts and stuck around a little longer.  Interestingly, Pie managed to carve out a career that spanned a few seasons, but his career WAR is actually below zero.  Fuld fared better; his WAR was 5.0.  In the 2007 draft, the Cubs drafted a certain Bringer of Rain in the first round: Josh Donaldson.  He was traded the following year, along with three other prospects, for Rich Harden.  I'm going to pretend that didn't happen.  Anyway, we have Kris Bryant manning the hot corner now, so I can't complain.

So there you go.  I learned some interesting things from perusing the media guides, but I was really interested in the years the guides prepared us for.  Seven guides, one postseason appearance, and three really ugly seasons.  But there were some great names of Cubbie lore in there, so I'm happy with my piece of history.  Thanks for the BFG, John!

1 comment:

  1. Those are some nice media guides, especially the 1970 and 1993. I have one Cubs media guide from the early 00's, not sure what year or where it is though. Thanks for sharing all of this great info; I didn't know the Cubs drafted Josh Donaldson.

    Also, thanks for doing the Stadium/Dk/Topps group break. I got the cards on Friday and I plan to post about them tomorrow.