Cubs of Yore: The "Marginal" Edition

August 11, 2009 | Comments (0) | by Arcturus

I've taken some good-natured flak from the other bartenders regarding my Koyie Hill mancrush. I know that Hill is a marginal player at best, yet he's one of my favorite players on the team. He may not hit, but he plays hard and calls a good game behind the plate. My favorite current Cub is Aramis Ramirez, who's legitimately a "good" ballplayer and the Cubs have a lot of guys now who could be considered superstars or above average players. As I was growing up, this wasn't always the case. Sure, the Cubs had Mark Grace, Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, Sammy, and Sutcliffe, but a lot of times the rosters were filled with guys a lot like Koyie Hill. Guys who are good enough to be in the bigs, but not necessarily the guys you think of as "elite" or "favorite" players. I think most everybody has a guy like that that they root for, regardless of how well they play. I compiled a list of ten players who I admired at various times throughout the years. These guys may not all be All-Stars and they may never reach the Hall of Fame, but at one time or another, I thought they were awesome.

10. Lance Johnson-Ah, the One Dog. Johnson played for the Cubs for three seasons, including the 1998 Wildcard winners and the trainwreck that was the 1999 Cubs. Johnson came to the Cubs from the Mets in 1997 as part of a trade that included Mark Clark and Manny Alexander. The Cubs sent Brian McRae, Turk Wendell, and Mel Rojas to NY. I always liked Lance, but damned if I remember why as he spent quite a bit of time being injured.

9. Scott Servais-I had no idea that Servais is now the Director of Player Development for the Texas Rangers. Crazy. Remember when catchers, second baseman, and shortstops didn't have to hit well to be on a big league team? Before "Chicks Dig the Long Ball" changed everything?

8. Doug Gla
nville-If you don't like Doug Glanville, there's no hope for you. One of baseball's real good guys, Doug was a Cub in 1996 and 97 before being traded to the Phillies for Mickey Morandini. He would return in 2003 to help the Cubs secure a playoff birth. He's currently part of Baseball Factory and probably one of the very few guys you can be absolutely positive didn't use steroids. Why? Because his mama wouldn't have liked it, that's why.

7. Turk W
endell-Turk Wendell was certifiably nuts. He brushed his teeth between innings, chewed black licorice, and jumped over the foul lines coming on and off the field. My favorite Turk Moment, which I mentioned during the Battle Royale, was when the WGN cameras caught him scratching Lil' Turk in the bullpen, pants undone and unzipped, with his whole hand shoved in there going to town.

6. "Joliet" Jeff Reed
-As a huge Blues Brothers fan, how could I not love Joliet Jeff Reed? Add another light hitting backup catcher to Arcturus's list of favorite players. Reed was an abysmal hitter, but well regarded for his defensive abilities and game calling skills. Gee, that sounds familiar.

5. Brian McRae-B-Mac actually was a pretty solid player for the Cubs, until his numbers went down in '97. He was sent to the Mets before the '98 season and thus missed the Cubs' Wildcard playoff appearance. He never appeared in a post-season game. He was a rock steady center fielder and a pretty good lead off man.

4. Eri
c Young-EY was one of the many second sackers the Cubs employed after Ryno retired for the second time. EY had a great year in 2000 with the Cubs, hitting .297 and swiping 54 bags. He can be found on Baseball Tonight irritating the hell out of my fellow bartenders whenever he mentions Souvenir City.

3. Kevin Foster
-Foster was with the Cubs from 1994-1998, finishing his career with a 4.86 ERA. Foster was one of many Cubs starters during this era whose main job seemed to be eating innings until the season would mercifully come to a close. He wasn't a great pitcher, but he also wasn't a horrible pitcher. I thought he was pretty good at the time, which just goes to show you how completely horrible the Cubs' rotation was at the time. Sadly, Kevin died of renal cancer on October 11 of last year.

2. Jose Hernandez-Man, did I love Jose Hernandez. He could play all the positions on the field and he hit for power. At the time I never understood why we kept trotting out guys like Kevin Orie, Todd Zeile, and Leo Gomez to play 3rd base when we had Jose. What I should have realized is that had Jose played everyday (which he kinda did anyway, just in different spots), he probably would have struck out 300 times in a season. Jose struck out like he was being paid by the K.

1. Rod "The Shooter" Beck-I know you're thinking "What the hell is Rod Beck doing on here, he was really good?" In fact, The Shooter was really only good for the Cubs in 1998. That was also the only full year he played for the team. He was traded in 1999 after struggling mightily. Beck's status with Cub fans was elevated when he was signed to a minor league deal and he lived in the Iowa Cubs' parking lot. His best years were spent with other teams, but his heart belonged to the Cubs, to the point where he was buried in his Cub uniform. Rod has a lot of Cub fans more for his personality than anything he ever did for the team. Not that I have a problem with that as Beck ranks just below Grace as my all time favorite Cub. Every time I see Aaron Heilman on the mound wearing The Shooter's number 47, I imagine Rod spinning in his grave. Is it crazy to retire a number for a player who was only around for a year and a half? Not when he's wearing it six feet under it's not.

So what have we learned? Basically, that I have a fetish for mediocre center fielders and light-hitting catchers, as well as for eccentric relievers. I'm sure most Cub fans have a similar list of their own. Not all favorite players can be superstars.