I wonder if the Cubs–then known as the Orphans– had any idea what they lost by suspending left-hander Rube Waddell late in the summer of 1901?
Just seven months earlier Chicago acquired the 24-year-old from Pittsburgh, who in turn led the club in wins (14), ERA (2.81) and finished second on the staff in strikeouts (168).
But with the Cubs finishing the 1901 season 33-games below .500, perhaps the entire team was viewed expendable, including the future HOF Waddell, who ended up in the CALIFORNIA League the following season.
Waddell began the 1902 season with L.A., where he also won 12 games, then later jumped from California to the pennant-winning Philadelphia A’s.
He notched 24-wins, second only to Cy Young’s 32, and managed to lead the American League in strikeouts (210).
During the following five seasons, all with Philly, Waddell posted win totals of 21, 25, 27, 15 and 19.
He led the AL in complete games (34) during 1903. Then wins (27), ERA (1.48) and games pitched (46) in 1905. And throughout the five years he led the entire league in strikeouts: 302, 349, 287, 196 and 232.
The St. Louis Browns came calling in 1908 where Waddell pitched the final three years of his career. He continued in regular fashion winning 19 games in 1908, but quickly declined the following two seasons: a losing 11-14 record in 1909 and 3-1 record during his final campaign of 1910.
As it turns out, surprisingly, the Cubs did quite well despite Waddell’s departure. By 1904 the Cubs were a 93-win team and on their way to a record 116-win season two years later in 1906.
A season in which Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown (26), Jack Pfiester (20), Ed Reulbach (19), Carl Lundgren (17) and Orval Overall (12)–great baseball name, by the way–anchored the starting staff with a combined 94-wins.
Rather amazingly, the Cubs somehow achieved its best years in club history–reaching four World Series and claiming two titles–following the departure of one of the game’s greatest left-handers.
Now if only the same would hold true for ditching Milton Bradley!