The Cubs would have been fortunate to score 20-runs in one week last season. But on May 5, 2001 Chicago lambasted the Dodgers 20-1 at Wrigley Field (video below).
The offensive outburst was highlighted by Sammy Sosa’s 3-for-5 day at the plate including a 2-R HR in the bottom of the fourth (Sosa hit 64 HR, 160 RBI for the season). Damon Buford also went 3-for-5 with 2 RBI and Bill Mueller drew four walks and scored three runs.
Darren Dreifort started for LA allowing four-runs in six innings, but the bulk of the damage came against Terry Adams who failed to record an out while giving up seven earned-run on six hits. Jose Nunez didn’t provide much relief issuing nine more runs (five earned).
You’ll get a chuckle watching the television opening when it’s said the Cubs are throwing their ‘crown jewel’ Julian Tavarez. At the time Tavarez was 28 and had signed with Chicago as a free agent in the offseason. He finished the campaign (10-9, 4.52) and then was packaged with Dontrelle Willis in a trade to Miami in late March of 2002 (Antonio Alfonseca & Matt Clement).
Funny enough, the last Cubs pitcher to win 20-games in a season, Jon Lieber (20-6), was on the ‘01 team as well as Kerry Wood (12-6) and Jason Bere (11-11). Tavarez posted the highest ERA and fewest innings pitched of anyone on the staff, including Kevin Tapani (9-14, 4.49). Crown jewel, indeed.
In this game, however, Tavarez had one of his better outings limiting Los Angeles to one-run on six hits over seven innings. Courtney Duncan pitched the final two frames to seal the victory.
The heavy-handed win kept the Cubs (18-11) atop the NL Central. By mid June Chicago pushed its division lead to 6.0 games, but in typical Cubs fashion the lead wouldn’t last long.
Houston and St. Louis stormed back to catch the Cubs two months later. In early September Chicago had fallen to third place while the Astros and Cardinals jumped ahead to finish the season tied for first at (93-69). Houston was awarded the division title having won the regular seasons series vs. St. Louis. Meanwhile, the Cubs (88-74) finished third under Don Baylor, five games back in the NL Central.
Sports Illustrated’s evaluation of the Cubs’ offseason: Grade B.
Only 2 names under Key Departures: Bryan LaHair & Chris Volstad.
Volstad? Are you freaking serious? (3-12, 6.31) Chris Volstad?
What about Ryan Dempster?
What about Paul Maholm?
Heck, I’d put Geovany Soto, Manny Corpas or Jeff Beliveau before Volstad.
“The rotation additions are a mixed bag, and the outfield remains unsettled, but it’s hard not to like the addition of Fujikawa.”
Terry Francona’s book “Francona: The Red Sox Years” comes out on Jan. 22.
Excerpts released by Sports Illustrated:
Theo Epstein traded for Adrian Gonzalez and signed Carl Crawford following pressure from Boston Red Sox owners to build a “sexy team.”
“They told us we didn’t have any marketable players, that we needed some sizzle, we need some sexy guys. Talk about the tail wagging the dog. This is like an absurdist comedy. We’d become too big. It was the farthest thing removed from what we set out to be.” -Epstein
Mark Grace is participating in a Diamondbacks fantasy camp underway in Scottsdale. He’s also on the record for blaming himself, not the team, for his dismissal from the broadcast booth last season following his second DUI in 15 months.
Sammy Sosa purchases distribution rights to a needle-free injection company, Injex21. The former Cub says he sees the potential to help people overcome their difficulties with taking injections.
Laughable, I know.
Three Cubs, including Sosa, are seen in SI.com’s Photo Blog.
Lou Piniella and Alfonso Soriano pose for SI’s baseball preview in 2007.
Sosa and Mark McGwire team up for a shoot during what I assume would be 1999 or 2000.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times spoke with Rays GM Andrew Friedman.
“The team is still looking for another bat, more likely through free agency than trade, either as a primary DH (which sounds like the preference) or with some positional flexibility allowing them to rotate the DH role.” -Friedman
Juan Cruz broke in with the Cubs as a 22 year old in 2001. He went (8-19, 4.43) during his three seasons in Chicago. Cruz, 34, has signed a minor league deal with the Phillies.
Former Cub Michael Wuertz (2004-08) who was traded by Chicago to Oakland in Feb. 2009 for Richie Robnett & Justin Sellers, has signed a minor league deal with the Marlins.
Only one player earned enough votes to be deemed Hall of Fame worthy by the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) – Mike Piazza, with 79.10%.
Roger Clemens finished third with 52.24%.
Jeff Bagwell & Barry Bonds tied for fourth at 50.75%.
Barry Larkin remains on the IBWAA ballot…not to be confused with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA).
Lee Smith – 35.82%
Fred McGriff – 13.43%
Sammy Sosa – 8.96%
Rafael Palmeiro – 7.46%
Kenny Lofton – 2.99%
Todd Walker – 0.00%
Rondell White – 0.00%
Each writer gets 10 votes, which I decided to use to select: Bagwell, Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Larkin, E. Martinez, Piazza, Raines, L. Smith, L. Walker (Schilling will get my vote next year).
IBWAA members include Barry Bloom, Chris Haft and Jim Thomas, MLB.com; Thomas Bonk, Tim Brown, Yahoo! Sports; Jim Caple, Mark A. Simon and David Schoenfield, ESPN.com; Fred Claire, former General Manager, Los Angeles Dodgers; Jonah Keri, Grantland; Joe McDonnell, FoxSportsWest.com; Tom Hoffarth, J.P. Hoornstra and Jill Painter, Los Angeles Daily News; Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times; and prominent baseball authors Paul Dickson, Peter Golenbock, Josh Pahigian, John Rosengren and Dan Schlossberg, among others (yours truly).
On the blog Baseball: Past & Present, Graham Womack posted an article on the 50 best players not enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Four former Cubs made the list according to 148 different voters as part of the project. Below is summary taken from the post about each Cubs player.
To read the full article click here.
Rafael Palmeiro rarely seems to get his due despite an impressive resume. He is 12th all-time with 569 home runs, tied for 6th all-time with 1192 extra-base hits, 11th all-time with 5388 total bases, tied for 19th all-time with 4460 times on base, and a member of the 3000 hit club.
Sammy Sosa’s Hall of Fame case comes down to power– the power needed to blast home runs and the power of round numbers and recognizable milestones. Slammin’ Sammy is the only player to ever hit 60 home runs in three different seasons and one of eight to crack 600 long balls in his career.
But as Sosa got older and his offensive numbers soared, the right fielder’s defensive and base-running abilities shriveled, until he was essentially a one-dimensional masher. In the end, Sosa’s candidacy comes down to personal voter philosophy.
Kenny Lofton’s legacy is hurt by his having been an almost exact contemporary of Ken Griffey Jr., the greatest centerfielder of the last 40 years. Griffey captivated fans and media members in a way few players in history have, forcing Lofton to work in his vast shadow.
During his prime (1992-1999) Lofton had a slash line of .311/.387/.432. He terrorized pitchers by getting on base at a high clip and stealing more bases than anyone in baseball, with an 80 percent success rate. He played Gold Glove caliber defense too.
Fred McGriff. When he retired in 2004, I thought Fred McGriff was a pretty solid bet to gain eventual enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. His overall mark of 493 home runs ties him with the immortal Lou Gehrig at tenth currently all-time for first basemen (Pujols should pass them both sometime in 2013.)
His 2,239 games played as a first basemen place him third all time. In his fifteen seasons as a full-time player from 1988 to 2002, his 458 home runs, 1460 RBI, 2329 hits and 59.5 fWAR rank third, second, third and fifth respectively among first basemen.
A five-time All-Star, McGriff was somehow not named an All-Star in 1989 and 1993, seasons in which he later won the Silver Slugger award. McGriff also won the Silver Slugger award in 1992. Though he never won an MVP award, McGriff did finish in the top ten of the voting six times.
Here’s a list of 10 noticeable players who have suited up for both the Cubs and the White Sox during their playing careers.
Ron Santo, Sammy Sosa, Steve Stone, Goose Gossage, Juan Pierre, George Bell, Kosuke Fukudome, Neal Cotts, Lance Johnson & Darrin Jackson.
Tony Campana nearly joined the list last summer, but the Cubs declined a White Sox’s trade proposal for the scrappy speedster.
Ron Santo, however, wrapped up his 15-year career on the South Side in 1974. He spent the majority of the season as the DH hitting .221, 5 HR, 41 RBI–the lowest totals of his entire career.
Santo’s move south was actually part of a trade that brought Steve Stone to the Cubs in December of 1973. Stone spent three rather mediocre seasons on the North Side compiling a (23-20, 4.04) record before rejoining the White Sox for 1977-78, where he won 27-games total during the following two seasons.
Ten years later the Rangers traded Sammy Sosa to the White Sox in July of 1989. He played another two seasons for the White Sox hitting .227, 28 HR, 113 RBI all totaled before being shipped to the North Side for George Bell in March of 1992.
Sosa was 23 when he arrived with the Cubs and of course went on to hit 545 home runs with the club to become the franchise’s all-time homerun leader.
We knew this day was coming. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa are eligible to become members of baseball’s Hall of Fame.
The question is whether or not suspected PEDs users, such as the three above, among others, should be elected.
I think they should be enshrined.
Now, before you start throwing stones…I’m not foolish enough to believe none of the eligible candidates cheated the game. In fact, I’d bet money I don’t have they did use performance-enhancers. Who are we kidding?
However, if baseball is ever going to move on from the Steroids Era it can’t allow this debate to fester on year-after-year, which it will, as long as a seven-time MVP is without a plaque in Cooperstown.
There’s no better example than Pete Rose, the all-time hits leader, whose legacy only grows with his exclusion from the hall. Granted, Rose wasn’t banished for steroids use, but cheating is cheating.
What I’m saying is Bonds, Clemens, Sosa etc. shouldn’t be given the privilege of such attention, like what Rose receives during the election announcements each year.
Instead, the writers must remind themselves the Steroids Era cannot be erased. What happened, happened. Yes, it’s a black on the game, but it can be healed.
Just as we learned to separate the Dead Ball Era from the Live Ball Era, fans will learn to do the same with the Steroids Era.
By the numbers we’ll know Bonds is the all-time home runs leaders and Clemens is one of the best hurlers ever. But we’ll also have an understanding they accumulated their numbers artificially, at least partially, and against other steroids users, no less.
Baseball’s most cherished statistics become no less sacred by electing players from the Steroids Era into the HOF. Rather, it will only help make the game’s history more transparent.
On the contrary, if the baseball writers chose to withhold their votes for highly suspected PEDs users the Steroids Era will never come to a close. And what could be worse than future Hall of Famers, even those decades from now, being overshadowed by the eternal debate of Bonds’ exclusion from the hall?
The writers can lop the head off the ugly Steroids Era monster by simply voting the roid players in, even though we know in our hearts, none are truly deserving of the honor.
Strangely, the decision to enshrine Steroids Era players would actually devalue the players’ accomplishments over time, thus bettering the game and the Hall of Fame itself. So put the cheaters in and move on with the understanding a certain period of the game’s history was chemically enhanced.
That doesn’t mean voters from this point forward should issue a free pass to future PEDs users eligible for the hall. We’re in a new era, more aware, more informed and better educated. Baseball’s steroid rules have been revised and most importantly, enforced. For all intents and purposes, it should be a non-issue.
In the meantime, reliving the Steroids Era with each new HOF ballot does the game no good. The writers need to bury baseball’s dead past and close the chapter on the Steroids Era once and for all.
Unfortunately, it takes putting some more scoundrels in Cooperstown. Call it an unpleasant, but necessary evil if you will.
You can make the case for a handful of players to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Anthony Rizzo is one of them, but he’s likely not the winner.
You can’t ignore the positive impact Rizzo’s made in the Cubs’ lineup since his arrival. But his late June callup puts him behind the other front-runners as far as overall numbers are concerned.
I like the Reds’ Todd Frazier to win the award. He’s played four different positions and was clutch filling-in for both an injured Scott Rolen at third base in the season’s first half and then for Joey Votto at first base in the season’s second half.
Frazier has been the glue for Dusty Baker’s lineup, and playing on a division winner certainly helps his cause.
Bryce Harper, Wilin Rosario (COL), Yonder Alonso (SD), Norichika Aoki (MIL) and Jordan Pacheco (COL) also deserve some looks…but in the end, I put my money on Frazier.
HONORING SAMMY: CSN’s Chicago Tribune Live was debating whether the Cubs should honor Sammy Sosa similar to what the organization did for Kerry Wood on Sunday.
We know Sammy took steroids, we know that was part of the game during his era, but does that mean it’s worth celebrating?
Sammy was both a terrific cheat and a terrific player, especially offensively. But, Sosa’s refusal to admit his mistakes during the steroids investigation along with his unceremonious departure from the Cubs doesn’t help his case to be recognized by the organization.
My feeling is the Cubs honored Sosa plenty with the millions upon millions of dollars they paid him while with Chicago. The fact Sosa left the Cubs, and the game, as a disgrace is on him.
I’m not saying a reunion between Sosa and the Cubs should never happen. But this is a two-way street, and right now it’s on Sammy to right the wrongs, not the other way around.
SLEEPLESS IN GREEN BAY: I hope the debacle of an ending to the Monday Night football game in Seattle finally pushes the NFL to strike a deal with its locked out officials.
To have last night’s contest wrongly decided by the replacement refs, during a prime time game, is surely one of the most feared outcomes by the league during this labor dispute.
The replacement officiating has been a disgrace to the league. What more does the NFL need to see after three weeks (not including the pre-season) of botched calls to understand its regular officials are worth paying top dollar?
Don’t blame the scab refs, either. I truly believe these guys are trying to the best of their abilities, although it’s clear they’re largely in over their heads.
Last week I talked about how professional sports leagues should learn from one another. So let this replacement officiating be a lesson for all other pro sports: pay your officials…they’re the best in the business for a reason–and that’s always worth the money.
The Cubs and Mets made baseball history in March of 2000 playing a two-game series in Tokyo, Japan. It marked the first time major league baseball opened the season outside of North America.
It was a homecoming of sorts for Mets manager Bobby Valentine, who had previously skippered the Chiba Lotte Marines in 1995 (he would later return to manage the Marines from 2004-2009).
Mike Piazza was the other star attraction for the Mets, but both Metropolitans paled in comparison to the excitement surrounding the arrival of Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa.
Sosa, like Valentine, was also making a return visit to Japan. He had previously headlined an MLB All-Star cast that toured Japan following the 1998 season–when Sosa was fresh off his thrilling home run chase with Mark McGwire.
Sosa’s glowing smile was plastered on posters that covered Tokyo hyping the series on subway signs and store front windows.
After an 18-hour flight from spring training in Mesa, Arizona, the Cubs settled in for two exhibition games against the Tokyo Giants and Seibu Lions. Then it was time to face the Mets on March 29.
The NL Central has long held the distinction of hosting some of the game’s greatest sluggers.
Ken Griffey Jr., Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire held court before the arrivals of Adam Dunn, Carlos Lee and Derrek Lee.
But with the decisions of Albert Pujols & Prince Fielder to sign lucrative free agent contracts in L.A. and Detroit, respectively, the question arises as to which player takes over the crown as the NL Central’s greatest slugger?
Here’s how I see it:
2001 — Alex Rodriguez hit his 48th home run, breaking Ernie Banks’ major league record for shortstops and lifting Texas to a 5-2 win over Anaheim.
2001 — Sammy Sosa became the first player to hit three home runs in a game three times in a season, but Moises Alou’s two-run shot rallied Houston to a 7-6 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
2004 — Greg Maddux picked up his 15th win of the season in Chicago’s 6-3 victory over Pittsburgh. Maddux reached 15 wins for a record 17th consecutive season. He surpassed Cy Young’s record of 15 consecutive 15-win seasons in 2003.
-Courtesy AP News Wire.