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The Best Bad Cubs Team of My Time: 2B Mark Grudzielanek

Yes, that's Eric Karros instituting the "Flying V" chess strategy.

Yes, that’s Eric Karros instituting the “Flying V” chess strategy.

A passing comment on Twitter has led to my next pet project.  I’ve compiled a 25-man roster of the best bad Cubs of my time.  Let me clarify a few things right off the bat.  I looked at stats, but I really don’t care about your stats-based argument.  This is supposed to be fun.  Calm down.  As you’ll see as the roster develops, personality wasn’t as big a factor as it was for the Bottom 126.  However, watching a bad player play well as a Cub made generally made him pretty likeable.  I’m starting with the bullpen, then I’ll do the bench, then the starting pitchers, and finally the starting eight.  HERE is the roster so far.

If there’s one thing Jim Hendry was good at during his tenure with the Cubs, it was eating an entire sleeve of Oreo cookies without using his hands. If there were two things he was good at, the second one was getting weird career years out of mostly-bad middle infielders. Mickey Morandini lives here. Mark DeRosa made the BBC team as a bench player. And overall, DeRosa was a better player in Chicago than Mark Grudzielanek. However, screw Mark DeRosa. More was expected of him than Grudzielanek, and he had nothing to do with the Cubs being able to throw Todd Hundley on a tire fire, where his booze-soaked sweat went up like kerosene. Plus, Grudzielanek played on a team that actually won a playoff game. Plus, just look at him playing chess against Eric Karros. Shove your Ivy League education, DeRosa. Also, I’m just going to say it. Grudzielanek has piercing blue eyes, and if memory serves, he had a really hot girlfriend/wife when the Cubs clinched in 2003. Because that somehow affects me, and I’m ignoring the existence of Heidi DeRosa. For those reasons, Mark Grudzielanek is the starting second baseman on the Best Bad Cubs Team of My Time.

Grudzielanek was originally drafted by the New York Mets in 1989, but he didn’t sign because who in their right mind would voluntarily play half a season’s worth of game in a shithole called Flushing? Instead, he waited to sign until the Montreal Expos took him in the eleventh round of the 1991 draft. Do you hear that, New York? Some people would rather LEAVE THEIR HOMELAND than play in your town. Others would apparently fly from Japan to play there, but screw your stupid face, Tanaka.

And now comes the part of this article where I’m going to start shortening “Grudzielanek” because it’s a pain in the ass to write, I don’t know how to make a macro, and cutting-and-pasting is for bus-riding losers. Besides, if Harry doesn’t have to pronounce it, why should I have to spell it? Surprisingly, you can keep taking letters away from his name (to a certain point) and still make a stupid nickname!

Grudzielane was…not very good in the minors. In his first three years, his OPS didn’t top .668. He hit 2, 5, and 1 home run in those seasons, spending his time from low-A to high-A ball. With the class AA Harrisburg Senators in 1994, however, Grudzielan finally broke out. He batted .322/.382/.477 with 11 home runs and 66 RBIs, all career highs to that point. He also stole 32 bases, though he was caught ten times. That was enough to earn him a spot on the Expos’ 1995 Opening Day roster. The 1994 Expos were stacked. The 1995 Expos were not. So they came into Wrigley Field on April 28, 1995 and lost 4-3. But Grudziela got a pinch-hit at-bat late in the game. As so often happens, he struck out swinging on four pitches. But his MLB career was underway.

Grudziel was not good as Montreal’s starting shortstop. He had a ton of at-bats (he led the league in ABs and doubles in 1997), but his OPS+ never cracked 100. He had a pretty good first half in 1996, hitting .328/.358/.440, and that earned him a spot on the NL All-Star Team.

After Grudzie spent parts of four years in Montreal, the Expos sent him to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the 1998 trade deadline along with Hiram Bocachica and Carlos Perez for Jonathan Tucker, Peter Bergeron, Wilton Guerrero, and Ted Killy. Sorry. Ted Lilly. Grudzi fared somewhat better in parts of five seasons in Los Angeles, where he batted .284/.328/.389 and presumably met the hot girl who joined him on the field after the 2003 clincher who very well might have been a figment of my imagination.

After the 2002 season, the Cubs needed to replace Mark Bellhorn because he wasn’t 45 years old, and Dusty Baker was coming to town. So, in arguably the best trade of Jim Hendry’s tenure, he acquired Grudz along with Eric Karros for Chad Hermansen and Todd Hundley. I give Hendry a lot of deserved shit on this site. But in building the 2003 team he traded for the starting second baseman, the starting first baseman, and the eventual starting center fielder and third baseman. That’s pretty good work. But then he traded for both Juan Pierre and (eventually) Phil Nevin to build the 2006 team, and I remember why no one likes him.

As you may be aware, the Cubs didn’t have a leadoff hitter until they acquired Lofton, and Grud stepped up nicely to fill that void. He hit .314/.366/.416, well enough to make Dusty forget that “second basemen gotta hit second, dude.” He was apparently even good enough to earn an MVP vote and prove that some baseball writers are so stupid, they phosphoresce. Early in the 2004 season, Grud’s Achilles heel was his Achilles heel. He tore it early in the season and didn’t come back until June. Unfortunately, that gave Todd Walker the opportunity to jump on the douchetrainwreck that 2004 team was. The soft-spoken professionalism of 2003 Grud was replaced with the loudmouth dirt dog nonsense of the 2003 Boston Red Sox. The Cubs let Grud walk after the 2004 season, and the St. Louis Cardinals were more than happy to pick him up for a million dollars.

After a pretty typical season in St. Louis, Grud drove his trailer across the state and played three seasons for the Kansas City Royals. In his first year with the Royals at the I’m-going-to-pretend-it’s-still-young-because-it’s-looming age of 36, he won his first Gold Glove. He batted .300/.339/.412 in Kansas City as their primary second baseman and occasional shortstop. In early August of 2008, Grud blew out his leg bouncing off of Ross Gload’s potential while trying to chase down a Juan Uribe pop-up against the Chicago White Sox. The Royals granted him free agency after he didn’t appear again in the 2008 season. The Minnesota Twins took a chance on him halfway through the 2009 season, but he didn’t see any MLB action.

The Cleveland Indians signed Grud prior to the 2010 season because everyone but Dolan was aware that their hot-shit prospect second baseman was garbage. Sure enough, he was, and Grud played well for the Indians once they kicked Luis Valbuena out of the lineup. Don’t believe me? Just watch this fading frat star spit phrases about Grud from his murder basement! Your collared shirt does not fool me, sir. Also, it’s “www” not “ww.” It took me four hours to figure out how to access your website.

Grud was released by the Indians in June of 2010 to make room for Anderson Hernandez, who ssssuuuuuuuucked. Sadly, Grud went out ignominiously with an oh-fer against the White Sox in an 8-7 Indians loss. Maybe he should have taken more Bionix.

Gru retired on February 23, 2011, so get those Hall of Fame ballots ready soon, kids.

Greatest Cub Moment: Remember that incredible 5-game series in early September of 2003 when the Cubs should have swept the Cardinals but had to settle for taking four of five because umpires are worse at their jobs than any other employed person on this planet? Well, the Cubs were coming off their only loss of the series, a 2-0 blanking in game three. In the bottom of the 8th inning in game four, the Cubs were trailing 7-6. Grudz had come in as part of a double switch. Facing Woody Williams with one out and Tony Womack on second base, Grudz tripled to right center field, tying the game and setting up Sammy Sosa to drive in the game-winner. Sammy popped out in foul territory for the second out. Fortunately, Moises Alou ripped a single to left, driving in Grudz and sending Wrigley Field into a state of delirium generally only reserved for Sting concerts.

Worst Moment as a Human: It never helps the batting average to take an 0-6 as Grudz did on April 22, 2001. Even worse, he left runners in scoring position in his first FOUR at-bats, left a guy on first in his fifth, and made the second of the final three outs in a 7-6 Dodger loss. That’s one of those hole-in-the-ground days.