The Best Bad Cubs Team of My Time: SS Ricky Gutierrez


This picture must be 'shopped. He never once hung on to a bat all the way through a swing.

This picture must be ‘shopped. He never once hung on to a bat all the way through a swing.

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.

Only four more positions are left on the Best Bad Cubs Team of- HOLY SHIT, LOOK OUT! MAN, YOU ALMOST GOT NAILED BY THAT BAT AS IT HELICOPTERED THROUGH THE AIR! Anyhow, we only have the outfield and shortstop left to go, and if you- OH MY GOD HERE COMES ANOTHER I THINK THAT’S STRIKE TWO! Whew! That one just missed you. As I was saying, I’m almost done with the list of Best Bad Cubs and- HE ALMOST HIT THAT OLD LADY IN THE FRONT ROW! HER 95 YEARS ALL JUST FLASHED BEFORE HER EYES! Our final infielder was accidentally one of the most dangerous men in baseball. If you attended a game at Wrigley Field in 2000 or 2001, you were as likely to walk home with a souvenir bat as a souvenir ball. You see, Best Bad Cub shortstop Ricky Gutierrez had pine tar issues that- JESUS HE’S LIKE A TODDLER PLAYING WIFFLE BALL! THAT GUY IS DEAD!

Gutierrez was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles with the 28th overall pick in a not-exactly loaded 1988 amateur draft. Andy Benes was the number one pick, and the Cubs took Ty Griffin one slot before the White Sox selected Robin Ventura. No matter. The Cubs have NEVER needed a third baseman.

Gutierrez was a VERY light-hitting shortstop in the minors, so it wasn’t unexpected when the Orioles sent him to the San Diego Padres in 1992 along with Erik Schullstrom for Craig Lefferts. In his first full year with the Padres, Gutierrez debuted at the age of 22. On April 13, 1993, the Pittsburgh Pirates were visiting Jack Murphy Stadium. Gutierrez got a late-inning at-bat when he pinch hit for Darrell Sherman and then went out to…right field? Gutierrez struck out in his first and only at-bat that game.

Somehow, Gutierrez got quite a bit of playing time in 1993. In 495 plate appearances, he posted a .251/.334/.331 line as the Padres’ starting shortstop. Because many sportswriters are petty and stupid, Gutierrez got a Rookie of the Year vote, barely losing out to Mike Piazza by 139 vote points. For no reason other than to poke you in the eye, that was the year Dusty Baker won the NL Manager of the Year Award. It was also the year that Barry Bonds’ head started growing again.

Gutierrez had an unspectacular OPS in one season plus one strike-shortened season with the Padres. After the 1994 season, the Padres and Houston Astros exchanged all of their players. The Padres sent Gutierrez along with Derek Bell, Doug Brocail, Pedro Martinez (not that one), Phil Plantier, and Craig Shipley to Houston for Sean Fesh, Ken Caminiti, Andujar Cedeno, Steve Finley, Roberto Petagine, and Brian Williams. The Padres had finished 47-70 in 1994, so it probably wasn’t a bad idea for them to turn over as much of their roster as possible.

For the next five seasons, Gutierrez put up exactly the kind of numbers the Astros had any right to expect him to produce. He hit .266/.337/.340 with seven home runs (IN FIVE YEARS) and 132 RBIs. The Astros let him walk after the 1999 season, and the Cubs signed him to replace Jose Hernandez, who had been traded in 1999 to the Atlanta Braves for Micah Bowie and Ruben Quevedo. SIIIIIIIGH.

Something clicked for Gutierrez in Chicago. In two seasons at shortstop on the North Side, Gutierrez hit an absurd-for-Ricky-Gutierrez .284/.359/.401. He drove in 56 runs in his first season with the Cubs than followed that up with 66 RBIs in 2001. In fact, Gutierrez became the answer to the popular trivia question, “Who had the second-most RBIs on the 2001 Chicago Cubs?” I didn’t watch enough of the Astros to know if this was exclusively a Chicago thing, but in his time with the Cubs, Gutierrez was as likely to kill you as win a game for you. He was completely unable to hold his bat all the way through a full swing, and many a Cub fan narrowly avoided many a concussion as Gutierrez chucked bat after bat into the stands. He was also more likely to bunt than hit a home run (thanks, Don Baylor). He led the league in sacrifice bunts in both his seasons with the Cubs, even though he never laid down more than four successful bunts a season either before or after. But on an awful Cub team in 2000 and an awful-but-surprisingly-contending Cub team in 2001, Gutierrez was one of the most productive hitters.

Prior to the 2002 season, however, the Cubs traded for Alex Gonzalez and let Gutierrez walk away. In the last three years of his career, Gutierrez caught on with the Cleveland Indians, New York Mets, and Boston Red Sox. He wasn’t good in those places. In parts of twelve MLB seasons, Gutierrez hit .266/.338/.350. He was one of the few bad players who was far more productive as a Cub than he was anywhere else. He’s the epitome of a Best Bad Cubs player.

Greatest Cub Moment: August 7, 2001. Gutierrez probably had better offensive days with the Cubs in his time in Chicago. However, I was at this game. This game was goddamn great. This was the game where Mongo got ejected by Angel Hernandez for threatening to kick his ass in a parking lot. And this was also the game that had probably the longest baseball play I have ever seen. The Cubs and Rockies were tied 4-4 with one out in the bottom of the 9th inning. Joe Girardi came to the plate with Gutierrez (who was 3-4 on the day) on second base. Girardi singled, Gutierrez slipped coming around third base and retreated back to third, Girardi got caught in a rundown between first and second, the Rockies chucked the ball all around the field, and after Girardi was tagged out, Gutierrez made a mad dash for home, scoring the winning run in a 5-4 Cub victory. Well, shit, here’s the whole thing (including Angel Hernandez acting like a cunt). If you can stomach Chip Caray, stick around until the end, when he utterly fucks up calling the game-winning run. Hernandez doesn’t even flinch before signaling Gutierrez “safe,” (though what was the out signal AFTER the play?) yet Chip ruins it.

Worst Moment as a Human: FUCKING KEVIN ORIE.