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Category: Ex-Cubs (page 1 of 19)

Let’s Leave This as the Newest Post for a While

I must go now. My people need me.

I must go now. My people need me.

My hatred of Ryan Dempster has been welldocumented on this site.

And, apparently, it’s well-known in the Twittersphere, as well! Roland Johnson was good enough to inform me that one of my many mean tweets about Dempster had been read that morning on MLB Central. Leave it to Dempster to be involved in a routine stolen from fellow hack Jimmy Kimmel. My only regret is that they didn’t pick a meaner post.

I’m not saying that this is the culmination of my life’s work. I’m not saying that this will be my last post. But if this ends up being my last post, what a glorious last post it is.

WE DID IT, YOU GUYS!

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.

The Best Bad Cubs Team of My Time: 3B Mark Bellhorn

"MVP" meant something different a decade ago.

“MVP” meant something different a decade ago.

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.

In the late ’90s to about the mid-2000s, there were a weird number of players that the Cubs and Boston Red Sox swapped back and forth as they both sought to avoid 100 titleless years. Jimmy Anderson, Shane Andrews, Terry Adams, Rod Beck, Damon Buford, Frank Castillo, Matt Clement, Jeff Fassero, Cliff Floyd, Chad Fox, Gary Gaetti, Nomar Garciaparra, Geremi Gonzalez, Tom Gordon, Mark Guthrie, Ricky Gutierrez, Chris Haney, Bob Howry, Damian Jackson, Sandy Martinez, Wade Miller, Bill Mueller, Troy O’Leary, Darren Lewis, Ron Mahay, Pat Mahomes, Orlando Merced, Kent Mercker, Mike Remlinger, Rey Sanchez, Matt Stairs, Chris Stynes, Julian Tavarez, Jermaine Van Buren, Todd Walker, and Scott Williamson all played for both historically horrible franchises around that time. The swapping worked for the Red Sox. Not so much for the Cubs. The starting third baseman on the Best Bad Cubs Team of My Time was one of those guys. Many Cubs fans blamed Dusty Baker for mismanaging Mark Bellhorn and not handing him the starting third base position during the 2003 season. I’m all for blaming Dusty Baker for everything. But I don’t think this one was on him. Bellhorn was awesome for exactly one season. Fortunately, that season happened when he was with the Cubs. Unfortunately, it happened in 2002, when they were absolutely terrible. Nevertheless, Bellhorn’s Cub career was enough to earn him a spot on this team.

Bellhorn was selected in the second round of the 1995 amateur draft by the Oakland Athletics, ahead of Carlos Beltran. The A’s saw a switch hitter with power from both sides of the plate. Which…Carlos Beltran also was, only Beltran was much better in the field. This is the pre-Billy Beane Oakland days, so feel free to continue worshiping him as a deity. In the minors, Bellhorn walked a whole lot, struck out a hell of a lot more, and hit some home runs. He got his first cup of coffee in 1997. On June 10, the A’s were visiting the Detroit Tigers, and Bellhorn started at second base. Bellhorn singled in his first MLB at-bat and ended the day 1-4 with, miraculously, no strikeouts.

Bellhorn’s power didn’t really develop until he was twenty-five years old. That year, he hit 24 home runs in 117 games for the triple-A Sacramento River Cats. The next year, the A’s called up Bellhorn in mid-April to pinch hit and fill in around the infield. He managed to stay in Oakland for nearly the entire year before being sent back down to triple-A at the trade deadline. He kicked ass back down in the minors, hitting 12 home runs in only 43 games.

Suffice it to say, Bellhorn was up and down in four seasons with the A’s. He had only 374 plate appearances and hit .198/.296/.316. But his hot finish in the minors in 2001 was enough for the Cubs to send infielder Adam Morrissey to Oakland for Bellhorn. Were you one of the weirdos who complained about the trade? If so, you’re sad. And Cub prospects are often overrated. So don’t get your hopes up TOO much for the future. Anyhow, the Cubs had Delino DeShields at second base, but…the Cubs had Delino DeShields at second base. Bellhorn was originally brought in to spell DeShields and Bill Mueller at third base, but something happened. He hit. He hit a lot. He hit so much that Don Baylor had no choice but to bench everyone’s favorite second baseman, especially when it became abundantly clear that all Bobby Hill could do effectively was pump blood through his forearms.

Bellhorn responded that year. He hit 27 home runs and drove in 56 RBIs in 529 plate appearances. His line for a terrible 67-95 Cub team was .258/.374/.512. His OPS+ was better than any Cub that year save Sammy Sosa. As an aside, did you ever think you’d be old enough to find a Sammy Sosa reference dated? As a further aside, guess who had the fourth-highest OPS+ on that team behind Sosa, Bellhorn, and Fred McGriff? Angel Echevarria. YOU HAVE WATCHED SOME TERRIBLE CUB TEAMS. Bellhorn may have been the best bang for the buck in the 2002 season, as he made only $224K in salary that year. Also, he and Sammy Sosa almost killed each other.

Many Cub fans expected Bellhorn to repeat his performance in 2003. If you think that might have helped, had Bellhorn not been bad in 2003, the Cubs may never have landed Aramis Ramirez. Would 2002 Bellhorn have been better in the 2003 playoffs than Ramirez? The world will never know, as in June 20, Bellhorn was traded by the Cubs to the Colorado Rockies for Jose Hernandez. He, too, was awful, but he was also part of the Kenny Lofton-Ramirez trade (as was Hill).

The Rockies sent Bellhorn to the Red Sox prior to the 2004 season as part of a conditional deal. The condition was that he had to be fucking awesome in the 2004 playoffs. Bellhorn had a good regular season with the Red Sox, hitting .264/.373/.444 with 17 home runs and 82 RBIs, though he led the league in strikeouts with 177. Again, we’ll never know how Bellhorn would have fared in the 2003 playoffs with the Cubs. HOWEVER. Bellhorn become a goddamn legend in the playoffs with the Red Sox. Here you go.

ALCS GAME 6

ALCS GAME 7

WORLD SERIES GAME 1

Also, I can’t stand the Red Sox, but I love Francona. And MLB umps have sucked for at least 10 years.

Bellhorn regressed again in 2005, and the Red Sox released their hero in August of that year. The New York Yankees signed him 11 days later, because the Yankees truly believe in the “If you can’t beat him, sign him” way of doing business. Bellhorn was unremarkable toward the end of his career, bouncing around in free agency from the Yankees to the San Diego Padres, to the Cincinnati Reds, to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and finally back to the Rockies.

Bellhorn finished his ten-year career with a .230/.341/.394 batting line. In his year and a half with the Cubs, he hit a terrific .247/.366/.466 with 29 home runs, 78 RBIs, and 105 walks. And that’s why he beat out the “also receiving consideration” guys: Luis Salazar, Steve Buechele, Ron Coomer, Cody Ransom, Gary Gaetti, and Vance Law.

So, where is Bellhorn now? Well, he tweeted once in September of 2012. Maybe if you live in the Boston area, you can find him…eating donuts?

Greatest Cub Moment: All of Bellhorn’s 2002 season was pretty record-setting for the Cubs. He hit more home runs in a season (27) than any other Cub switch-hitter, and he was the first player in Cub history to hit a home run at every infield position. But August 29, 2002 was probably his finest hour as a Cub. The were Cubs visiting the Milwaukee Brewers, and were locked in a scoreless game going into the fourth inning. After Alex Gonzalez led off the fourth with a walk, Bellhorn hit a two-run homer from the right side of the plate. Later in the inning, Bellhorn hit a three-run home from the left side in a 10-run Cub explosion. Bellhorn’s five RBIs in the inning tied a team record, and he was the first player in National League history to hit a home run from both sides of the plate in an inning. In fact, he was the last Cub player to homer from both sides of the plate in a game until Dioner Navarro did it against the Chicago White Sox in 2013. Bellhorn finished the day 2-4 with five RBIs, two runs scored, and a walk. That’s a good day.

Worst Moment as a Human: June 30, 2003. Yeesh. The Arizona Diamondbacks were in Colorado to face Bellhorn’s Rockies. Bellhorn went to the plate six times and came away empty each time. In each of his last three at-bats, Bellhorn came up with a 4-4 tie and a runner in scoring position. He flied out all three times, and after getting outscored 4-3 in the 12th inning, the Rockies managed to lose an 8-7 game.

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.

The Best Bad Cubs Team of My Time: 1B Daryle Ward

DAT ASS

DAT ASS

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.

This was a tough position. There are quite a few good/bad first basemen who have played for the Cubs. Julio Zuleta, Phil Nevin, Eric Karros, Manny Trillo (1987 ver.), Carlos Pena, Xavier Nady. And go ahead and cry for Randall Simon, crybabies. It’s my list. If you’ve read anything I’ve written in the past 9ish years, you’d know there was only one clear choice for this position. Hell, you might even ask yourself if the only reason I started this list was to have a reason to write an article about the greatest Cub player of all time, DARYLE WARD. And I shan’t provide an answer to that musing, good sir. Daryle Ward is an awesome, lovable teddy bear, and he is the clear choice for the starting first baseman on the Best Bad Cubs Team of My Time.

The son of former first baseman and left fielder Gary Ward, Daryle Ward was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 15th round of the 1994 amateur draft. Ward slugged baseballs and brews down in the minors, and he hit his way to value. I’m just going to go ahead and say he was involved in the biggest blockbuster trade of all time. On December 10, 1996, he was traded by the Tigers with Brad Ausmus, Jose Lima, Trever Miller and C.J. Nitkowski to the Houston Astros for Doug Brocail, Brian Hunter, Todd Jones, Orlando Miller and cash. Every other player in that deal was a worthless throw-in. Ward was the shooting star. The wildflower. The milkshake. And oh, how he did put the “shake” in milkshake.

Ward made his Major League debut with the Astros on May 14, 1998. With the Astros already trailing 6-1 in the bottom of the fifth, Ward pinch hit for pitcher Mike Grzanich. As he was wont to do, Ward battled through seven pitches, six of them strikes, before he was finally retired swinging by Jose Silva.

Ward had a decent run in parts of five years in Houston, compiling a .269/.316/.465 slash line. He played in the 1999 and 2001 NLDS with the Astros, hitting a home run each year in series losses to the Atlanta Braves. In fact, on October 12, 2001, his two-run, pinch-hit homer cut the Braves’ seventh-inning lead in half. The Astros still lost in a Braves’ sweep, but WHOSE FAULT IS THAT, LARRY DIERKER???

After the 2002 season, the Astros sent Ward to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitcher Ruddy Lugo. Because the Astros are dumb. While the Cubs were having their best year in ages in 2003, Ward refused to take any headlines away from Chicago, turning in his worst year. Because he’s an unselfish goddamn angel. The Dodgers let Ward go after the 2003 season, so he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he had a career rebirth. Or resuscitation. Or at least he staved off the prospect of forced retirement for another few years. During his two seasons in Pittsburgh, Ward hit .256/.313/.434 with 27 home runs and 120 RBIs.

Prior to the 2006 season, Ward signed with the Washington Nationals. He hammered the ball to the tune of a .308/.390/.567 line, making him an attractive bench player for a contending team. The Braves were just that, and they sent Luis Atilano to Washington on the last day of August in exchange for Ward. Ward hit well enough for the Braves in 20 games, but they missed the playoffs, and the nation was once again deprived the opportunity to see Daryle’s big old grin on FOX.

Prior to the 2007 season, Ward signed a 2-year, $2.2M deal with the Cubs. It will be the best $2.2M the Cubs spent until they eventually buy some goddamn pants for Clark. I know it’s been some time since you’ve thought about this, but the 2007 Cubs were actually good, and Ward was great. In 133 plate appearances, Ward hit .327/.436/.527. On a free-swinging offensive team, Ward managed to draw nearly as many walks (22) as he struck out (23). His 143 OPS+ was the highest of his career, and he was a monster at Wrigley Field, where he hit .345/.457/.569.

Though Ward cooled off in the 2008 season, he still had more RBIs than Henry Blanco, so shut up, Dolan. He had, however, cooled to the point that, unbeknownst to him, his career had ended. He played his final game on September 27, 2008 against Dale Sveum’s Milwaukee Brewers. The Cubs won 7-3, partially on the strength of a first-inning, two-run shot Ward hit off of Ben Sheets. And that’s how I’m going to remember him. Not for the two strikeouts in his final two at-bats.

Ward tried to catch on with the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, Nationals (again), and most recently the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he didn’t stick anywhere. Like Roy Hobbs, he’s still barnstorming with the Lancaster Barnstormers in Pennsylvania along with another former Cub phenom, Ryan Harvey. Ward is on the disabled list right now, so here’s hoping for a productive 2014 from the big lug. I’m not saying, but Theo JUST SAVED all that Tanaka money…

Also, Daryle is on Twitter! He looks like he’s loving life, and isn’t that the greatest gift of all? He only has 224 followers, so get on that, people.

Greatest Cub Moment: Back before Kevin Gregg was awful for the Cubs, he was awful for the Florida Marlins. The Cubs were in Florida on August 15, 2008, and the Marlins were staked to a 5-3 lead in the top of the 9th inning. Mark DeRosa and Reed Johnson both reached base in front of Ward. When Lou Piniella called his named, Daryle was probably a bit surprised. He was currently mired in an 0-13 slump. But Daryle calmly got up from the bench, squeezed a whole tube of chocolate cookie dough into his mouth, and launched the second pitch he saw from Gregg into deep right center. Some stay he’s still rounding the bases. My runner up game is this one, when he single-handedly outscored the St. Louis Cardinals. But I have a LOT of favorite Daryle Ward games, so screw you.

Worst Moment as a Human: If you have a long enough baseball career, odds are you’re going to wear the sombrero at some point. Ward did on June 7, 2001. The Astros managed the near-impossible, losing a 2-1 game in Colorado to the Rockies. Ward had four at bats, struck out four times, and left five guys on base. NO ONE IS PERFECT, JERKS!!!

/takes ball
//goes home

For Neifi

Go save a season today.

Go save a season today.

Friday Roundup: The “DON’T HIRE DUSTY BAKER!” Edition

Well, at least he didn't get caught with his pants down.

Well, at least he didn’t get caught with his pants down.

The Cincinnati Reds finally figured out what the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs already knew. Dusty Baker is a cartoonish, narcissistic oaf who can’t manage baseball teams or personalities. The Reds fired Baker today, which would be hilarious if the Cubs weren’t looking for a manager. (HT: Pre) Unfortunately for the Cubs, not only are the Reds another suitor the managerial candidates out there, but also it’s going to be hard for the Reds to hire someone worse than Baker. Though I think they could probably pry Bobby Valentine away from Sacred Heart. The biggest winner in today’s firing is Johnny Cueto’s arm.

Your tips are as appreciated as overpriced custom toothpicks, dude.

  • Meanwhile in Chicago, I’m not even sure if I want Girardi anymore, but I think the Cubs are a long shot to get him. (HT: level5)
  • Wondering who to root for in the playoffs? Here’s a simple flowchart for deciding. (HT: Pre)
  • Stuck in an elevator and reading HJE on your mobile phone? Hopefully, you’re not stuck with these guys.
  • Movie Easter eggs that give away the ending. I feel like the definition of “Easter egg” is a bit loose on these, but pretty cool nonetheless.
  • Now that Breaking Bad is over (SOB), take a look back at the early roles of some of the main characters.
  • This is the worst news that came out of the LucasArts shutdown.
  • I can’t stop laughing at this. (HT: Brant)
  • NIGHTMARE FUEL OF THE WEEK: GIANT HORNETS! (HT: EnricoPallazzo)
  • YOUR AWESOME CLIP OF THE WEEK: Guillermo del Toro’s Simpsons opening sequence is terrific.

The Best Bad Cubs Team of My Time: SP Matt Clement

DAT BEARD.

DAT BEARD.

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.

With the goateed Matt Clement, we reach the end of the starting rotation of the Best Bad Cubs Team of My Time. And how. For while Matt Clement initially got a bad reputation after the 2003 playoffs when rumors abounded that he refused to go to the bullpen in the NLCS, we all know that Dusty Baker was the mismanaging nitwit behind that decision. And here’s the thing. Without Clement, the Cubs wouldn’t have been in the 2003 playoffs at all. Not a bad contribution for a player who was a gamble in the Antonio Alfonseca trade. So Matt Clement rounds out the starting rotation of the Best Bad Cubs Team of My Time.

Matt Clement’s professional baseball career began two decades ago, when he was selected by the San Diego Padres in the third round of the 1993 amateur draft. Clement was a lanky religious kid from Pennsylvania who WASN’T Amish. Who’d have thought? Clement had crazy-good stuff, but was wilder than a cat with a sparkler tied to its tail. Which is something Amish people do for fun. In his second season in the minors, Clement struck out 98 guys in 138 1/3 innings, but also walked 91, hit eighteen batters, and threw 31 wild pitches.

Nevertheless, Clement had a big arm and a lot of potential if he would ever find his control. So the Padres brought him up for a cup of coffee in September of 1998. Clement made his MLB debut on September 6, 1998 at every pitcher’s nightmare park, Coors Field. The Padres were in the midst of getting blown out by the Colorado Rockies 9-0 when Clement took the mound in the bottom of the seventh inning. Clement didn’t help. He surrendered three runs on four hits, including a two-run double to Angel Echevarria. Can that possibly be right? YES.

Clement appeared in four games for the 1998 Padres, made two starts, and went 2-0 with a 4.61 ERA and lofty 1.610 WHIP. He struck out thirteen hitters in 13 2/3 innings, but again he walked seven. Still, Clement showed enough to make the Padres’ starting rotation in 1999. He gave the Padres exactly what they should have expected from his minor-league numbers. He went 10-12 with a 4.48 ERA and 1.528 WHIP while striking out 135 and walking 86 in 180 2/3 innings.

His control got remarkably worse in 2000, when he posted a 5.14 ERA and led the league in walks (125) and wild pitches (23) in 205 innings. He was averaging 5.5 BB/9 on his way to a 13-17 record. Just before the start of the 2001 season, the Padres sent Clement along with Omar Ortiz and Eric Owens to the Florida Marlins for Cesar Crespo and Mark Kotsay. Clement made 31 starts for the Marlins, going 9-10 with a 5.05 ERA and another league-leading wild pitch count (15) in 169 1/3 innings. Clement was still striking out guys at a decent clip (134), but he was also still walking too many (85).

Right before the start of the 2002 season, incumbent Cub closer Tom Gordon’s shoulder exploded. The Cubs desperately needed a closer. Preferably one who killed Mandy Patinkin’s father. So they went fishing and landed Antonio Alfonseca along with Clement in exchange for Jose Cueto, Ryan Jorgensen, Julian Tavarez and Dontrelle Willis. The four-letter site was up in arms about letting Willis go, but the Cubs were desperate for a closer. You see, they thought they actually had a chance to compete after finding themselves unexpectedly in a pennant race late into the 2001 season. THAT’S ADORABLE.

As you may recall, Alfonseca was an absolute turd, as fat closers north of 30 years old tend to be. Had the Cubs not also landed Clement in the deal, the trade truly would have been a disaster. Clement, however, had something click for him in Chicago. His BB/9 dropped to 3.7. Not great, but the lowest total of his career. Meanwhile, he topped 200 strikeouts for the first time ever, whiffing 215 in 205 innings. His 9.4 SO/9 was two strikeouts higher than it had been in any previous full season. Clement tied Kerry Wood for the team lead with twelve wins, and finished only two strikeouts behind him. Remember how we all hated Larry Rothschild until he was gone, and then we realized that the problem wasn’t Larry, but that no one listened to him?

In 2003, Clement was the fourth starter in a monster rotation. Because of the way things ended, it’s tough to appreciate it, but all four of Wood, Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano, and Clement threw 200+ innings, won 13+ games, and struck out at least seven hitters per nine innings. They were nothing short of filthy. Clement, as that rotation’s fourth starter had a 106 ERA+ and a 1.230 WHIP. No wonder they got away with sending Shawn Estes out there 28 times.

Despite having a bad start in the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves, Clement was great against the Marlins. HE HAD A THIRD OF THEIR WINS IN THAT SERIES, GUYS. In Game Four of the NLCS, Clement outdueled former trade partner Dontrelle Willis, going 7 2/3 innings and allowing three earned runs in an 8-3 Cub win. And, to be fair, Kyle Farnsworth gave up the one runner he inherited from Clement, because Farnsworth decided to let ALL of his inherited runners score during the NLCS.

Clement followed up his 2003 performance with an even better 2004, though he ended up 9-13 with a 3.68 ERA and a 1.282 WHIP. Unfortunately, Clement, Zambrano, and new addition Greg Maddux couldn’t overcome all of the starts lost to injury from Wood and Prior. BUT THAT ALSO OPENED THE DOOR FOR GLENDON RUSCH.

Clement was granted free agency after the 2004 season, and the Boston Red Sox signed him to a three-year deal. In the first half of 2005, Clement made the Cubs look bad for not re-signing him. He went 10-2 with a 3.85 ERA and 1.265 WHIP, earning himself a spot on the AL All-Star team. And then, on July 26, 2005, this happened.

I remember hearing about this happening, seeing the replay, and feeling terrible for Clement. For a guy who was frequently knocked for pitching scared and always looking over his shoulder to the bullpen, this was about the worst thing that could have happened. I had a feeling Clement would never be the same, and he wasn’t.

Clement’s second half was brutal, as he went 3-4 with a 5.72 ERA and 1.514 WHIP.

The next season, Clement made only twelve starts for the Red Sox, finishing 5-5 with a 6.61 ERA and 1.760 WHIP in 65 1/3 innings. At the end of the season, he had shoulder surgery which finished his career. Though he finished up his contract with the Red Sox in 2007, he didn’t see MLB action and wasn’t part of that World Series team. He signed with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008 and the Toronto Blue Jays before the 2009 season, but was never called up. A shame, because he would have had the classiest facial hair in all of St. Louis.

Nowadays, Clement coaches basketball for his old high school and presumably makes high-quality wooden furniture. Go read that article, just so you can see how geeky Clement looks as a basketball coach.

Greatest Cub Moment: Duh. September 27, 2003. With a sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates on the penultimate day of the 2003 season, the Cubs would win their first NL Central pennant. Prior did his job in game one, striking out ten Pirates and allowing only two earned runs in a 4-2 Cub win. Clement took the mound for game two, and was even better. He went 7 2/3, allowing one earned run on seven hits as the Cubs won the nightcap 7-2, and the whole of Chicago went apocalyptic.

Worst Moment as a Human: Clement giveth, and Clement taketh away. September 20, 2004. On nearly the anniversary of Clement’s great doubleheader win came this stinker. The Cubs were hanging in the Wild Card race by the skin of their teeth. Just like the year before, Prior had won game one of the doubleheader, this time against the Marlins. Clement was awful in game two, lasting only 2 1/3 innings and allowing five earned runs on three walks and three hits. The bullpen was surprisingly brilliant, but the five runs were all the Marlins needed as they beat the Cubs 5-2.

The Best Bad Cubs Team of My Time: SP Glendon Rusch

Catch the mist.  Catch the myth.  Catch the mystery.  Catch a whiff.  Seriously.  Look at that gut.

Catch the mist. Catch the myth. Catch the mystery. Catch a whiff. Seriously. Look at that gut.

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.

Glendon Rusch may not be the worst overall player on this roster, but when he was signed by the Cubs prior to the 2004 season, he was certainly coming off the worst season of any of the guys on the roster so far. His 2003 season in Milwaukee was nothing short of atrocious, and Cubs fans had no reason to expect that Rusch wouldn’t be the main reason for the collapse of the 2004 season. Rusch, contrary to all of our expections, had the best year of his career in 2004. The fact that he was not an asshole on a team more full of them than r/gonewild made him even more likable. So he becomes the fourth member of the starting rotation on the Best Bad Cubs Team of My Time.

Glendon Rusch’s professional career began in 1993 when he was taken in the 17th round of the amateur draft by the Kansas City Royals. Rusch’s numbers were all over the place in the minors except for one. He was pretty damn good at avoiding the long ball. He also was pretty good at striking dudes out when he was younger. Combine those two things with not giving up many walks, and it’s no wonder that the Royals were pretty excited that they might have found a hidden gem in the 17th round.

Because it was the late ’90s and it was the Royals, Rusch made the 1997 rotation at the age of 22. At the Metrodome for his first MLB start on April 6, 1997, Rusch went eight strong innings, allowing only two unearned runs and allowing only four hits on his way to a Royals’ 12-2 win.

The rest of the season went less well for Rusch. He made 27 starts and finished 6-9 with a 5.50 ERA and 1.515 WHIP. But c’mon, guys, it’s the Royals. He was in the starting rotation again in 1998, when he was worse. He finished with a 6-15 record, 5.88 ERA, and 1.558 WHIP in 24 starts. Even the Royals had seen enough by 1999. Rusch spent the majority of the season between their AAA and Rookie league teams before a two-game stint in late July, and then a September call-up. Rusch appeared in only three games for the Royals and compiled a 15.75 ERA before they sent him to the New York Mets for Dan Murray in a VERY late-season trade on September 14, 1999. Rusch appeared in only one game for the Mets in a losing effort, though he worked a scoreless inning.

In the course of two years and an inning with the Mets, Rusch went 19-23 with a 4.30 ERA and 1.349 WHIP. If there’s one thing you could say about Rusch as a Met, it was that he always showed up to the park on time. And he had a great postseason for the 2000 Mets. He had a win in the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals and had a 2.25 ERA in four World Series innings against the New York Yankees. Prior to the 2002 season, the Mets were involved in a hilarious trade of turn-of-the-century players you had probably completely forgotten about. Get this:

Traded as part of a 3-team trade by the New York Mets with Lenny Harris to the Milwaukee Brewers. The New York Mets sent Benny Agbayani, Todd Zeile and cash to the Colorado Rockies. The Colorado Rockies sent Ross Gload and Craig House to the New York Mets. The Colorado Rockies sent Alex Ochoa to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Milwaukee Brewers sent Jeromy Burnitz, Lou Collier, Jeff D’Amico, Mark Sweeney and cash to the New York Mets.

Like shits passing in the night.

Rusch had more losses than anyone in the National League in 2002. Sixteen of ’em, to be exact, against ten wins. He had a 4.70 ERA and 1.438 WHIP in his 34 starts. The 2003 season was worse. Much worse. So very much worse. In nineteen starts and 123 1/3 innings pitched, Rusch finished the campaign 1-12, with a 6.42 ERA and 1.751 WHIP. So, you can imagine why Cubs fans weren’t too thrilled when the Cubs signed Rusch after he was briefly picked up and released by the Texas Rangers in the spring of 2004. The Cubs were defending the first of many NL Central pennants they’d win under Dusty Baker! They had power arms and added a wily veteran in Greg Maddux! The sky was the limit!

Rusch was destined to be the “swing man” for the 2004 Cubs. You know that guy. He’s not good enough to see batters three times a game, but his stuff isn’t good enough to see batters only one time a game. So he’s stuck in bullpen purgatory, where he was actually pretty amazing for the Cubs. When everyone was hurt all the time, Rusch went 4-2 in sixteen starts with a 3.50 ERA. And then when Joe Borowski and LaTroy Hawkins were utter crap at closing games and Dusty was too stupid to find anyone to do it (EVERY single member of that bullpen finished at least one game in 2004. Even Andy Pratt!), Rusch filled that role, collecting two saves in five games finished. Rusch was willing to go wherever the team needed him. Unfortunately, they needed him to pitch the 7th-9th EVERY game, and not even he could do that.

Rusch finished the year with a 6-2 record, a 3.47 ERA, and a 1.234 WHIP, the latter two being career highs. His ERA+ of 127 was the best of his career, and he was stingier with home runs (0.7 HR/9) than he had ever been or ever would be. Most refreshingly, though, he just shut the fuck up. When he was getting bounced back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen, he didn’t say a peep. When Steve Stone and Chip Caray were being their terrible selves, he didn’t throw a hissy-fit about it. He was a professional on a team full of children and Greg Maddux.

I wish I could tell you that Glendon fought the good fight, and the National League hitters let him be. I wish I could tell you that. But the MLB is no fairy-tale world. He never said who did it, but we all knew. The Cardinals. The Brewers. The Reds. Things went on like that for two more years. Baseball consists of routine, and then more routine. Every so often, Glendon would show up with fresh runs on his score sheet. The NL Central kept at him. Sometimes he was able to strike ’em out. Sometimes not. And that’s how it went for Glendon. That was his routine. I do believe those last two years were the worst for him, and I also believe that if things had gone on that way, Chicago would have got the best of him.

Fortunately, the Cubs released him after the 2006 season, and he signed a year later with the San Diego Padres and then the Colorado Rockies. But he was never the pitcher he was in 2004. Something inside Glendon died at the end of that 2004 season. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. When I picture Glendon heading west in his own car with the top down, it always makes me laugh.

Rusch made his last MLB appearance on May 13, 2009 in relief of Jason Marquis as the Houston Astros came into Colorado. It had gone poorly for Marquis, as he surrendered nine earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. Rusch gave up another six in 2 2/3 as the Astros pounded the Rockies 15-11.

These days, I have no idea where Glendon Rusch is. Glendon, please check in if you’re reading this. We’re all worried about you.

Greatest Cub Moment: The White Sox are stupid and everyone hates them. But a 2004 Fourth of July matchup of Mark Buehrle and Glendon Rusch at Wrigley Field did not favor the Cubs. Buehrle was predictably awesome against the Cubs, giving up a lone earned run on a solo home run by Derrek Lee in the second of his seven innings pitched. Rusch was better. He threw a five-hit shutout through eight innings with six strikeouts and no walks. The Cubs led 1-0 into the top of the ninth. LaTroy Hawkins changed that, blowing the save on a solo home run to Cub killer Carlos Lee. Fortunately, the Cubs loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth against Shingo Takatsu and eventually won on an appropriate Todd Walker walk-off walk.

Worst Moment as a Human: It was clear that Rusch’s Cub career was over on April 29, 2006. The Brewers were in Wrigley Field, and Rusch was on the mound. Not for long, unfortunately. Rusch lasted only 2 2/3 innings after allowing seven earned runs on six hits (FOUR of them home runs, including a leadoff homer by Rickie Weeks) striking out no one, and walking four. He labored through 81 pitches in getting those eight outs. The Cubs lost a laugher 16-2 as Rusch dropped to 1-4 on the season with an 8.46 ERA.

The Best Bad Cubs Team of My Time: SP Kevin Tapani

To be played by Kevin Costner in his upcoming biopic, "Tap into America".

To be played by Kevin Costner in his upcoming biopic, “Tap into America”.

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.

This pick is sure to bring glee to loyal reader Section 242, who is a bigger Kevin Tapani fan than even you are, Mrs. Tapani. Not only was Kevin Tapani not very effective in his thirteen MLB seasons, he wasn’t even particularly good as a Cub. Yet, somehow, in 1998, he just. Kept. Winning. Only 9 times in the HISTORY OF MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL has a pitcher compiled 19 or more wins in a season while also posting an ERA north of 4.50. It hasn’t happened since Tapani did it in 1998. Tapani has the third-highest ERA in the history of Major League Baseball for a pitcher who won 19+ games. The #1 guy was named Bobo Newsom, so GUESS HOW RECENTLY HE PLAYED. The #2 guy, Ray Kremer, won 20 games in 1930. Listen to this. In 276 innings pitched, Kremer struck out only FIFTY-EIGHT GUYS. That’s ONE strikeout every EIGHTEEN INNINGS. But unfortunately for Bobo, he was a Cub way before my time. And unfortunately for Kremer, he was never a Cub. So neither of them have the honor that Tapani does of making the starting rotation of the Best Bad Cubs Team of My Time.

The Cubs originally drafted Tapani out of Central Michigan University in the 9th round of the 1985 draft, but he chose not to sign. The next year, he was selected in the second round by the Oakland Athletics. I guess you could say Tapani progressed quickly, as he moved all the way from A to AAA ball in his first professional year. He started 15 games in four leagues that year, posting an 8-2 record, a 2.84 ERA, and a 1.401 WHIP. He did, however, post a 6.00 ERA in AA and a 15.43 ERA in AAA, so that should have been a bit disconcerting for the A’s. It must have been, as Tapani was back in single-A in 1987, where he went 10-7 with a 3.76 ERA and a 1.227 WHIP.

After the 1987 season, Tapani was involved in the most complicated trade I’ve ever seen. I’ll just let Baseball-Reference do the heavy lifting:

Traded as part of a 3-team trade by the Oakland Athletics with Wally Whitehurst to the New York Mets. The Los Angeles Dodgers sent Bob Welch and Matt Young to the Oakland Athletics. The Los Angeles Dodgers sent Jack Savage to the New York Mets. The Oakland Athletics sent Alfredo Griffin and Jay Howell to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The New York Mets sent Jesse Orosco to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Jesus. Way to over-GM the shit out of that trade, guys.

When the dust cleared, Tapani found himself on the New York Mets. He spent the 1988 season in their minor-league system, pitching to a 6-1 record with a 2.43 ERA and 1.057 WHIP in 81 1/3 innings. He started eight games and closed out a few. That was good enough for the Mets to give him a look on July 4, 1989. After Bob Ojeda lasted only 2/3 of an inning and surrendered eight earned runs in Houston against the Astros, Tapani came on in relief. He pitched well, allowing only one earned run on two hits in 4 1/3 innings pitched. The Mets lost 10-3, but Kevin Tapani’s butt chin was now famous!

Tapani made only three appearances for the 1989 Mets, posting a 3.68 ERA in 7 1/3 innings. The Mets decided to sell high, sending him at the trade deadline to the Minnesota Twins in another ridiculous trade. Take it, Baseball-Reference.

Traded by the New York Mets with a player to be named later, Rick Aguilera, Tim Drummond and David West to the Minnesota Twins for Frank Viola. The New York Mets sent Jack Savage (October 16, 1989) to the Minnesota Twins to complete the trade.

Kevin Tapani and Jack Savage. FOREVER LINKED.

Tapani made his name in his seven seasons with the Twins. He won 75 games in Minnesota, compiling a 4.06 ERA and 1.266 WHIP. His best season with the Twins (and in life) was 1991, when he went 16-9 with a 2.99 ERA and 1.086 WHIP. Tapani was having a rough season in 1995, however, so at the trade deadline the Twins sent him to the Los Angeles Dodgers with Mark Guthrie for Ron Coomer, Greg Hansell, Jose Parra, and Chris Latham. How about a nice one-for-one trade at some point in your career, Tap?

Though Tapani did go 4-2 in 11 starts with the Dodgers, he had a 5.05 ERA and 1.509 WHIP. After Tapani got absolutely shelled in the 1995 NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds, the Dodgers let their rental walk, and the Chicago White Sox signed Tapani as a free agent. He was positively Buehrle-esque on the South Side, going 13-10 in 225 1/3 innings and 34 starts. When the Sox let him walk after the 1996 season, the Cubs signed him to a three-year, $11M deal. He promptly ripped his hand off during Spring Training and wasn’t able to make a start for the Cubs until late July. He closed out the season well, though, going 9-3 with a 3.39 ERA in 13 starts.

In 1998, Kevin Tapani became a man. Despite a poor 4.85 ERA and 1.397 WHIP, Tapani unbelievably went 19-9 for the NL Wild Card winning Chicago Cubs. If you ever find yourself stupidly wondering if steroids work for baseball players, look at the 1998 Cubs. They won 90 games with a nincompoop for a manager and a starting pitching staff that had the following ERAs: 4.85 (Tapani), 4.84 (Mark Clark), 4.46 (Steve Trachsel), 3.40 (Kerry Wood), and 5.32 (Geremi Gonzalez). The Cubs scored six or more runs for Tapani FOURTEEN TIMES, and he managed to go 11-1 in those starts. They scored 3-5 runs another 13 times, when he went 7-3. That helps the old record. Tapani managed to pitch two complete-game shutouts, one a three-hitter over his former Dodger team, and the other a 101-pitch, three-hit gem against the Montreal Expos in Olympic Stadium.

I’d say that Tapani was never able to recapture the magic of the 1998 season, but he was actually better in 23 starts in 1999. His ERA+ improved, his WHIP went down slightly, and his strikeouts-to-walks ratio improved a little bit. But, he went 6-12. Then, he went 8-12 in 2000. Then 9-14 in 2001. In all of those seasons, he was ever-so-slightly better than during the 1998 season, but the results weren’t there, and Tapani was gone after the 2001 season. He started his last game against the Astros at Wrigley Field on September 27, 2001. Tapani gave up six earned runs in six innings in a 6-5 Cub loss, and then his chin absorbed all time and space as we know it, and he was never seen again.

Unless you play high school baseball at Providence Academy in Plymouth, Minnesota, where he’s your baseball coach.

Greatest Cub Moment: Sorry, guys, but here we go. After Jose Hernandez and Mark Clark conspired to give the Atlanta Braves an early lead that was all John Smoltz needed in Game One, the Cubs were down heading into Game Two of the 1998 NLDS. Tapani was fucking brilliant. Against a potent Braves offense in Atlanta, Tapani went nine innings, struck out six Braves, and allowed only one run on a game-tying, 9th-inning solo shot by Javy Lopez. You can fault Jim Riggleman all you want for not going to 51-game-closer Rod Beck to protect a 1-run lead in the 9th inning, but in his defense, Beck was terrifying, and Tapani had only thrown 99 pitches through eight innings. As you know, Jeff Blauser was at the plate for a rally-killing strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play in the top of the 10th inning, and Chipper Jones hit a walkoff single in the bottom. But none of that should take away from how great Tapani was in that game. He pitched like a 1990s Braves pitcher, but the run support he had banked all year finally caught up to him.

Worst Moment as a Human: Tapani had done just enough to win all year, so toward the end of the 1998 season with the NL Wild Card race on the line, it was reasonable to expect Tapani to keep the Cubs’ hopes alive. He didn’t. In his last two regular-season starts, he gave up five earned runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Reds to cap off their three-game sweep of the Cubs. Then he allowed another five earned runs to the Astros on September 25, 1998. That 6-2 loss started the losing three-game series against Houston that ultimately forced the one-game playoff with the San Francisco Giants. You REALLY didn’t want that 20th win, Tap?