“No!” he replied. “In fact, I just fired up Windows XP and checked the internet, and found two tickets right behind the Cardinals’ dugout. Let’s hop on our Segways and get down there!” I quickly ushered the rest of America’s youth out of my classroom, and we headed down to watch the shockingly competitive Cubs take on the Cardinals. Much to our surprise, we were seated right next to the blue-hair lady they always show during the Seventh-Inning Stretch, just yards from the Cardinals dugout. Much to my later, drunken surprise, the blue-hair lady has BUSINESS CARDS about being that lady. Or at least she did in 2001. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH CUBS FANS? But I digress.
Fernando Vina led off that night and played second base for the Cardinals. I hated Fernando Vina. I hated his face. I hated his annoying at-bats. I hated his uniform. So, I took advantage of the fact that we were mere yards from Vina every time he had to enter and exit the dugout, and every time he was in the on-deck circle. I heckled him. All night. Terribly. My 23-year-old brain chose to fixate generally on the fact that Vina’s beard made him appear to be the Devil. Or perhaps Mr. Applegate from a St. Louis production of Damn Yankees. Regardless, I clearly got to Vina. After he led off the game with a double, he couldn’t do a thing. In his next three at-bats, he struck out twice and grounded out, and my casual heckling turned relentless. It also helped that the Cubs pounded the Cardinals 12-6. Finally, prior to his final at-bat, Vina actually acknowledged me. He stared up at me and-
And I couldn’t think of a single thing to say. I’m pretty sure Vina actually IS the Devil, and his gaze stole the words from my mouth. And THAT’S why Fernando Vina is #15 on the list of the Top 79 Cub Killers of My Time.
Fernando Vina’s professional baseball career began more than twenty years ago. After the Yankees drafted Vina and failed to sign him in 1988, the New York Mets took him in the 9th round of the 1990 draft. Vina didn’t hit well at all in the minors, but that didn’t stop the Seattle Mariners from selecting Vina in the 1992 Rule 5 draft.
Vina made his MLB debut on April 10, 1993. Rick Sutcliffe pitched for the visiting Baltimore Orioles against Lou Piniella’s Mariners. Vina pinch-ran in the 9th inning for Dave Valle and did…nothing. Vina played only 24 games in 1993 with the Mariners and put up a whopping .594 OPS before being returned to the Mets for failure to be good enough to play for Lou Piniella.
In 1994, Vina recovered slightly from his terrible debut. He put up a .372 OBP and got drilled with a league-leading TWELVE pitches. In fact, Vina walked more times (12) than he struck out (11). However, Vina’s power was still completely anemic. He slugged only .298, and only 6 of his 31 hits were extra-base hits (all doubles).
Vina’s debut against the Cubs came during the 1994 season. On April 4, 1994, Vina was a 9th-inning defensive replacement for Jeff Kent in a 12-8 Mets Opening Day win. Holy shit, Mike Morgan was the Opening Day starter for the Cubs in 1994. Vina didn’t get an at-bat, which was like the Cubs getting a reprieve from the governor.
Vina’s first substantial action against the Cubs came on April 11, 1994, and it was a hell of a Cub-killing debut. Vina batted second and played third base. Vina struck out swinging in his first at-bat, but then popped off. He went three for his next three against the golden arms of Willie Banks, Jose Bautista, Dan Plesac, and Randy Myers. HOW DID WE WATCH THE 1994 CUBS? The Cubs won 9-5, but Vina’s Cub-killery was off to a great start.
After the 1994 season, Vina was the PTBNL in a Brewers-Mets trade, and ended up going to Milwaukee for Doug Henry. It surprised me to learn that Vina was actually a Brewer for longer than he was a Cardinal. Vina spent five years in Milwaukee, putting up a .286/.349/.389 slash line, and walking 140 times against only 138 strikeouts. He was anti-Cub in EVERY WAY. Vina also made an All-Star Game in 1998, which ended up being the best year of his career.
After the 1999 season, the Brewers traded Vina to the Cardinals for Juan Acevedo, Eliezer Alfonzo, and Matt Parker. Perhaps the devilish Vina was always meant to wear red, because this is the Vina that burns so brightly in my memory. Vina spent his next four years tormenting the Cubs from terrible, terrible St. Louis and compiling a .285/.349/.384 slash line. He still had a great command of the strike zone, walking 123 times and whiffing 131. He also got hit by SEVENTY-NINE pitches in four years, including a league-leading TWENTY-EIGHT times in 2000. I presume that prior to every one of those pitches, the guy on the mound uttered under his breath, “The power of Christ compels you.”
At the close of the 2003 season, the Cardinals granted Vina his free agency, and he later signed with the Detroit Tigers. Vina spent one final, embarrassing season in Detroit, putting up a career-low .577 OPS in 131 plate appearances. Shockingly, Vina had used HGH under Tony LaRussa in St. Louis to recover from injuries, and presumably didn’t have the same access to drugs in Detroit. The little shit STILL managed to walk nine times against nine strikeouts, but at least his career was finally over.
Throughout the course of his 12 seasons in the Major Leagues, Vina batted .282 with a .348 OBP and .379 SLG. Bad, right? You’d never know if you were a Cubs fan. In 304 career plate appearances against the Cubs, Vina put up a ludicrous .342/.413/.457 slash line. He drew 21 walks against only 19 strikeouts. He drove in 32 of his career 343 RBIs, and he managed 17 doubles, 4 triples, and 2 home runs against the Cubs.
Vina’s career rankings against the Cubs as opposed to the rest of the league in the following offensive categories are in parentheses below:
BA: .342 (2)
OBP: .413 (2)
SLG: .457 (2)
OPS: .870 (2)
Total Bases: 123 (2)
HBP: 12 (2)
Runs: 48 (1)
Hits: 92 (2)
2B: 17 (2)
3B: 4 (t1)
RBI: 32 (1)
BB: 21 (1)
Vina’s 13 RBIs, 23 runs, 48 hits, 10 doubles, and 63 total bases at Wrigley Field are higher than they are at any park he didn’t call home. INCLUDING THE UNDERWORLD, YOU SON OF A BITCH!
Why You Should Hate Him: May 16, 2003. Matt Clement and the Cubs were in St. Louis taking on Woody Williams and the Cardinals. Vina led off and played second base and, as far as I can tell, was involved in every single Cardinals scoring play that day save one. Also, he basically answered EVERY SINGLE Cubs’ score. After the Cubs took a 1-0 lead, Vina led off the bottom of the first by getting drilled with a 1-2 Matt Clement pitch, advancing to third on a J.D. Drew base hit, and then scoring on an Albert Pujols single to tie the game 1-1. The Cardinals and Cubs traded runs to make the game 2-2, but in the bottom of the second, Vina hit a two-out single up the middle to drive in Mike Matheny and give the Cardinals a 3-2 lead. The Cubs tied the game again on a Troy O’Leary RBI double in the top of the fifth. But Vina led off the bottom of the fifth with a double, then scored yet ANOTHER go-ahead run when he was along for the ride on a J.D. Drew two-run home run. Corey Patterson drove in Moises Alou in the top of the sixth to cut the Cardinal lead to 5-4, and unfortunately Vina came up in the bottom of the sixth with runners on second and third. He lined a base hit to center field to score both runners and put the Cardinals up 7-4, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Vina finished the day 3-3 with a HBP, 2 runs scored, 3 RBIs, and 4 babies’ souls that he DRANK.
Did You Know? Vina is a music STAR (the SUPER-AWKWARD dancing begins around the 2:00 min mark)!