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Tag: Dennis Eckersley

The Top 79 Cub Killers of My Time #13: Tim “I Am the” Wallach

Hello, ball? This is Tim.

Tim Wallach was many things. A five-time All-Star. A two-time NL doubles leader. A two-time Silver Slugger. A three-time Gold Glove winner. What he wasn’t was good. His OPSes in the five seasons he went to an All-Star Game were: .706, .759, .858, .760, and .810. He won one of his Silver Sluggers while hitting only .260 (he hit .298 for the other one). He is a career .257/.316/.416 hitter who averaged 19 home runs and 82 RBIs in a 17-season MLB career with the Expos, Dodgers, and Angels. He is also the 13th-biggest Cub Killer of My Time.

Tim Wallach was a California guy, through and through. He was born in Huntington Beach, went to California State in Fullerton, and was even selected in the 8th round of the 1978 draft by the California Angels. Wallach chose, however, to return to college and increase his stock, and it paid off. In 1979, Wallach was a first-round pick (10th overall) of the Montreal Expos. Have fun in the frozen tundra of Canada, SURFER BOY.

Wallach was assigned to the AA Memphis Chicks (HA HA!) and batted .327/.417/.630 with 18 home runs and 51 RBIs in only 257 at-bats. In 1980, he was promoted to the AAA Denver Bears. He destroyed AAA pitching to the tune of a .281/.343/.576 slash line, 36 home runs, and 124 RBIs in 575 plate appearances.

The Expos called up the 22-year-old when the rosters expanded at the end of the 1980 season. Wallach made his Major League debut on September 6, 1980, against the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park. With the Expos already blowing out the Giants 8-0 in the fourth inning, manager Dick Williams inserted Wallach to replace Ron LeFlore in left field.

Right around THIS TIME PERIOD, now that I think of it.

In his first MLB plate appearance, Wallach drew a walk. In his first MLB at-bat, however, Wallach launched a solo home run to give the Expos a 9-0 lead that they would hold.

Wallach was on the Expos’ Opening-Day roster at the start of the 1981 season, and his first appearance against the Cubs came on May 22 of that year. Wallach started at third base and batted seventh in front of everyone’s favorite base coach, Chris Speier. In Wallach’s very first at-bat against the Cubs, he lined a base hit off of Cubs starter Mike Krukow to load the bases in the second inning of a scoreless game. Wallach was then along for the ride when Speier doubled to clear the bases and give the Expos a 3-0 lead. In the fifth inning, Wallach singled with a runner on second to collect his first of many RBIs against the Cubs and to give the Expos a 6-0 lead. The Expos beat the Cubs 6-3, and Wallach finished the game 2-5 with a run, an RBI, and a unquenchable thirst for more Cub pitching.

Wallach spent thirteen seasons in Montreal, hitting 204 home runs and driving in 905 RBIs. In the 1991 and 1992 seasons, however, Wallach hit only .224/.294/.333 and averaged 11 home runs and 66 RBIs over those two seasons. After the 1992 season, the Expos traded Wallach to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Tim Barker.

After another disappointing 1993 season, Wallach bounced back in 1994 to hit .280/.356/.502 while driving in 23 home runs and 78 RBIs. After the 1995 season, Wallach was granted his free agency and subsequently signed with the California Angels. Just before the trade deadline in 1996, the Angels granted Wallach free agency. He was picked back up by the Dodgers, and finished out the 1996 season with the Dodgers before riding off into the baseball sunset.

Throughout the course of his career against the Cubs, Wallach batted .275/.342/.461. Wallach has scored more runs against the Cubs (93) than he did against any other team but the St. Louis Cardinals (102), and he did it in about 70 fewer plate appearances. Wallach’s 213 hits against the Cubs are second only to those he has against the New York Mets (229) and Philadelphia Phillies (222). Wallach has more home runs (31) against the Cubs than he does against any other team. Against teams he faced at least a dozen times, his .275 batting average is fourth-best, and both his .461 SLG and his .342 OBP are second-best. Wallach’s 357 total bases against the Cubs are the most he has against anyone else in the league. In fact, the only thing the Cubs could do right against Wallach was throw him out. Wallach stole only three bases against the Cubs and was caught stealing an astonishing thirteen times. That’s good managing.

At Wrigley Field, Wallach was even better. Twenty-one of Wallach’s 31 anti-Cub home runs were hit at Wrigley, more than at any visiting ballpark during his career. Wallach slugged .491 at Wrigley, collecting more total bases (208) at Wrigley than he did at any other opponent’s ballpark. WHY DID EXPOS PLAYERS HATE THE CUBS SO VERY MUCH?

Why You Should Hate Him: April 15, 1986. Dennis Eckersley and the Cubs rolled in to Olympic Stadium to face Jay Tibbs and the Expos. Eckersley was cruising along, and had a 3-0 lead going into the bottom of the 7th inning. Wallach already had a single on the day, but had a chance to face Eckersley with runners at the corners and one out. Wallach hit a three-run homer to left-center field to tie the game. The game remained tied into the bottom of the 11th, when Lee Smith put Dan Schatzeder on second base with a walk and a passed ball. And, hey, if the 1984 season was still sticking in your craw, Leon Durham made a crucial error to put runners on first and third with no one out. Smith was forced to intentionally walk Wallach to set up forces anywhere. Smith WASN’T forced to walk Mitch Webster, though. But he did. The walk-off walk sent the Montreal crowd home happy with a 4-3 win.

Did You Know? Wallach’s role as a Cub annoyance continues even beyond his playing career. Wallach was the 2009 Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year while coaching the Albuquerque Isotopes, right between former Iowa Cub managers Pat Listach and Ryne Sandberg.

The Top 79 Cub Killers of My Time #30: “I Totally Forgot” John Smoltz “Was a Cardinal”

You can either go bald gracefully...

As good as John Smoltz was throughout the course of his 21-season MLB career, he’ll always be remembered for being even better in the playoffs. Specifically, for Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, during which only a superhuman effort from Jack Morris led to a Minnesota Twins victory over Smoltz’s Atlanta Braves. The game is regarded as one of the greatest pitching duels in World Series history, and certainly Smoltz would have collected a victory if only he’d been playing against the Chicago Cubs. That’s a ridiculous scenario, however, since (1) two National League teams could never meet in the World Series, and (2) no team will EVER meet the Cubs in the World Series. Smoltz’s dominance against the Cubs throughout the course of his career earned him the 30th spot on the Top 79 Cub Killers of My Time.

Smoltz was originally drafted in the 22nd round of the 1985 draft by the Detroit Tigers and was the return the Braves got when they sent pitcher Doyle Alexander to the Tigers on August 12, 1987. Alexander helped the Tigers to a division crown in 1987, but he was out of baseball two years later. Smoltz went on to become one of the most successful starters-converted-to-closers since Dennis Eckersley. He pitched for two decades in Atlanta, winning 210 games, saving 154 more, making 8 All-Star games, winning a Cy Young award, and even getting himself a Silver Slugger. This is why you never, EVER trade pitchers with the Braves.

Though Smoltz was an amazing pitcher in Atlanta, he was always overshadowed by the arms of Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. Unless, of course, he was pitching against the Cubs. If Bobby Cox wasn’t setting his rotation to get Smoltz as many starts as possible against the Northsiders, then Bobby Cox isn’t as brilliant a manager as everyone says he is.

Against the Cubs, Smoltz was nigh-unbeatable. Smoltz made 30 starts and pitched basically a season’s worth of innings (208 2/3) against the Cubs. In that stretch, he compiled a 15-5 record, struck out 175 Cub hitters, and walked only 64. Smoltz’s .750 winning percentage against the Cubs was better than it was against any other opponent with a minimum of 5 starts. Yeah, yeah. Wins is a terrible way to judge pitchers. Tell that to the Cubs who were facing Smoltz. The 4 shutouts Smoltz threw against the Cubs were more than he had against any other opponent. His best year against the Cubs was 1992, when he faced them 4 times and went 3-1 with a microscopic 0.90 ERA. He also struck out 29 Cubs in 30 innings while allowing only 20 hits. Statistically, the Cubs had less of a chance of beating Smoltz than an iron did. More on that later.

Smoltz pitched for 20 years in Atlanta before retiring after a 2009 season spent with the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals. For a pitcher to (1) pitch for 20 years, (2) pitch for 20 years with the same team, and (3) pitch WELL for 20 years with the same team is probably the reason lazy broadcasters have given him the honorary title of “gunslinger.” Also, because gunslingers wear hats, and John Smoltz should never, ever NOT wear a hat.

Why You Should Hate Him: You could take your pick of one of his four shutouts. Personally, I like the first link where he struck out 13 Cubs. Or maybe you’re partial to the second one, when he beat Greg Maddux. But the postseason is where Smoltz REALLY killed the Cubs. The Cubs were riding the high of barely squeaking into the 1998 NLDS against the Braves. Unfortunately, Jim Riggleman had no choice but to start Mark Clark in Game One. Bobby Cox, on the other hand, didn’t bother setting his rotation to face the Cubs, since the 17-3 Smoltz was his “third” option for Game One. Smoltz pitched 7 2/3 innings of 1-run baseball, allowing only an eighth-inning solo home run by Tyler Houston and striking out 6 Cubs. Clark was surprisingly good, but the 2 earned runs he surrendered were two too many. The Braves beat the Cubs 7-1 on their way to a 3-game NLDS sweep.

By the way, even though Smoltz had a 6.00 ERA in the 2003 NLDS rematch, he still went 1-0 with a save. So, why you should hate Smoltz is THE POSTSEASON. The postseason is the answer.

Speaking of the postseason, remember when it used to start at the end of September? No? Me neither.

Did You Know? Smoltz has long been connected to an incident in which he burned himself while trying to iron a shirt that he was wearing. Well, the whole story is nonsense. At least according to Smoltz. Because, really, who the hell would cop to that story if it WAS true?