As most of you know, I started my list of Top 20 Cubs last night. After seeing the Marquee Sports Network give their list, and many other social media outlets give theirs, I started my own. If you missed the first set last night, you can read that here: https://wpxnradio.com/sports/498886
Here is my list continued from last night:
15 Bill Buckner - Bill Buckner played with the Chicago Cubs from 1977 to 1983, and the second half of the 1984 season. Buckner would go on to have over 2,500 hits in his career, with power and being able to put the ball in play to score runs, he deserves to be on the list. Buckner will never be remembered for all of the accolades that he won at the plate, or how he and Dave “Kong” Kingman would hit missiles out of Wrigley, but that he let a can of corn go right between his legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series during his time with the Red Sox. “Billy Buck” only played in an All-Star game one time in his long MLB career, but he did win an NL batting title for the North Siders in 1980 (the first year he made the transition to first base) with an average of .324 during that season. Bill Buckner’s career numbers:
Bill Buckner goes down as a legend; take out the blown play that happened in the ‘86 World Series, and his career would be remembered the way that I remember it.
14 Lee Smith - Lee Smith was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame last year in 2019. Lee Smith threw hard and was very accurate. I’m not putting Smith on the list because he throws gas and is accurate, but because he is the leader for the Cubs in saves. 180 saves in an 8-year career is crazy. On average he only blew 8 to 12 saves a season, and that might still be a little high. We all have to remember that Smith was the man that put the wheels in motion for finding a new home for Bruce Sutter. Smith had a nasty slider and would follow that up with heat on the inside corner that would not be hit. In Lee Smith’s 18 year career, he finished with over 470 saves. Smith’s Numbers look like this:
Smith was a dominate closer, a guy who would come into the game and save it 9 times out of 10. That is something the Cubs were lucky to have for so many years, a dominate closer.
13 Bruce Sutter - How could Bruce Sutter not be on anybody’s list? The guy was a big burly right-hander that mastered the split-finger fastball, long before anybody knew what that was. In an interview I watched with Sutter a few years ago, he says “long fingers and being able to throw hard” was the reason for being able to zip that splitter up to the plate, just to watch the bottom drop out upon arrival. Just to flex some knowledge, the reason why you couldn’t touch the splitter as a batter? You can’t pick up the spin. It doesn’t look like a fastball but doesn’t have the same rotation as a curveball. A good split-finger guy (i.e. Bruce Sutter) can’t be touched. Sutter’s numbers in a Cubs uniform:
Sutter A HOF’er was arguably the best reliever the Cubs have ever seen, I know Lee Smith is on there but Sutter was just as if not more effective.
12 Carlos Zambrano - “Big Z” how can you not be a fan of him? He would win games, either on the mound or at the plate. He was a pitcher that rakes. Zambrano would smash balls out to the Bleacher Bums (Hard Hats Required) then come back out in the next half-inning and get strikeouts. Plus, the Big Z meltdowns were always fun; I specifically remember the Gatorade Machine that was on the receiving end of a Zambrano tirade. Back to pitching, Zambrano spent 11 years in a Cub Uniform and was dominant during most of that time. Those were some fun years of Cubs baseball, however (I talked about that in the Ramirez ranking.) Zambrano’s numbers in Chicago go like this:
Zambrano, as I talked about, was also very good at the plate. He batted .238, slugged .388, and hit 24 long balls. The Zambrano years were some of the most fun in my lifetime.
11 Mark Grace - Mark Grace was one of the best first basemen in Cubs history (top 3 and I have the other two on the list) and played on good teams with Ryan Sandburg Larry Bowa, and more. Grace played in over 2,000 games in his career, and most of those were with the Cubs. He also played upwards of 157 games a year. In 1991 Grace only missed two regular-season games. Mark Grace put athletic first basemen on the map; his defensive capabilities didn’t even come close to what he could do at the plate. Mark Grace’s career in Chicago:
Grace played a phenomenal 16-year career, with 13 being in Chicago (and played in the first night game ever at Wrigley Field). Going back to the era of Cubs baseball known as the “lovable losers,” Grace and Company tried to break that stigma.
Cubs players I have ranked 10 through 6 will be released tomorrow night; I’m going to keep this mini-series going for readers to argue or agree with me, just to keep the sports conversations going on twitter: @calefleming10