Sunday, November 10, 2019

All-Time Teams: Cubs

By popular demand, the All-Time Teams series continues with the Chicago Cubs:

Manager: Charlie Grimm
Home: Wrigley Field

Leading off for the Cubs.. the First Baseman.. Cap Anson

A 19th-century superstar for the Chicago White Stockings (not the White Sox) Cap Anson remains the franchise leader in WAR, hits, runs, runs batted in, and doubles. He has the second-highest on-base % of anyone on this roster and stole at least 247 bases for the North siders. Anson accumulated 3,435 hits over a 27 year-career, good for 7th on the all-time list. As a 44 year-old in 1896, he batted .331 - matching his Chicago career average. Cap Anson is the winningest manager in franchise history, but these All-Time Teams have separate, non-playing skippers. 

Batting second for Chicago.. the Designated Hitter.. Mark Grace

Mark Grace had more base hits (and more doubles) than any player in the 1990s. He never won a batting title or finished top-ten in MVP voting, but his career line of .303/.383/.442 would have stood out in almost any other era. I've been using the DH spot as a "best of the rest" on most rosters, and in this case it feels wasteful to have a four time Gold Glove first baseman not playing first base. Both Grace and Stan Hack had roughly 2,200 hits for the Cubs and walked far more than they struck out, but Hack lacked power.

Batting third.. the Left Fielder.. Billy Williams

Billy Williams was a consistent presence in the Cubs lineup for over 14 years. A six-time all-star, Billy bats third in this lineup in no small part because he walked almost exactly as often as he struck out. The 1961 NL Rookie of the Year hit 20+ home runs in 13 consecutive seasons and sits third on the Cubs' all-time list in both round-trippers and games played. Unlike Ernie Banks, Williams did play in the postseason - for the 1975 Oakland Athletics.


Batting fourth.. the Right Fielder.. Sammy Sosa

Before he was a caricature, Sammy Sosa was the fun-loving slugger at the center of baseball's renaissance. The 1998 NL MVP, "Slammin' Sammy" was a seven-time all-star and six-time Silver Slugger winner. He also stole 30+ bases three times before morphing into one of the game's greatest power hitters. Sosa sits atop the Cubs' career home run list and his 609 blasts lands him at 9th all-time. There have been eight individual seasons of 60+ home runs and Sammy Sosa has three of them.


Batting fifth.. the Shortstop.. Ernie Banks

Ernie Banks played more games at first base than shortstop, but I can't imagine anyone would prefer Joe Tinker or Don Kessinger in this spot. "Mr. Cub" won back-to-back MVP awards in 1958 and 1959, back when team success was often a deciding factor. Banks was a 14-time all-star and played more games for the Cubs than anyone in team history. A member of the 500 home run club, Ernie hit 40+ home runs in five seasons, twice leading the league. The first-ballot Hall of Famer remains one of the more popular players in baseball history.

Batting sixth.. the Center Fielder.. Hack Wilson

In just six seasons with the Cubs, Hack Wilson smacked 190 home runs, slugged .590, and collected 769 runs batted in - including a major-league record 191 in 1930. He led the National League in homers four times - with totals of 21, 30, 31, and 56. Wilson is essentially the Cubs' franchise leader in on-base % and leads the franchise in slugging and OPS. I considered starting Kiki Cuyler in center field, but Wilson's power won out over Cuyler's speed.

Batting seventh.. the Catcher.. Gabby Hartnett

Gabby Hartnett played on four pennant winners and excelled defensively; his Hall of Fame plaque makes almost no mention of his hitting prowess. The 1935 NL MVP nearly won the award a second time in 1937, when he batted a career-best .354 at age 36. Hartnett ranks in the Cubs' all-time top ten in games played, home runs, and total bases. His 60.1 career WAR is sixth in Cubs history and sixth all-time among catchers - higher than Yogi Berra and Mike Piazza.


Batting eighth.. the Third Baseman.. Ron Santo

Another popular Cubs great, Ron Santo's induction into Cooperstown was posthumous and long overdue. The nine-time all-star won five Gold Gloves at the hot corner and ranks ninth all-time among third basemen with a career WAR of 70.5. Santo led the league in on-base % twice and walks four times, contributing to a career slash line of .277/.362/.464. Ron rarely missed a game despite dealing with diabetes throughout his career.  Only three players in Cubs history - and ten third-sackers in baseball history - have more home runs than Santo.  

Batting ninth.. the Second Baseman.. Ryne Sandberg

For a team that famously went 108 years without a championship, the Cubs have had so much talent all around the diamond that Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg has to bat ninth in this lineup. One of the greatest all-around second basemen of the modern era, "Ryno" was named to ten all-star teams, won nine Gold Gloves and is one of ten Cubs to earn NL MVP honors. Sandberg sits third on the team's all-time list with 68.1 WAR - ahead of Ernie Banks and Billy Williams.  

The Starting Pitcher for the Cubs.. Mordecai Brown

This might be a bit of a surprise (it was to me.) Mordecai Brown was an ace starter and reliever for the Cubs in the early 20th century. Brown's microscopic 1.04 ERA in 1906 translates to a 251 ERA+ and his career mark of 153 is tops in team history. He led the league in WHIP three times, complete games twice, shutouts twice, and saves four times. His K:BB ratio was among the best of his era. He pitched in nine World Series games, winning two titles in 1907 and 1908. And he did it all with only three fingers.

Now let's take a look at the Cubs' bench and bullpen:

Catcher: King Kelly
Infield: Billy Herman
Infield: Stan Hack
Outfield: Kiki Cuyler
Outfield: Jimmy Ryan

It was so tough to pick through all of the Hall of Fame and borderline HOF infielders in Cubs history. With three first basemen already on the roster (including Banks) there was no room for Frank Chance. Kelly was the only other choice at catcher - though he played more games in the outfield. There aren't many post-war outfield candidates so I chose Cuyler and Ryan, a 19th-century star.

#2 starter: Greg Maddux
#3 starter: Fergie Jenkins
#4 starter: John Clarkson

#5 starter: Hippo Vaughn

As I explained in my Atlanta post, Maddux ended up here because the Braves' pitching was deeper. Jenkins' numbers as a Cub were slightly better than Maddux - but I couldn't bring myself to switch them. Vaughn's 125 ERA+ as a Cub earned him the fifth starter spot over WAR monster Rick Reuschel.


RH reliever: Charlie Root
RH reliever: Don Elston
RH reliever: Hector Rondon
RH reliever: Carlos Marmol
RH reliever: Lee Smith
RH reliever: Bruce Sutter

Root pitched more innings and won more games than anyone in Cubs history. He also finished 171 games, so I squeezed him in as a swing man. Smith and Sutter might be the only Hall of Fame tandem in any All-Time Team's bullpen. Once again, no southpaws were worth considering.

Stay tuned for our next All-Time Team, the Chicago White Sox.

Thanks for reading!



  1. Nice stuff again! I don't think I'd really argue with you on your choices. The card selection is terrific too.

    1. Thanks Dennis! I use cards from my collection whenever possible..but I only have the one Santo, no Williams, and a couple others were borrowed from TCDB. I purchased the Brown on COMC just for this project.

  2. It's crazy that the lone representative of the team's only World Series title is Hector Rendon. This organization was cursed.

    1. They sure were. I'm too young to remember 1984, but that 2003 LCS was unreal.

  3. I don't think Anson would be too happy to be on a team with Williams, Banks, Jenkins, Lee Smith, etc. I mean, screw him, but he wouldn't be happy.

    It is indeed kind of crazy that there's so little representation from the recent team. I might have picked Kris Bryant over Cuyler.

    1. Yeah, Cap Anson was not a very nice person. He's the only one I would have personally left off your selected roster. His numbers say he belongs for sure, but I'm very anti-Anson because of his blatant bigotry.
      Jimmy Ryan? How did I not know about this guy? I need to get more into late 1800's baseball. This guy even pitched a little bit, too! I've been wanting to get a 1800s A&G card to add to my collection. I wonder if Jimmy Ryan has one out there.
      I'm curious how things will look fifteen years down the road and if any more of the 2016 Cubs will deserve a spot on your roster. I'd like to think some of the talent (Bryant/Baez/Rizzo) could bounce a couple of players if they accumulate enough WAR.
      FYI, I'm very happy you re-booted this series. Can't wait to see what you do with Shoeless Joe. Is he eligible for your team even though he was banned from baseball?

    2. Holy cow. Jimmy Ryan has an 1888 A&G card... The cheapest on Ebay is $1200 though! I may just snag one of the reprints for a thousandth of the price. LOL

    3. Hah, I'm happy I could steer you in the direction of an old Cub. He was in 1887 Old Judge, too. This is such a fun project to research; I've learned a lot about so many players. Didn't know about Anson's racism - though I assumed there were at least a few players like him back in the 1880s until about 1950. I completely understand your opposition to him, and his place on this All-Time Team. That said, every player is eligible for these rosters. I'll reserve judgment on their character for the HOF discussions!

    4. If I recall, it was basically because of Anson the Color barrier was instituted. They were scheduled to play a game but he refused to take part because the catcher was black.

  4. What, no Schwarber? Like Tom, I hope that some current players can eventually earn spots here. Bryant seems most likely just because of the depth at 1st and the middle infield could make harder for Rizzo and Baez. Plus Bryant could play outfield to shore up a weaker unit. I'm assuming that Andre Dawson's absence means we'll see him with the Expos?

    1. I actually tried to squeeze Rizzo into a DH spot, but I couldn't do it. Bryant is one of my favorite players but I don't think he's there yet. And you are correct about Dawson; if he had just a couple more Cubs seasons he'd be here for sure.

    2. Mentioning the Expos makes me dread the thought of a Nats/Expos combo post...

  5. Awesome stuff. I never would have guess that Grace had the most hits and doubles in the 90's. That's some sweet trivia.