Manager: Charlie Grimm
Home: Wrigley Field
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!