1999 Chicago Cubs Essay, Research Paper
The 1999 Chicago Cubs
The road ahead of the Cubs seems to be a long one. Starting the 1999 season with 2-4 record isn’t exactly the start that they had in mind. Coming off a play-off birth from last year, the Cubs cames into the 99 season with high expectations. Their dreams of repeating the magic of last season hit a major snag when Kerry Wood, the 1998 NL Rookie of the Year, found out that his season was over before it even started. He had torn a ligament in his throwing elbow, which required season ending surgery. Despite this draw-back the Cubs remain optimistic about their chances this season. Mark Grace sums it up by saying “We feel that we still can be back in the play-offs this year, even with the injury to Kerry.”(Vine Line) In the following paragraphs, I will break down the 1999 Chicago Cubs into three categorizes; Infielders, Outfielders, and Pitchers and Catchers.
This year’s starting infield for the Cubs will be the same infield they ended the season with last year. The starting first baseman will be Mark Grace. Mark had another “Mark Grace-like” season in 1998, batting
.309 with 39 doubles, 17 homers, and 89 RBI (Chicago Cubs Web Site). He has been the Cub’s starting first baseman throughout the whole 1990’s. Mark has been a cornerstone to the team, and has become a model of consistency at the plate and in the field. At second base, Mickey Morandini will be coming back for his second season with the Cubbies. Mickey had one of his top all-around big league seasons for the Cubs in his first campaign with the club, finishing the year with a .296 batting average, 8 homers and 53 RBI (Chicago Cubs Web Site). Jose Hernandez will be starting this season at short stop. Jose became a versatile everyday performer for the Cubs, seeing action at seven different positions during the course of the campaign and batting .254 with career highs in homers (23) and RBI (75) (Chicago Cubs Web site). The Cubs have high hopes for Jose this year, especially after he finished the spring with the third most homers. At the hot corner, third base, veteran Gary Gaetti will be starting. Gary was a key late-season addition to the Cubs’ squad, batting .320 in 37 games with 8 homers and 27 RBI … in 128 overall games for the Cubs and St. Louis, he batted .281 with 19 homers and 70 RBI (Chicago Cubs Web site). If the Cubs could get a similar year out of Gaetti, it would be a pleasant surprise. Overall, this Cub infield is a good
one. Their a little old, but a veteran team is a good team.
Next, we’ll move along to the outfielders. This year’s starting outfield will also be the same as last years. Starting out in left field will be Henry Rodriguez. Henry joined Sammy Sosa as the most prolific homer-hitting duo in Cubs history. Rodriguez finished the campaign with 31 homers and 85 RBI to go with a .251 batting average (Chicago Cubs Web site). Like many of the current Cubs, Henry is getting a little long in the tooth, but he still provides a big lefty bat. A healthy Lance Johnson will be roaming out in center this year. Lance had a strong second half for the Cubs in finishing the year with a .280 batting average and 51 runs scored (Chicago Cubs Web site). One Dog can still play mean center field, as well as get on base for the sluggers. Back-up outfielder Glennallen Hill will need to have another good year if the Cubs want to get back to the play-offs. Glennallen was a solid offensive contributor after his contract was claimed off waivers from Seattle July 6 … in a combined 122 games for the Cubs and the Mariners, he batted .310 (121-390) with 25 doubles, 20 homers and 56 RBI (Chicago Cubs Web site). Finally, returning in right field is “Slugging Sammy Sosa”. Sammy and Mark McGwire battled neck-and-neck until the campaign’s final weekend in their race to set the major
league single-season home run record. Sosa finished the year with 66 homers, 4 behind McGwire (Chicago Cubs Web site). Sosa also won the National Leagues Most Valuable Player Award, and was selected to the All-Star Game. Even though he has gotten off to an extremely slow start, you can expect Sosa to heat up with the weather. This Cub outfield is loaded with power, combining to hit more home runs than any in the majors last year. If they can stay healthy and duplicate last season’s numbers, 1999 should be an exciting year.
Last, we’ll examen a few of the pitchers and catchers on the Cub’s roster. First, will start with Kevin Tapani. Tapani is considered the ace of the Cub’s staff now that Wood is gone for the year. Kevin was the Cubs’ winningest pitcher in six seasons, finishing the campaign 19-9 with a 4.85 ERA in 35 games (34 starts). He was also the first Cub to surpass the 16 wins mark since Greg Maddux won 20 games in 1992 (Chicago Cubs Web Site). With Kerry out, the Cubs will differently need another big year out of Taps. Another pitcher crucial to the Cub’s success this season is new-comer Jon Lieber. Jon saw action in 29 games (28 starts) in his final campaign with Pittsburgh and went 8-14 with 2 complete games and a 4.11 ERA (Chicago Cubs Web Site). The Cubs are counting on Jon to be a
major contributor, seeing how they gave up a good young player in Brant Brown for him. The closer for this year’s squad is once again Rod Beck. Rod had one of the top save seasons in major league history, converting 51 saves to go along with a 3-4 record and a 3.02 ERA in a National League-high 81 games. Beck was just the fifth reliever in big league annals to reach the 50-saves mark (Chicago Cubs Web Page). Starting behind the plate this season will be another rare new-comer Benito Santiago. Benito saw action in only 15 games for Toronto after being involved in a major automobile accident January 4. He suffered assorted injuries in the accident, but was unable to play baseball due to strained ligaments in his right knee (Chicago Cubs Web Site). In the Spring, Benito returned to his old form by slugging four home runs and playing solid behind the plate. Honestly, the Cub’s pitchers and catchers are their weak link. Lack of starting pitching, a very suspect bullpen, and production at the plate by the catchers could hold them back this year.
For anyone that follows baseball it’s obvious that all these parts have to work together to have a successful team. Very seldom does a team with good hitting but poor pitching, or visa versa, when a World Series Title. If you look at all the top teams in the league, like the
Yankees, Braves, and Dodgers, they all have an assortment of good ball players. Not one of those teams is weak in one category. Does this spell doom for the Cubs? As David Falkner says in his book, “It’s close to impossible to judge a team based solely on their spring training performance.” (Falkner) Hopefully this will hold true for the Cubs, and they will go on to prove me wrong. Unfortunately though, as determined by looking at their pitchers and catchers, it’s painfully true that they have a large void. And as the old saying goes, a chains only as strong as it’s weakest link.