Friday Five: The Underrated Cubs

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Five: The Underrated Cubs

. Friday, July 8, 2011

Not everyone can be Sandberg, Banks, or Wood. Especially on a team where titles of any sort are few and far between. The truth is, we mostly get by with a lot of fan-favorite types here at Addison and Clark. Sometimes they're good but not great. Sometimes they're likable but not good. It's what happens when you haven't won a pennant since 1945.

Presented here are the Cubs that won't be on the "vintage" t-shirts or Cooperstown jerseys at Dick's or the team store at the mall. But when I think of the years poured into just hoping we'd make .500 - and becoming ecstatic when we could - these are the guys I remember.

5. Jose Guzman

The first choice is perhaps the most obscure. Hell, the guy spent three times as long with Texas and his number now graces the hated Jeff Samardzija. He really only had one full season with us, where he went 12-10. This is a totally personal choice.

As the story goes, I came home from school one day and my mom was super excited to tell me about how the Cubs won becauase of Jose Guzman's dominating performance. Thing is, she never gave a shit about baseball before that point, and hasn't really after. I still don't know what brought it on besides the excitement of seeing a nobody from a bad Cubs team outduel a young John Smoltz and a Braves team that ended up winning 104 games that year. A gem of a performance, broken up only by Otis goddam Nixon.

Mom's excitement got me really pumped up for the season. We finished fourth, but we finished 84-78. For the Cubs of my childhood, that was pretty good. Sometimes it just takes one good game to get excited for a 4th place team.

4. Glenn Beckert

Aside from his presence on the legendary, heartbreaking 1969 Cubs, Glenn Beckert was a pretty damn good 2nd baseman. He hit an incredible .342 in 1971. He also hit on my wife before she was such, which is why he's on this list.

3. Phil Cavaretta

As a huge fan and dedicated but marginally talented player of 16" softball, I've read a fair bit about this uniquely Chicago sport. What you may not know is that lifelong Chicagoan and Lane Tech alum Phil Cavaretta was a fan of the game. In fact, he even played in the short-lived Windy City Softball League, which existed from 1932-1948.

Sure, he hit .292 and played two decades for us. That makes him admirable. But he also hacked at the high arc of a 16" pitch and toughened his hands to the finger-breaking demands of this beer-league sport. That makes him relatable.

2. Kosuke Fukudome

I'm sure I'll take crap for this in the years to come. Hell, I already do. But if we had a guy who hit .265-ish, but got on base at a .369 clip and played stellar defense, and wasn't making $12 million, we'd be thrilled. It's that paycheck Big Hendo handed out that's the problem, and that phenomenon is hardly isolated to Kosuke.

I've loved Fuk ever since he hit his first major league pitch off the ivy at Wrigley and later sent the game into extras with a 3-run homer in the 9th on a miserable, rainy Opening Day 2008. I can't help that he makes a dickload of money, but I can go apeshit every time he runs down a hard liner to the gap or guns a runner from right field.

1. Shawon Dunston

History may tell a different story, but as a kid growing up here in the late 80s and early 90s, both Andre Dawson and Shawon Dunston were legends. LEGENDS. When we got a pickup game together in my neighbor's yard, the thing to do was throw up your hand and yell what player you were - as through screaming "I'M MARK GRACE" made it so. Every time, without fail, the quickest kid took either the Hawk or Dunston - on a 50/50 basis, as I recall. So what if his bat was sometimes as unreliable as his well-known loose cannon arm? Kids are excited by big swings and big potential, not a smart take on a 2-2 count. And the Shawon-O-Meter didn't hurt, either.

He was good, not great, and if that doesn't say Chicago Cubs to you, then you haven't been paying attention long enough.