No matter how old you are or how what your level of attachment to the Chicago Cubs is, odds are you are familiar with the phrase “Tinker to Evers to Chance.” The catchy phrase that easily rolls off the tongue is the famous line from the poem “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon” originally printed in 1910.
"These are the saddest of possible words:“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,Tinker and Evers and Chance.Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,Making a Giant hit into a double—Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”"
The infield double play trio were a cornerstone of a golden era in Cubs history. The back to back World Series titles in 1907 and 1908 are well known, in part due to the drought since, but this trio was also a part of the 1906 and 1910 NL pennant winning clubs. That is exactly the type of stretch that the current Cubs front office is looking to establish for the organization.
Shortstop Joe Tinker and second baseman Johnny Evers both debuted with the Cubs in 1902 at the age of 21. The middle infield duo stuck together for 10 seasons, with the previously mentioned winning seasons coming during the prime of their careers. The pair were led by veteran first baseman slash manager Frank Chance, who has the stretch from 1906 to 1910 to thank for having the honor of being the most successful manager in Cubs history.
Sep. 28, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) reacts on the field shortstop Starlin Castro (13) during the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. The Diamondbacks defeated the Cubs 8-3. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
While the 2.0 version did not own the late ’80s and early ’90s in terms of playoff appearances and championships like the original infield did, Dunston to Sandberg to Grace represented the modern day version of sweet poetry. Ryne Sandberg had the role of Chance from the second base position and was the veteran of the bunch, having broken onto the Major League scene with a MVP 1984 performance that saw the Cubs agonizingly close to the elusive World Series appearance. Sandberg went on to be a Hall of Famer like Chance, as one of the best second basemen to have ever played the game.
Shawon Dunston came onto the scene next, a highly touted shortstop that the Cubs took with the first pick in the 1982 draft. The rocket armed infielder went on to be a part of the 2.0 version of Tinker to Evers to Chance that helped lead the Cubs to the NLCS in 1989 before falling to the mighty San Francisco Giants. Dunston’s time as a North Sider was highlighted with a pair of All Star appearances in 1988 and 1990, the latter which of course was hosted at the Friendly Confines.
Mark Grace was the final piece of 2.0 that arrived in 1988, just falling short of Rookie of the Year honors. Gracie followed that up with a 13 home run, 79 RBI sophomore season during that ’89 playoff run. The smooth swinging lefty went on to have a great career on the North Side, building a reputation of having a solid glove with consistent gap power that translated to double digit homers eight times in his career.
This trio of long time Cubbies were part of an overflow of talent during the 1980s thanks to Dallas Green, before the team around them was dismantled by Jim Frey.
The current Cubs front office duo of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will not be looking to make the same mistake. They have capped off the 3.0 version of Tinker to Evers to Chance, with the final piece to the 21st century version of the poem coming in the form of Anthony Rizzo. The Starlin and Darwin combo of Castro to Barney to Rizzo are credited to the prior regime under Jim Hendry, but it is the addition of the lefty slugger of Italian descent that completes the trifecta that is showing the promise to match the original 1.0 edition.
Like Tinker and Evers, Castro and Barney came onto the Major League scene in the same season, 2010. The Cubs are taking the baseball adage of building up the middle to heart, and this second sack combo are proving to be a part of that core. Castro possesses all of the tools that Dunston had, except the young Dominican is already showing that he will hit for a higher average. Barney may never develop the power stroke that Sandberg harnessed in the Hall of Famer’s prime, but number 15 is doing a solid job so far mirroring the ability to hit for contact and the Gold Glove defensive work of Ryno, who by the way managed and mentored the three year Major Leaguer in the Cubs minor league system.
Rizzo brings his own set of tools, being able to hit for average while already featuring a power left handed stroke that figures to put a few dents in the recently added LED board in the right field bleachers for years to come. The former Padre currently lacks the veteran savvy of Chance and is a trade off of power for glove when compared to Grace (with neither being a slouch in their weaker skills), but Rizzo is the left handed production and protection in the middle of the line up that the Cubs have sorely lacked in their overall history.
Again, the key take away is that the current Cubs front office will be content with the growing pains of this trio. This trifecta of promising youth is the foundation, along with pitching, that will get the North Siders to match the glory of the 1907 and 1908 teams. And decades from now people will look back onto #CastrotoEverstoChance as fondly as the poetic Tinker to Evers to Chance.