Throughout the years, Chicago Cubs fans have filled their scorecards with some of baseball’s most reliable players. Who will join the ranks of these elite players from today’s generation of Cubs?
The other day I was watching the Chicago Cubs take on the Miami Marlins and was anxiously waiting for the Cubs to make a move. The Marlins had been playing the Cubs close the whole series.
“Where are our guys?” I asked aloud to no one in particular. I was just venting my frustration as batter after batter could not get it done for the Cubs. My son who was joining me for the game thought the question was aimed at him.
“What do you mean ‘our guys’?” he asked about my loud comment.
I explained to him that when I was growing up with the Cubs, there were certain players we expected to make something happen every time they came up to bat. Give me two outs in the bottom of the ninth with Ryne ‘Ryno’ Sandberg up to bat, and we “expected” a hit or something positive to happen.
Of course, it didn’t work out that way all the time and the years and faded memories have made their heroics seem more God-like than they certainly were at the time, but those were, “our guys.” When they came up to bat, you weren’t sitting around white-knuckling hoping something would happen; you knew they were going to strike.
On the pitching side of the house, ‘our guys’ were the Cubs Aces like Greg Maddux or Kerry Wood. You could almost go through the schedule and put a “Win” next to all of their future games. Again, I’m sure the memory is making them look much better than they actually were but again, there was an expectation with certain Cubs players.
For me, one of the main go-to guys was always second baseman, Ryne Sandberg. Sandberg was exciting to watch on defense; during his tenure, he brought home nine consecutive Golden Glove awards between 1983 and 1991, but it was his batting that I remember most back in 1990 that made him one of ‘our guys.’
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In 1990, it was my privilege to watch Ryno score 40 home runs and rack up 188 hits and 100 RBI’s. Sandberg held a .306 batting average, .913 OPS and a .559 SLG rating.
I can remember them calling his name out at Wrigley Field and everyone cheering as he walked toward home plate to bat. Then we just waited for his hit. Would it be a home run, double, base hit? It didn’t matter, Ryno was going to get on base.
Today, the closest people I have found to make me feel that way again are first baseman Anthony Rizzo and utility man Ben Zobrist. I pretty much expect them to be on base one way or another every time they come to bat.
I don’t know if younger audiences feel the same assurances I felt about Sandberg and Maddux, but if they do, then they are experiencing what it felt like to root for “our guys” way back then.
On the pitching side of the house, our new Greg Maddux is pitcher Jon Lester without a doubt. I almost want to go mark the calendar full of “W’s” already when Lester is scheduled to pitch. Lester as recently demonstrated during the Milwaukee Brewers match-up, is an Ace with every pitch at his command.
Lester’s throwing hand comes from the back of his head and poses so much deception; it made the Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain almost look drunk as he fell on his rear spinning like a ballerina while swinging for the fences at a missed pitch. Lester is one of “our guys” that will surely follow Maddux and Sandberg into Cooperstown in the near future.
Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run home run against the Marlins to give the Cubs the lead and eventually the win. A few days earlier, in the route of the St. Louis Cardinals, Zobrist brought two hits, one RBI and scored two runs. If you close your eyes and listen to the crowd, you might think you are back watching Ryno again because everyone is feeling that same electricity when Rizzo and Zobrist are at bat.
Hopefully, for both Cubs, their career-long reliability will someday score some points on their Cooperstown election card and get them into the Hall of Fame; because that’s where “Our guys” belong.