Chicago Cubs: For Beck, it all boiled down to one unbelievable summer
Yeah, I know. I didn’t include Chapman on this list due to the lack of longevity with the North Siders, but how can you talk about the best Cubs closers from the last 25 years and not include Rod Beck? That’s a sin in and of itself.
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‘Shooter’ signed with Chicago in January 1998 – a season that, for countless reasons, continues to live on in the hearts and minds of Cubs fans across the world. At that point, the right-hander was already a three-time All-Star, leading the National League in appearances on three separate occasions. He was a proven presence at the back of Jim Riggleman‘s bullpen – just what the team needed.
That year, Beck racked up the saves, earning one in 56.67% of the team’s wins, culminating in 51 total – the second-most ever in franchise history, trailing only Randy Myers, who slammed the door 53 times during the 1993 campaign.
In 1998, Beck led all of baseball with 81 appearances, working to a 3.02 ERA and a 4.05 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He didn’t dominate the way closers of today do – opponents hit .269 against him – a staggering mark by today’s standards. Instead, he limited the free passes and ground his way through outings
Down the stretch that year, as Sammy Sosa chased history, Beck cranked it up a notch, making 38 appearances and finishing 36 games while working to a 1.93 ERA. Without ‘Shooter’ locking down the ninth, there’s no telling if we remember that ’98 campaign in the same light. Thankfully, he was there, mustache and all, to close out contests all season long.