Chicago Cubs: Building my personal all-time best starting lineup

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 13: Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, left, stands with Hall of Famer Billy Williams as Banks is recognized before the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds for receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom on August 13, 2013 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 13: Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, left, stands with Hall of Famer Billy Williams as Banks is recognized before the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds for receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom on August 13, 2013 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /
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Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: How could you hand the ball to anyone else for one game?

This is going to be blasphemy to some and I’m going to be accused of recency bias, and I’m willing to take all the hits. But, for my money, for all the marbles, 2015 Jake Arrieta gets the ball over anyone not named Pedro Martinez.

The Cubs have had some of the best pitchers in the history of the game, some of whom I’ve seen throw baseballs and some I haven’t, but it just doen’t matter. The stuff, the swagger, the intensity, the attitude… and the wins. Arrieta sparked and then stoked the flames of those Cubs teams with his performance in the second half of 2015, becoming the best pitcher in baseball for the better part of two years.

His career as a whole, his longevity, and short years with the Cubs may not be quite the same as Fergie Jenkins, Mordecai Brown or even Greg Maddux, but he’s my choice. Jon Lester, Rick Sutcliffe and Kerry Wood would all be in the running if I didn’t witness firsthand what Arrieta was doing at the end of 2015. He was unhittable. His stuff was Pedro-esque. In addition, he was fearsome with the bat as well, offering pop and a threat out of the nine spot very few pitchers ever have.

That being said, the set up of this ultimate Cubs team allows me to pick another Cub. While some might go with Lee Smith, Dempster, Wood or even Carlos Marmol out of the pen, my vote is for Maddux. There was no better student of the game, and watching hitters deal with Arrieta for six or seven innings means he’d have all the adjustments figured out and know just how to attack guys whenever his name was called. He wasn’t phenomenal in the postseason, and he wasn’t a reliever, but the guy got more out of his stuff than anyone who ever threw off a rubber.