Chicago Cubs: D-Lee was a de-light in a Cubs uni
If you could bottle up a good player who went on an incredible run for a season or two, but was not quite the same player before or after, several really talented Cubs would come to mind.
Jake Arrieta was the undisputed best pitcher in baseball at the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016; you would have handed him the ball in pretty much any game against any lineup. Granted, it didn’t work out so swell in the 2015 NLCS against the Mets, but that was hardly his fault as Daniel Murphy somehow exhumed Babe Ruth and made him take his shape. Arrieta had flashes and periods of very good pitching sprinkled in with bad and mediocre swaths, but he was never again the guy we saw throwing no-hitters and manhandling the Pirates in the 2015 Wild Card game.
Derrek Lee was another of these good but not quite Hall of Fame career players who just absolutely morphed into an all world player in 2005 with the Cubs. Lee had good seasons in 2003 and 2004, but he was literally seeing beach balls at the plate in ’05. He had always been a nice all-around player who was a great fielder at first base and more of a doubles kind of gap hitter at the plate. He had a good eye, was a really great athlete and baserunner for his size, and actually reminds me of healthy Kris Bryant.
Lee also seemed like a good guy and good teammate, often smiling and looking happy to play the game. I remember going to old Yankee Stadium during that 2005 season just to see him play, and even the Yankees fans were begrudgingly talking about how awesome he was hitting in between pouring beers on and singing a parody of Y.M.C.A. about Cubs fans in the right field bleachers. I was thankful to be there and get to watch D-Lee (he was hitting .389 at the end of the series), even if the Cubs themselves weren’t all that great.