Derrek Lee – one of the most underappreciated Cubs ever?

(Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
(Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Organizations as old and storied as the Chicago Cubs have been graced with many talented players who have donned their uniform over the years. The greats are deservingly remembered, and one Cub that I believe warrants a greater level of appreciation is Derrek Lee.

During his career in Chicago, Lee produced an OPS+ of 129, just two points below that of Anthony Rizzo and ten points higher than that of Cubs legend Mark Grace. Lee made multiple postseason appearances with the team, and also endured his share of losing – showing his dedication to the organization.

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Lee played nearly 150 games in all but two of his seasons in Chicago, making him a middle-of-the-order presence that both the team and fans could count on.  In his two postseason appearances with the Cubs he produced, as well, hitting .333 in 2007 and .545 in 2008 with the Cubs failing to advance in either series.

Similar to Grace, the two-time All-Star didn’t play for the Cubs when they were perennial October mainstays like Rizzo or the legendary Frank Chance. The result? A continual underappreciation of what Lee brought to the table.

In terms of defense, Lee posts a career fielding percentage of .994 which is just under the percentages of Rizzo and Grace who both have a career fielding percentage of .995. That mark checks in well above that of the legend Chance, whose career fielding percentage was .987.

No matter which facet of his game you choose to examine, Derek Lee was an elite player for  Chicago and one who deserves to be remembered by the fans as one of the best to play first base at Wrigley Field. Period.

Despite that fact, the three-time Gold Glover and former batting champion remains undervalued. Why, you ask? He played for middling teams just prior to the Theo  Epstein revolution taking the city by storm.

He never got the opportunity to make a big play or come up with a big hit in the Fall Classic or a potential pennant-clinching contest in October. Rizzo, meanwhile, is etched into all our memories for having come through in those very scenarios.

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Still, Lee was all you can ask for in a player. He sustained a high level of play and professionalism, committing his prime years to the Cubs. It’s because of all these things I think Derrek Lee is a Cub we should all remember now and for years to come.