If you mention Moises Alou’s name to a Chicago Cubs fan, the first thing that comes to mind is Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. He tracked a slicing foul ball down the left field line, leapt in foul territory, reached up into the stands and came up empty.
That incident quickly went down in Cubs lore as the team collapsed late in the game, then dropped Game 7 at home to the Marlins, who went on to win it all for the second time in their brief history. But as much as Cubs fans liked to re-hash the ‘Bartman Incident’ in the years that followed, I really wish more folks would remember Alou for his monster of a 2004 season instead.
Of course, that was the peak of the Jim Hendry era on the North Side – which means that guys well into their 30s were given multi-year contracts, something that’s grown far rarer in today’s game and under the Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer front offices. When the team signed Alou ahead of the 2002 season, he was already 35 – but that didn’t stop the Cubs from giving him a three-year, $27 million deal.
The final season of that contract, 2004, marked Alou’s best performance for the club. At age 37, he displayed remarkable durability, playing in 155 games and earning the fifth All-Star selection of his career. The former first-rounder blasted a career-best 39 home runs for Chicago, driving in 106 runs and slashing .293/.361/.557 in the process.
He was a monster at home, with an OPS north of 1.100. Twenty-nine of his 39 home runs came in front of the home faithful. As he went, so went the Cubs – but it wasn’t enough to make another October run.
A disappointing Chicago Cubs team, led by slugging outfielder Moises Alou
On the heels of their near-World Series appearance the year prior, the team really struggled in 2004. The Cubs never saw first place after late May, despite Alou teaming up with Aramis Ramirez to form a big punch in the middle of the lineup.
That year also marked the end of an era at the Friendly Confines, when Sammy Sosa left the team’s final game of the season early. Alou’s fellow outfielder – to this day – has not set foot in Wrigley Field since that day.
Ten percent of Alou’s career WAR (39.9) came during that 2004 campaign. That’s saying something given the guy played for 17 years, finally being forced out of the game by injuries in 2008 at age 41. When we look back, no one particularly cares for that 2004 Chicago Cubs team, but what Alou did that year is certainly worth remembering.