No one will ever forget the contributions of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Jon Lester or Jake Arrieta. After all, we're talking about guys who not only brought a World Series title to the North Side, but collected an array of individual hardware, as well.
But the teams that stand the test of time - the truly unforgettable ones - are about more than their stars. They're the ones that see superstars, role players and everyone in between gel perfectly and come together to defy the odds. This piece is about those unsung heroes: in particular, 4 guys who, with time, might be less appreciated than they should be.
Ranking the 4 most underrated Cubs from the last decade: #4 - Jason Hammel
In my three-plus decades of being a Cubs fan, I don't remember any manager having a shorter leash with a starting pitcher than Joe Maddon did with Jason Hammel. I'll never understand it - and it's likely Maddon knew things I don't - but by mid-2016, it felt like a lone baserunner reaching in the middle innings was enough to bring the Chicago manager out of the dugout to make a pitching change.
Signed as a free agent ahead of the 2014 season, Hammel's first season with the Cubs is probably best remembered for his role in the trade that netted then-top prospect Addison Russell at the deadline. Chicago sent Hammel and Jeff Samardzija to Oakland in exchange for Russell, Dan Straily, Billy McKinney and cash - adding another blue chip talent to the Cubs' prospect ranks.
But he was was pretty darned good on the mound in the first half, giving the Cubs 17 starts of 2.98 ERA ball. The team clearly saw something they liked, because Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer brought him back that very winter - and over the next two years, he ate up valuable innings in the back of the rotation.
Over that two-year span, Hammel racked up 337 1/3 innings, starting 61 games for Chicago and pitching to a 3.79 ERA and 105 ERA+. Although he wasn't on the team's postseason roster during the historic 2016 campaign, he still has a World Series ring all the same - and he certainly earned it, doing quality work behind the team's three-headed monster of Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta.