Ultimate Cubs Lineup: Carlos Peña
What if you were tasked with winning one — and only one — baseball game and you were responsible for putting together the lineup to get you that W?
Here’s the thing: You can only form the lineup from guys who have suited up for the Cubs, even if it was for only one game or part of one season. This isn’t a list of the greatest Cubs players. It’s the Ultimate Cubs Lineup to win one big game.
That means you can select Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown (who pitched for the Cubs from 1904-1912 and again in 1916) or Anthony Rizzo (who led the Cubs to end the 108-year World Series drought).
You can choose Hall of Famers, All-Stars, role players, whoever. You can prioritize power, contact, defense, intangibles or whatever you think is necessary to win this one imaginary game. You can even hit the pitcher 8th or anywhere you see fit in the lineup.
Since the Cubs are a National League team, we are forming the roster with no designated hitter. To add another wrinkle of strategy, you can select one reliever to come in after the starting pitcher and one player off the bench who could come into the game at any point.
So which 11 current or former Cubs would you choose to go to battle with in a must-win game?
Marquee Sports Network contributor Carlos Pena provides his thoughts:
1. Ryne Sandberg – 2B
2. Sammy Sosa – RF
3. Ron Santo – 3B
4. Andre Dawson – CF
5. Ernie Banks – SS
6. Anthony Rizzo – 1B
7. Billy Williams – LF
8. Gabby Hartnett – C
9. Mordecai Brown – P
Reliever: Lee Smith
Bench: Javy Báez
As a fan when I was younger, I used to love watching Sandberg. If you’re gonna talk about somebody who just embodies what a Cub should be like, it’s Ryne Sandberg. This guy was a force, winning an MVP in 1984, he could play defense and always seemed to come up clutch.
Sosa was an easy one for me — I want him to get as many at-bats as possible. When you hit 50 home runs in four straight seasons like he did during his peak years (and three out of those four were 60 homer seasons), that is just insane to me. This guy had charisma; he grabbed the city by Chicago and just pretty much lifted it. It was so much fun to tune in and watch Sosa play and when I think Cubs, I also think of Sosa.
Santo is beloved in Chicago and the numbers he put up were ridiculous. You look at his career WAR number — 70.5 — so much output, so much contribution. Kris Bryant was definitely a consideration for me, but when I put the numbers next to each other, Bryant’s going to have to play for a long time and be really, really good in order to catch Santo.
I used to love watching Dawson play and hit. He hit with this cross-body stance and he used to literally hammer the baseball. An MVP for a last-place team in ’87 and when you look at his numbers that year, the eye test immediately said my centerfielder has to be Dawson.
If you could, you’d probably have Banks at every single position like Bugs Bunny. 512 home runs, that is just absolutely ridiculous, 2 MVPs, a Hall of Famer. Javy Báez is a great shortstop, but you would have to project forward many, many years. For me, this was an easy pick.
I could’ve picked myself at first base, but I’m not going to do that. When I look at Rizzo’s career and I see his WAR numbers and how he’s developed, he was my pick. But I have to say — Mark Grace was absolutely awesome in his career with the Cubs and one of my favorite players of all time. I really wanted to pick Grace, but Rizzo has the power and it looks like he’ll be able to catch Grace in career WAR.
Williams has a very sweet, powerful stroke and when you look at his 63.7 career WAR, it speaks volumes of his contributions as a player. I’m trying to make this a very sabermetrically sound lineup and the fact he hit 426 homers earns him a ticket into this lineup.
Catcher was a very difficult decision, but Hartnett hit 236 home runs behind the plate and won an MVP in 1935. You have to love when you get that kind of production from behind the plate.
My son was with me as I did this and we were crunching numbers and he goes, ‘Dad, you gotta look at Mordecai Brown. He dominated.’ If you look at his ERA+, it’s absolutely ridiculous. He had a 163 ERA+ in the decade (1900-1909) — I don’t care what era you pitch in, when you’re that much better than the rest of your competition, you’re a man and you’re playing with babies.
Smith had a presence on the mound that immediately just said intimidation. I used to love his demeanor on the mound and he has the numbers to back it up. He is going to be closing games for this Ultimate Cubs Lineup.
If you think about somebody who could do it all in the history of the Cubs, he just makes you appreciate what he goes out there and does every single night.
Be sure to check out all of our Ultimate Cubs Lineups!