Ultimate Cubs Lineup: Elise Menaker
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 Elise Menaker provided her thoughts:
1. Ryne Sandberg – 2B
2. Kris Bryant – 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo – 1B
4. Sammy Sosa – RF
5. Gabby Hartnett – C
6. Ernie Banks – SS
7. Billy Williams – LF
8. Greg Maddux – P
9. Andre Dawson – CF
Reliever: Lee Smith
Bench: Rogers Hornsby (SS, 2B, 3B)
At first base, I narrowed it down to Rizzo and Mark Grace while also considering Phil Cavarretta (local favorite from Lane Tech). All of those players checked the box of adding another lefty bat to my lineup (besides Williams), but I went with Rizzo because of the power he brings to the plate. Once I decided to go with Rizzo at first, I knew I’d go with Bryant over Ron Santo at third — I like the Bryzzo duo when it comes to team chemistry and Bryant’s ability to get on base.
At pitcher, I was deciding between Greg Maddux and Fergie Jenkins. Since we’re talking about winning one game, I went with Maddux. Maddux may have played his best years with the Braves, but it’s hard to count out a Hall of Famer with a career 3.16 ERA who’s a 4-time Cy Young Award winner. Jenkins was a close second with 30 complete games in a single season (1971), a career 3.34 ERA and a 3.20 ERA with the Cubs.
As for my bench player, I narrowed it down to Hack Wilson (since I didn’t put him in my outfield), Hornsby and Javier Báez. Wilson can put up monster numbers like he did in 1930 (56 HR, 191 RBI), but it came down to Hornsby and Báez — another tough choice. I wanted Baez’s versatility, but I went with Hornsby because any player who has three seasons of hitting above .400 and seven seasons of hitting .380 or better, I want on my team. And I love the story about Hornsby being told he should be “farmed out,” so in a misunderstanding, he went to go work on a farm to build up his strength and put on 30 pounds that winter. Any guy who does that has a spot on my team.
With the batting order, I know what you’re thinking — why don’t I have the pitcher hitting 9th? Look, I grew up playing softball and in softball, you don’t always hit your pitcher 9th. What I’ve seen in lineups and what I see here is Dawson as a second leadoff. Call Maddux a wash — he’s gonna be my one out because I don’t intend to get an out until that 8th hitter. So now we’re starting over — Dawson’s gonna lead off and then Sandberg is essentially my 2-hitter. I feel like I could realistically score like 24 runs in the 1st inning with this lineup.
Be sure to check out all of our Ultimate Cubs Lineups!