Ultimate Cubs Lineup: Rick Sutcliffe
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?
Former Cubs pitcher and current Marquee Sports Network contributor Rick Sutcliffe gives his take:
This is one of the toughest assignments Marquee Sports Network will give me, but it’s also been a lot of fun putting together what I call “Sutcliffe’s Sluggers.”
1. Kris Bryant – 3B
2. Ryne Sandberg – 2B
3. Billy Williams – LF
4. Andre Dawson – RF
5. Ernie Banks – SS
6. Mark Grace – 1B
7. Jody Davis – C
8. Bob Dernier – CF
9. Fergie Jenkins – P
Reliever: Lee Smith
Bench: Gary Matthews
When you think about where the Cubs were before Bryant got to the big leagues, they finished last a lot. When you look at his resume from college player of the year to the minor league player of the year to the rookie of the year to the MVP, the resume up to this point right now is absolutely ridiculous.
If I could have 8 Ryne Sandbergs, that would probably be my team because I don’t think there’s a position in the game that he couldn’t play well.
I think the best ability in sports is availability and Billy Williams was a guy that was out there year after year for 160 ballgames. I ask him every year in spring training, “Billy, if we need you to pinch-hit, would you do it?” He said, “I will, but make sure the bases are loaded — I don’t want them to walk me.”
We know about Dawson’s MVP and 8 All-Star Games and 8 Gold Gloves, but the thing people don’t always know about him unless you played with him or against him is how many different ways he could beat you — with his arm, his bat, his legs, his glove. Few people could match the versatility that he brought to the game.
Banks played more than 1,100 games at shortstop before moving to first base and when you think of over 500 homers at middle infield, that’s something very few organizations in baseball can ever match.
First base was probably the toughest decision I had until I looked at the numbers. I know Anthony Rizzo has done so much for this franchise, but when you look at the numbers, Rizzo is only halfway to the number of career hits of Grace. I’m kind of surprised Grace didn’t get more recognition for the Hall of Fame. He led the decade of the 1990s in base hits and doubles. He’s somebody the Hall of Fame has overlooked, in my opinion.
I’m not going to go out on the field to try to win a ballgame if I don’t have Jody Davis behind the plate. He did it for over 150 games back in ’83 and ’84. He didn’t get a lot of hits in his career, but he got a lot of big hits. Think about ’84 when he had those 94 RBI — he was a big, big part of what happened with that Cubs team.
My Dernier pick might surprise you a bit, but when I think of 1984 and how it changed my life, a lot of things had to do with the defense of the Cubs that year and a lot of it had to do with Dernier winning the Gold Glove. Just like the 2016 club said to Dexter Fowler “you go, we go,” it was that way in ’84 with us and Dernier. Don’t ever forget he led off the NLCS with a home run.
It came down to a couple of No. 31s for my starting pitcher. But when you think about everything Greg Maddux did, almost 200 of his wins came as an Atlanta Brave. He was the greatest pitcher I ever saw and I say that to this day. But for me, if I had to win one game and it was with the Chicago Cubs, I want Fergie Jenkins out there on the mound. You think about 280 wins, almost 170 as a Cub. This might be all you need to know: 267 career complete games. Nobody will ever come close to that again in Major League Baseball.
Without a doubt, the closer position was the easiest decision I had to make on this team. I don’t know what the Hall of Fame was thinking by taking so long to induct him — and actually it wasn’t even the Hall of Fame, it was the Veteran’s Committee that put him in. He led MLB in saves when he retired and they weren’t 1-inning, 3-out saves like they are today. A lot of times, it was 3 innings for Smitty to get the job done.
It’s hard to have a team without Javy Báez, but I guess I’m doing that. It’s all about having fun and I don’t think I can win a ballgame without The Sarge in Charge, that being Gary Matthews. He led the league in on-base percentage in ’84 and his career postseason OPS is over 1.000. He was the MVP of the ’83 NLCS for the Phils. He was every bit as important to our team in ’84 as he was to them in ’83.
Be sure to check out all of our Ultimate Cubs Lineups!