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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Your SKO Random Third Baseman of the Day: Bill Madlock

Name: Bill Madlock Jr.
Ht: 5'1'' Wt: 185
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 1974-1976

Oh I see, you're all too racist to call it the "Bill Madlock Curse"

Bill Madlock is the best third baseman who will appear on this list. Period. Not that its all that much of an accomplishment, as his biggest competition over 29 years was an over-the-hill Ron Cey, but it needs to be stated. Madlock is also, chronologically, the first player on this list, as he was the immediate replacement for Ron Santo starting with the 1974 season. Madlock was acquired in a trade during the 1973 offseason along with second baseman Vic Harris for pitcher Fergie Jenkins. Jenkins and the Cubs were both coming off disappointing seasons in '73, and the Cubs figured that the Canadian hurler was on the decline. Of course Jenkins went on to win 25 games for the Rangers in 1975 and would win a total of 115 in 7 seasons with the Rangers and Red Sox before returning to the Cubs for the 1982 and 1983 sesons before retiring, and of course Vic Harris would hit just .195 and .179 in his two seasons with the Cubs, proving that in any given situation you can count on the Cubs being wrong on at least 2 of 3 counts. In a surprising move, however, the Cubs were right on the third count, and Bill Madlock turned out to be a pretty damn good ballplayer.

In 1974 with the Cubs, the rookie Madlock had a .313 avg/9 hr/54 RBI/.374 OBP/.442 Slug. line as well as 11 stolen bases, and finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. Madlock followed up his stellar rookie campaign by winning back to back batting titles in 1975 (.354) and 1976 (.339), which also resulted in an All Star trip for Madlock in 1975. While Madlock's defense at third was average at best, his offense more than compensated to make him a top tier player. Thus, the Cubs had to get rid of him. Before the 1977 season Madlock was traded to the San Fransisco Giants for outfielder Bobby Murcer and third baseman Steve Ontiveros, who was a poor man's version of Madlock. A very poor man.

Madlock played for 11 more seasons with the Giants, Pirates, Dodgers, and Tigers, won two more batting titles 1981 and 1983, and won a World Series with the Pirates in 1979. Madlock's four batting titles are the highest total for any third baseman behind only Wade Bogg's five.

Now you may be asking yourself, why wasn't the "Curse of Ron Santo" the curse of Bill Madlock? Well, those looking for an excuse would probably throw out race, or one could point to Madlock playing only three years in a Cub uniform, or the fact that Santo has remained a noticeable face in the Cubs franchise, and is naturally identified with third base for most Cubs fans. Another culprit would be the forgettable nature of the mid and late '70s Cubs teams. After six straight winning seasons under Manager Leo Durocher from 1967-1972, the team's longest streak of winning seasons since the 1930s, the Cubs, built around aging stars Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Santo, and Jenkins, began to decline, and by 1974 had gotten rid of Durocher and all four of those players. The result suffered ten straight losing seasons from 1974-1983. This decade of futility is sometimes regarded as the nadir of Cubs history, and attendance went into a tailspin. As a result, very few people witnessed Madlock's time in a Cub uniform, leaving him the "forgotten" third baseman, and thus the common "since Santo" complaint.

Bill Madlock: The Forgotten Man.

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