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Monday, September 22, 2008

Your SKO Random Cubs Third Baseman of the Day: Keith Moreland

Name: Bobby Keith Moreland
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Ht: 6'0'' Weight: 200 lb
Years as a Cub: 1982-1987

"Have Keith Moreland drop a Routine Fly.."

Keith Moreland is remembered fondly by most Cubs fans as the popular, if defensively challenged right fielder for the Cubs of the early 80s, specifically the 1984 Cubs. Many fans forget that he occasionally started at third those years, and became the full time third baseman his final year with the Cubs in 1987. Had Keith remembered to take his glove with him to third base, fans might remember him even more fondly.

Keith was acquired by the Cubs in a 1981 trade with the Phillies that sent current Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow east in exchange for Moreland and pitchers Dickie Noles and Dan Larson. Larson and Noles were mostly busts with the Cubs, as Larson was gone after 1982 and Noles was moved from the rotation to the pen and traded away early in 1984. Keith, however, appeared in over 138 games in each of his six seasons in Chicago and was a key part of the 1984 NL East champion team.

After averaging 15 homers and 81 RBIs a year to go along with a .279 average in his first 5 seasons with the Cubs, mostly in the outfield, Moreland was moved to third base when the Cubs signed free agent Andre Dawson before the 1987 season. A hole had opened up at third base when the Cubs had allowed the 38 year old Ron Cey, who had manned the position since 1983, to walk after the 1986 season. With Dawson in the outfield, and an infield of Moreland at third, promising second-year starter Shawon Dunston at short, Ryne Sandberg at second, Leon Durham at 1st, and Jody Davis catching, hopes were high for the 1987 Cubs to contend for the first time since their '84 division championship.

Alas it was not to be, as an injury to Sandberg, revolving doors in left and center field, poor play by Dunston, a below average season from Jody Davis, and the lack of a starting pitcher behind Rick Sutcliffe all conspired to land the Cubs in last place, despite leading the league in homer runs thanks mostly to an MVP season from newcomer Dawson. On the offensive side of the ball, Moreland contributed to the Cubs 209 home runs that year with a career high 27 of his own, and had a respectable .266/27/88/.309/.465 line in 153 games.

Where Moreland failed to be respectable in 1987, however, was in the field. Despite having 40 career starts at the hot corner going into 1987, Moreland played like a raw rookie in a 149 starts. With 28 errors, a below average .934 fielding %, and an average-at-best 2.66 range factor, Moreland proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was not the answer at that position, and the Cubs decided to go in a different direction.

Before the 1988 season, the Cubs signed Vance Law, a much better defensive player, to play third base and shipped Moreland to the Padres in exchange for Goose Gossage and Ray Hayward, and thus ended the Cubs career of one of the more popular players of the 80s.

Today Moreland is a baseball coach at St. Stephen's Episcopal School, where he shares a connection with your beloved author. Moreland's pitching coach at St. Stephen's is Scott Ruffcorn, a former first round pick of the White Sox and cousin to the author in question. We don't discuss his former team.

Keith Moreland: Should have stayed in the outfield.

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