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.

Defining Dustyfication

Yesterday on Hire Jim Essian, the subject of Dustyfication was broached. Now, while Dustyfication is, in principle, a known concept to all Cubs and Giants fans, a firm definition has never been compiled. While I do not, in fact, pretend to be an authority capable of creating a concrete defintion, I should like to try.

Therefore, here is my best effort:

Dustyfication (n.)- the process of eroding a team's talent through a combination of the infusion of inferior veteran talent and inept in-game management, resulting in an aging team incapable of fundamentally sound play and a hopeless situation.

Signs that your team may be being Dustyfied:

- Do you have a surplus of 2nd baseman? Are any of them good?
If the answer to the first question is yes, and the answer to the second question is no, you may very well be Dustyfied.

-Are capable, young players left rotting on the bench/in the minors while veteran players who have never started consistently in their major league career are placed in your every day lineup? Typically in the leadoff spot?
Dustyfication, my friend.

- Are talented, power armed pitchers with very little major league experience who are unused to bearing large loads of innings left out to throw 120 pitches nearly every start, resulting in arm trouble for nearly every one of them, barring those with superhuman Venezualan genetic material?
Dustyfied.

- Has your team taken a lackadaisical attitude toward defense, baserunning, and winning in general resulting in high numbers of errors and men picked off base while win totals decline?
Dust-y-fi-cat-ion.

-Is every question your manager is asked about his team's poor play/one player's struggles to show anything resembling plate discipline/a young player rotting on the bench answered with an anecdote about playing with Hank Aaron and nonsensical ramblings about "clogging bases" and overuse of the word "dude"?
You bet your ass you've been Dustyfied.

- Is your manager this guy?

At this point, Dustyfication is inevitable.

Now, what prompted this article was the following tiny little candy nougat found on the Reds website: Jerry Hairston Jr. has been called up the Reds. Now that means that Baker has managed to allow four former Cubs from his tenure on the North Side to become members of the Reds active roster: Corey Patterson, Kent Mercker, Paul Bako, and now Jerry Hairston Jr. Now, the article claims the Reds called up Hairston for, and I quote, "pop". Now, no one has ever confirmed the cut off for "pop" in the majors, but I'd have to believe a guy with a career slugging percentage of .357 (and had a .289 % last year) does not qualify. I'm sure the "pop" label is the work of Dusty himself, who also frequently talked about Neifi Perez's "pop". You know who has "pop", Dusty? Jay Bruce, your top prospect with the .561 slugging percentage in AAA. The one you sent to the minors in favor of Korey Patterson, the guy with the .270 OBP that you've put in the leadoff spot 15 times.

Now, we were the victims of Dustyfication from 2003-2006. Last year, Lou Piniella spent April, May, and June de-Dustyfying the roster, and the result has been a 77-54 record since last June, including this year's 14-6 start. Dusty's Reds currently sit at 8-12 and are losing to the Dodgers as I write this article.

There you have it Dustyfication, it hurts, but God is it funny to see it inflicted on some other poor sonsabitch's baseball team.