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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Your SKO Random Third Baseman of the Day: Ken Reitz

Name: Kenneth John Reitz
Height: 6'0'' Weight: 185 lb.
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 1981

Is it just me or does that hat look like its made of leather? Goes great with the mustache.

Ken Reitz had two things that doomed him in the memories of Chicago Cubs fans. 1) He spent the majority of his career as a St. Louis Cardinal, and 2) he absolutely sucked as a Cub.Reitz was acquired along with Leon Durham (who, you know, Didn't suck) from the Cardinals in the trade that sent all star closer Bruce Sutter down to St. Louis. Reitz came to the Cubs before the 1981 season bring with him a reputation as a great defensive third baseman, nicknamed Zamboni for his ability to scoop up ground balls, with a weak bat and little plate discipline. Reitz had even been an all star in 1980, one of his best all-around seasons (a .300 OBP and a .379 slug. % for a whopping .679 OPS somehow got him an All Star spot?). Reitz brought his glove with him to Chicago, and posted a .977 fielding % (league average that year was .948), and made just 5 errors in 81 games at the hot corner.

His weak stick, however, was downright impotent in the Chicago lineup. Reitz, a career .260 hitter, hit just .215 as a Cub, with only 2 home runs and 28 RBIs, a paltry .261 OBP (not actually much of an aberration, as his career OBP is a Korey Patterson-esque .290), and a pathetic .281 slugging %. In 260 at-bats, Reitz had just 11 extra base hits. With such stars as Reitz (.215/2/28/.261/.281), Ivan DeJesus (.194/0/13/.276/.233-in 403 at bats!), and Pat Tabler (.188/1/5/.281/.267) in the everyday lineup, is it any surprise the Cubs scored only 370 runs (11th of 12th in the NL that year) and went just 39-64 in the strike shortened '81 season?

The 1981 Cubs were significant in that their utter ineptitude at all things baseball related led the complacent Cubs ownership to begin the "fuckin' multifold" changes in the organization that eventually constructed the 96 win 1984 NL East champions. One of those changes included jettisoning Ken Reitz, who was released in April of 1982. Reitz played just 7 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1982 before retiring.

I couldn't find what Reitz is up to today, but I did find this awesome quote by his former manager, Whitey Herzog: "
I used to shave before games. And once Reitz was up at the plate, and he hit the ball, and by the time he got to first base I had to shave again. That’s when I told him he wasn’t going to play." Awesome.

Ken Reitz: 1981's failure at third base.

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