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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Your SKO Random Third Baseman of the Day: Luis Salazar

Name: Luis Ernesto (Garcia) Salazar
Height: 5'9'' Weight: 180 lb.
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 1989-1992

After researching Luis Salazar just one day after Ken Reitz, I've come to the conclusion that the Cubs of the 1980s may or may not have ever actually looked at the stats of the third baseman they wished to acquire. If they had, they might have noticed that Luis Salazar was really Not a good third baseman. At all. Luis, a former Padre, White Sock, and Tiger, came to the Cubs in late in the Cubs 1989 run to the NL East Championship. The Cubs were in need of a new third baseman after incumbent starter Vance Law came down with a bad case of suck and needed to have his .651 OPS removed. Salazar was acquired along with Marvell Wyne from the Padres and got most of the starts at third down the stretch, and actually had the best month of his career, putting up a .325/1/12/.357/.425 line as the Cubs wrapped up their 93-69 regular season and headed into the NLCS against the Giants. Though the Cubs lost the series 4-1, Salazar was one of the few Cubs (other than Mark Grace's insane .647/1/6/.682/1.118! tear) to show up in the series, posting a .368/1/2/.368/.632 line. After the success of the 1989 season, the Cubs had no qualms about heading into 1990 with Salazar as their established third baseman.

The 1990 season, however, was mediocre for both Salazar and the Cubs. As the team fell to 77-85, Salazar posted a .254/12/47/.293/.388 season, one much more in line with his career numbers than the aberration of his 1989 numbers with the Cubs. Refusing to be discouraged by the evidence before their eyes that the 35 year old veteran wasn't very good, the Cubs brought Salazar back for the 1991 season, albeit with the intention of using him to back up super rookie Gary Scott. Scott floundered, leaving Salazar as the starter, and Salazar posted a similar line of .258/14/38/.292/.432 as the Cubs posted an identical number of wins, going 77-83 despite the inspired leadership of Jim Essian. The Cubs remained convinced apparently that Salazar was the glue that held the team together, as they brought him back once more to start the 1992 season. Scott once again began the season as the starter, floundered once more, and opened the door for 98 more games of Salazar at a splendid .208/5/25/.237/.310 clip. Fortunately the Cubs were finally persuaded that Salazar wasn't the long term answer, and brought in Steve Buechele.

The Cubs granted Salazar free agency in November of 1992, and he promptly retired. Salazar is now the hitting coach for the Jacksonville Suns, the AA affiliate of the Florida Marlins. I'm assuming plate discipline isn't his forte.

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