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Monday, January 19, 2009

Your SKO Random Third Baseman of the Day: The 1978 Edition!

How many mediocre third basemen does it take to go 79-83?

Seven! Seven Crappy Third Basemen! Ah Ha Ha Ha!

The 1978 season was the 6th straight non-winning season for the Cubs since Leo Durocher's departure after the 1972 season (the streak would reach 11). At third base, the Cubs third base position, which had been relatively stable in the hands of Bill Madlock from 1974-1976, had been turned over to Steve Ontiveros, who had his best season in 1977 as the Cubs posted their only .500 season of the streak, going 81-81. Hopes were high for Ontiveros and the Cubs going into '78.

Name: Steven Robert Ontiveros
Height: 6'0'' Weight: 185 lb
Bats: Both Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 1977-1980

Steve Ontiveros came to the Cubs from the Giants before the 1977 in a trade that sent his predecessor, Bill Madlock, to the bay. Ontiveros had his greatest season that year, with an outstanding line of .299/10/68/.390/.423. As usually happens to Cubs players after career years, Ontiveros started the 1978 season poorly in 82 games before suffering a season ending injury in mid July. The injury led to six different starting third basemen, all of whom struggled mightily on offense. Ontiveros would rebound somewhat for the 1979 season with a .285/4/57/.362/.370 line in 152 games, but struggled to a .208/1/3/.330/.286 start in 31 games in 1980, and was released in favor Len Randle. He went on to a 5 year career in Japan before retiring.

Name: Rodney Darrell Scott
Height: 6'0'' Weight: 160 lb.
Bats: Both Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 1978

The Cubs first choice to replace the injured Ontiveros made 49 starts at the position and was one of the better offensive options of the seven third sackers used that year, with a .282/0/15/.403/.313 line to go along with 27 stolen bases. But, hitting is only half the game and on defense Scott was pathetic, committing 11 errors in his 49 starts at third, adding up to a .929 fielding % (league average that year = .952) and a mediocre 2.44 range factor (league average=2.53). Thus the Cubs were forced to try other options like...

Name: Michael (Mick) Dennis Kelleher
Height: 5'9'' Weight: 176 lb
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 1976-1980

Mick Kelleher spent 5 seasons on the north side as a 1970s Augie Ojeda, a tiny, light hitting, solid fielding middle infielder. For 12 starts in 1978, however, he was yet another miserable addition to the revolving door at third base. Kelleher actually had one of his better offensive seasons in 1978 (trust me, for a guy who hit .213 with ZERO homeruns and only 65 RBIs in 11 seasons, that ain't sayin much), going .253/0/6/.304/.263 that year. On the defensive side, Kelleher actually had a 1.000 fielding % in 37 games at third base that year, albeit with very poor range (1.41 range factor). Kelleher left the Cubs after the 1980 season and played with the Tigers and Angels before retiring in 1982, but we're concerned with 1978 here, and his weak bat led to 12 starts for...

Name: David (Davey) Allen Johnson
Height: 6'1'' Weight: 180 lb
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 1978

The future manager of the Mets, Reds, Orioles, and Dodgers played the last 24 games of his career in a Cub uniform in 1978 after an August trade brought him over from the Phillies. Johnson posted outstanding numbers for the Cubs (.306/2/6/.393/.490) after a horrible start in Philadelphia (.191/2/14/.284/.281). The 35 year old veteran showed his age in the field, however, making 5 errors in those 12 games and posting an awful .839 fielding %. Johnson retired after the season and started his managerial career with the Mets in 1984, where his team's effective use of motivational tools led to a World Series Championship in 1986. But wait! There's more third basemen to come! Like...

Name: Hector Louis (Dillan) Cruz (Heity)
Height: 5'11'' Weight: 170 lb
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 1978, 1981-1982

Cruz started the season as the Cubs 4th outfielder, but also made 7 early season starts at third base. After Cruz went just .237/2/9/.266/.382 in 30 games for the Cubs, he was shipped to the Giants in June. He came back in time for the 1981 and 1982, hitting just .229/7/15/.331/.468 and .211/0/0/.286/.263 before retiring. Had enough yet? No? Well how about our next third baseman, a first round bust...

Name: Eddy William Putnam
Height: 6'1'' Weight: 190 lb
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 1976, 1978

The Cubs first round draft pick in the 1975 draft appeared in just 43 games in his career, 22 of them with the Cubs. Putnam made five starts at third in 1978, making 1 error (.950 fielding %) and hitting .200/0/3/.310/.200 in 17 total games. Putnam was traded to the Tigers in 1979 and appeared in 21 games that season. He never appeared in the majors again. Now, last and least...

Name:Rudolph Bartholomew Meoli
Height: 5'9'' Weight: 165 lb
Bats: Left Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 1978

A little used reserve shortstop, Meoli made 2 starts at third base for the '78 Cubs. In his 47 games that year Meoli hit .103/0/2/.257/.172. For some reason the Phillies signed him for the 1979 season, Meoli's last in the majors.

1978 represented the first year that the 3rd base situation really became problematic for the Cubs, as it would remain until 2003. The seven players used at the position that year combined for a .247/2/40/.338/.312 line with a meager .651 OPS. While Ontiveros returned healthy for the 1979 season, by 1980 things had truly detoriated, leading to Ken Reitz in 1981.

1978: God, that sucked.

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