Monday, April 12, 2010

SKO Random 3rd Baseman of the Day: Ron Cey

Name: Ronald Charles "The Penguin" Cey
Height: 5'10''/ Weight: 185 lb
Bats: Right/ Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 1983-1986

Ron Cey is undoubtedly one of the best 3rd basemen the Cubs had during the long gap between Ron Santo and Aramis Ramirez, but unfortunately his age and his precipitously declining fielding skills kept him from being the long-term solution the team desperately needed.

Cey broke into the majors with the Dodgers in 1971, but didn't earn the full-time starting job at third base until 1973. During his time with the Dodgers, he was part of a core group of Dodger infielders which included 1B Steve Garvey, 2B Davey Lopes, and SS Bill Russell. The Dodgers featured this same infield group for an impressive 8 seasons, during which LA won four pennants and the 1981 World Series title, until Lopes left in 1982 and Cey and Garvey followed the next year. Cey was traded to the Cubs on January 13th, 1983.

While the 1983 season was a disappointing one for the 71-91 Cubs and is more memorable for manager Lee Elia's famous rant than anything else, Cey posted solid offensive numbers at age 35. In his finest offensive year in a Cub uniform, Cey hit .275 with a .346 OBP, a .460 slugging %, and an .805 OPS to go along with 24 homers and 90 RBI.

While Cey saw a slight dip in his numbers during the 1984 season, the Cubs saw a complete turnaround of their fortunes. The team roared to 96 wins and the team's first postseason berth since 1945. Cey was still a major contributor the teams success, with a solid .240/25/97/.324/.442/.766 line. Although things ended on a sour note, with the team losing the NLCS to the Padres, things seemed to be looking up for the Cubs.

Unfortunately, the 1985 season didn't go as planned, as injuries erased an early season division lead and the team faltered to a 77-84 finish. Cey saw his numbers dip for a third straight year, as he dropped to a .232/22/63/.316/.408/.724 line. His defense also continued to decline. A career .961% fielder at the hot corner, Cey's fielding averages were mediocre during his time in Chicago (.955, .967, .943, .952), and his range factor/9 innings had dropped from his career mark of 2.90 (near the league average of 2.89) to an extremely limited 2.42 by his last year with the Cubs. He also had 21 throwing errors in '85, his highest total since 1974. One reporter joked in 1984 that a piece of plywood would provide better defense.

An injury in 1986 limited him to 97 games, his lowest total (in a non-strike season) since before his rookie year (he'd played just 13 games in 71-72, making 74 his rookie year). While he posted a solid .273/13/36/.384/.508/.891 line in those 97 games, his fielding continued to decline and he was nearing 40 years in age. The Cubs decided to trade him to Oakland after the season in order to move Keith Moreland to third and make room for new outfielder Andre Dawson. Cey played just 45 games with the A's in 1987, hitting .221 before retiring. The 62 year old Cey now works in a consultant role with the franchise that made him famous, the Dodgers.

Ron Cey: Pretty damn good.