Friday, May 04, 2012

All-Time Teams #5: Chicago Cubs

This is part of an ongoing series where I'm naming an all-time team for each of the current 30 MLB franchises, and using this as a vehicle to discuss their greatest eligible player who is not in the Hall of Fame.

This Cubs squad's 15 Hall of Famers easily outpaces the team that previously featured the most. That was the Red Sox with 11. Since four of the five teams profiled so far have been in existence for over a century, this makes for an interesting comparison:

Cubs - 15
Red Sox - 11
Braves - 9
Orioles - 9

The Orioles total includes eight players and manager Earl Weaver.

Of course, this information is meaningless since I could have easily crammed a couple more Hall of Famers onto each of these teams (Red Sox - Harry Hooper, Joe Cronin, Jimmy Collins; Braves - Billy Hamilton, Old Hoss Radbourn; Orioles - Luis Aparicio, Roberto Alomar). Heck, I could have even come up with two or three more Cubs Hall of Famers.

But, that's not the point of this series. This is about recognizing the players whose performance with the team in question makes them the greatest in their history. It's not about identifying the best players who just happened to play for a certain team. Still, it's interesting to note how many Hall of Famers are on each all-time team.

Will 15 hold up as the standard throughout this entire series? Honestly, it's going to be tough to beat. I'm sure there's an expectation that a certain team I'll cover a little over half-way through this thing will match, if not top, that number. But, I'm not so sure. We'll just have to wait and see.

Franchise History
Chicago Cubs (1903- )
Chicago Orphans (1898-1902)
Chicago Colts (1890-1897)
Chicago White Stockings (1876-1889)

An asterisk (*) denotes a Hall of Famer.

C - Gabby Hartnett* (1922-1940)
1B - Cap Anson* (1876-1897)
2B - Ryne Sandberg* (1982-1994, 1996-1997)
SS - Ernie Banks* (1953-1971)
3B - Ron Santo* (1960-1973)
LF - Billy Williams* (1959-1974)
CF - Hack Wilson* (1926-1931)
RF - Sammy Sosa (1992-2004)

Mordecai Brown* (1904-1912, 1916)
Fergie Jenkins* (1966-1973, 1982-1983)
Pete Alexander* (1918-1926)
Clark Griffith* (1893-1900)
Rick Reuschel (1972-1981, 1983-1984)

Once again, I have to give thanks to Adam Darowski, whose valuable input helped me sort through a plethora of starting pitching options for this franchise.

Bruce Sutter* (1976-1980)

C - Johnny Kling (1900-1910)
1B - Frank Chance* (1898-1912)
2B - Billy Herman* (1931-1941)
SS/3B - Bill Dahlen (1891-1898)
3B - Stan Hack (1932-1947)
OF - George Gore (1879-1886)
OF - Jimmy Ryan (1885-1900)

Lee Smith* (1980-1987)
John Clarkson* (1884-1887)
Hippo Vaughn (1913-1921)
Charlie Root (1926-1941)

Frank Chance* (1905-1912)

Since Chance is essentially a player-manager on this team, I was careful not to count his name twice in the Hall of Famer total.

Greatest Eligible non-Hall of Famer

Ron Santo is one of two players I named in my post on this subject last year who has since been elected to the Hall of Fame. So, while Stan Hack, George Gore and Rick Reuschel are certainly in the conversation, I'm going to go with Bill Dahlen, who is simply one of the most under-rated players of all-time.

Bill Dahlen
Dahlen played less than half his career in Chicago, but they're still the team he played for the longest and with whom he enjoyed his best years. Since we've already established there are a ton of Cubs in the Hall of Fame, it's not surprising there aren't many "career Cubs" on the outside looking in.

Dahlen played the first half of his career—including the Cubs years—in the 19th century, while the second half was in the offensive-depressed early 20th century. His reputation was as an excellent defensive shortstop, not quite on the Ozzie Smith level, but perhaps comparable to Omar Vizquel.

But, Dahlen was a much better offensive player than Vizquel and Smith (career OPS+: Vizquel - 82, Smith - 87, Dahlen - 110), with his Cubs years being his best (.299/.384/.449 BA/OBP/SLG, 123 OPS+).

Among eligible players, only one who is not in the Hall ranks higher in Wins Above Replacement than Dahlen. That player is Jeff Bagwell, and we all know the story there. But, we'll get to that later.

Dahlen's page credits him with accumulating 75.9 WAR over a 21-year career. But, not to confuse him with a "compiler"—a player whose career numbers are more a product of longevity than peak performance—72 of that total were achieved in the first 16 years of his career (4.5 per season), after which he had only one more valuable season and two (in his 40s) in which he only appeared in a total of four games.

Dahlen's been the subject of many discussions about the most deserving players outside of the Hall, despite the fact he hasn't played in over 100 years. Among the most notable, he was one of 12 players highlighted in Adam's recent Put Them in the Hall of Fame series, covering players he believes have no flaws in their Hall of Fame cases. Additionally, he is one of 10 nominees for SABR's 19th Century Overlooked Legend honor, to be announced at their convention in late June.

Of course, winning that "award" has little impact on a player's Hall of Fame candidacy, although the SABR 19th Century Committee hopes to have some influence over who appears on the Veteran's Committee's Pre-Integration Era (1871-1946) ballot, to be voted on at this year's Winter Meetings. Still, for now, there is little reason to believe Bill Dahlen won't continue to be one of the most forgotten stars in baseball history.

Next Up: Chicago White Sox


  1. There's something beautiful about the balance of that lineup. If we're willing to discount Dahlen a little because of his era without docking Anson too much, we could make a strong case that the eight best position players in Cubs history played eight different positions. No Williams/Yaz or Mantle/Dimaggio kerfuffles or positions like third base on the Dodgers where we have to settle for Ron Cey. Even the outfielders are all in their true position. Nice work.

  2. Thanks Bryan. This was definitely the easiest starting eight so far.

    Take a look at Cleveland Indians center fielders if you want to talk about logjam. The starter will be easy, but after that...oy vey. By WAR, four of the top eight players in that team's history played that position.