Okay finally taking a break from the Award Redos...until the next entry probably. For the next Where'd The Go? I wanted to find a team that was a complete fluke. A team that had success one year with no winning seasons in the years prior and then no winning seasons in the years after which where the '89 Cubs qualify. Actually I could have also picked the '84 Cubs but decided to go with the more recent example.
Cubs history of futility is well documented and every time they have a glimmer of success it becomes big news. Before the '89 season there last winning season had been 1984 and their next winning season after would not be until 1993. In '89 the fielded the second youngest team in the National League with several key players who were rookies or second year players. Managed by future Joe Torre cabana boy Don Zimmer the Cubs went on a magical run to the N.L. East title with a 93-69 record before Will Clark pretty almost single handily dispatched them in the NLCS. Given how young they were it figured they were a nice core to lead this team to a championship down the line but they never even came close after 1989. Here's a look back as to where this team went.
C: Damon Berryhill (.257/.291/.341, 6.0 VORP, 12 Win Shares) - Just his second year Berryhill had pretty much established self as an unspectacular catcher who'd bounce around the Majors for a while and that's what he did. He had rotator cuff surgery in September of that year so he was not on the postseason roster and was filled in by rookie Joe Girardi. He'd be traded to the Braves a couple of years later where he'd be their regular catcher during the 1992 postseason. Had one year stints with the Red Sox, Reds, and Giants before calling it quits after 1997.
1B: Mark Grace (.314/.405/.457, 43.7 VORP, 25 Win Shares) - Another second year player, Grace was a rising star at this time and this would end up being one of his best years. He would lead the Majors in hits during the decade of the 90's which will probably get his some mild HOF support but really isn't one. Played withe Cubs thru 2000 before signing with the Diamondbacks where he'd pick up a World Series ring in 2001.
2B: Ryne Sandberg (.290/.356/.497, 56.8 VORP, 28 Win Shares) - I to this day have never met someone named "Ryne". Anyways he had usual good season in '89 and would finish 4th in the MVP voting. He would retire during the 1994 season but then unretire before 1996 to play two more years withe Cubs. Inducted into the HOF last year.
3B: Luis Salazar (.282/.316/.414, 13.0 VORP, 10 Win Shares) - The actual regular 3rd baseman in the regular season was Vance Law but he was just terrible so the Cubs acquired Salazar from the Padres at the waiver trade deadline. Not that he was much better than Law but he did hit surprisingly well for them the last month of the season and the NLCS. Maybe that ended up being bad for the Cubs as they hung onto him thru 1992 where he did nothing of note.
SS: Shawon Dunston (.278/.320/.403, 29.1 VORP, 18 Win Shares) - I always figured they made a mistake on Shawon's birth certificate and he just never decided to fix it. It probably wasn't even until the mid-90's that I realized how to spell his name right. Could hit for a decent average and some power for a shortstop but couldn't draw a walk to save his life and just awful defensively but stuck around for 18 years. With the Cubs thru 1995 then bounced around to the Giants, back to the Cubs, Pirates, Indians, back to the Giants, Cardinals, Mets, back to the Cardinals, and then a 3rd stint with Giants where'd he retire after 2002.
LF: Dwight Smith (.324/.382/.493, 31.5 VORP, 16 Win Shares) - Smith may have epitomized the '89 Cubs. With numbers like that in his rookie year you would have thought he was on his way to big things. Alas it didn't happen. Stuck around with the Cubs thru 1993, split time with the Angels and Orioles in 1994, and then spent two season with the Braves where in 1995 he got to pick up a World Series ring as a bench player.
CF: Jerome Walton (.293/.335/.385, 25.9 VORP, 17 Win Shares) - Remember how excited you'd be to have the rookie card of any rookie who did anything without noticing they weren't that good to begin with? That was Jerome Walton for me. He won the 1989 N.L. ROY and that was about it for him in terms of relevance. Played with the Cubs thru '92 and then bounced from the Angels, Reds, Braves, Orioles, and to the Devil Rays.
RF: Andre Dawson (.252/.307/.476, 19.3 VORP, 13 Win Shares) - By '89 the beating Dawson's knees to playing all those years on the Olympic Stadium turf started to catch up to him. He did rebound the following year for one more good year. With the Cubs thru 1992 and had two year stints with the Red Sox and Marlins before retiring after 1996.
Greg Maddux (128 ERA+, 35.4 VORP, 20 Win Shares) - Hey who's this guy? Only 23 years old at the time Maddux had already broken out with a strong year in 1988 and finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting in 1989. He'd post a 2.18 ERA in 1992 and as Cubs fans painfully know he'd sign a big money free agent contract after that season with the Braves where he'd become one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. Of course returned to the Cubs in 2004 where he is still active.
Rick Sutcliffe (103 ERA+, 22.5 VORP, 14 Win Shares) - . This was Sutcliffe's last decent season as injury limited him to 23 starts the next two years. Would pitch two years with the Orioles and then a brief stint with the Cardinals in 1994 before retiring.
Mike Bielecki (121 ERA+, 29.7 VORP, 16 Win Shares) - By far Bielecki's best season and part of the fluky nature of the '89 season and his long term future was in the bullpen. Traded with the Berryhill to the Braves after 1991, he'd three different trips to Atlanta with one year stints with the Angels and Indians mixed in.
Paul Kilgus (86 ERA+, -14.1 VORP, 3 Win Shares) - With those numbers you can tell Kilgus wasn't Major League material. Was acquired in the Mitch Williams/Rafael Palmeiro trade before the season this would be his last season as a regular starter. Had cups of coffee with the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Cardinals.
Scott Sanderson (96 ERA+, 7.1 VORP, 7 Win Shares) - Marginally effective pitcher that would play 19 years and who'd luck into signing with the defending World Champion A's after '89. Then went to the Yankees in 1991 where he'd have a good year then hung around the Majors thru 1996 primarily with the Angels.
Closer: Mitch Williams (137 ERA+, 13.2 VORP, 12 Win Shares) - What can be said about this guy that hasn't been already? It's amazing he had any sucess at all with his lack of command. Achieved a bit of a cult status in 1989 due to his wild delivery. Dealt to the Phillies after 1990 where you know what happened in 1993. Then traded to the Astros after that year where he'd never be the same.
A little story about Williams, he had a very brief stint with the Royals in 1997 where I saw him pitch one of his last games ever live against the A's on April 25, 1997. He was out of the Majors in 1996 but some how made the Royals out of Spring Training. The Royals were crushing the A's 10-3 and there were probably only about 3,000 people left in the park by the time Wild Thing came in for mop up duty in the 9th. We gave him a mocking standing ovation when he came out figuring he'd probably make the inning exciting. He'd walk Matt Stairs on four pitches to start the inning and went 3-0 to Scott Speizo and the little of us there were going nuts. He'd then recover to strike out Speizo and strike out the side of Scott Brosius and Tony Batista. Ya that was a bad omen for the '97 A's.