Sept. 1 – CHICAGO It’s been a disappointing year on the North Side. OK, let’s be brutally honest: it’s been one of the Cubs’ worst years of the last 102, which is certainly saying something. So while today marks the date when most clubs will expand their rosters to 40 players, the Cubs are taking a decidedly different approach. Starting today, the Cubs are actually cutting their roster to 9 players! In a move reminiscent of the Lou Boudreau - Charlie Grimm switch of 1960, they will be fielding a team of former players who are still with the Cubs organization. GM Jim Hendry explains: “We saw where this season was heading early on. Our high-priced talent was not performing up to expectations. That’s why we started bringing up rookies in May. We couldn’t wait until September. [ed.: In fact, several weeks ago the Cubs set a record by playing 10 rookies in a game.] Now that our season is all but over, we’re going to rest our rookies so they’re good and ready for the ’11 campaign. And we’re going to sit our veterans so they can see how the game should really be played.”
Here is the Cubs team for the remaining 29 games of this season:
First base: Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks (who else?). Ernie doesn’t move as well as he used to, but that should be OK. He makes up for it in optimism.
Second base / Manager: Ryne Sandberg. The only player on the squad to actually come up from Des Moines, Ryno will be the first player/manager in the bigs since should-be-fellow-Hall-of-Famer Pete Rose. Sandberg will also coach first and third base.
Shortstop: Alan Trammell. ‘Nuff said.
Third base: Ivan De Jesus. Ivan will be making the transition from shortstop as Trammell beat him two out of three in rock, paper, scissors.
Center field: Lou Piniella. Though he is 67, Piniella can still cover a lot of ground. In fact, due to his extended girth, “Oompa” Loupa actually covers twice as much ground as in his prime days as a player.
Left / right field: Billy Williams. Billy will switch fields based on whether the batter is a lefty or a righty. “That’s how we did it back in Whistler, Alabama. I don’t see why this should be any different.”
Catcher: none (see below).
Bench: Ron Santo. Santo doesn’t run so well anymore….OK…he never was in the same class as Sectretariat, but the Cubs are counting on some clutch pinch-hit home runs, so that’s really a moot point. He can probably get around the bases on a homer as fast as Big Papi. No word yet on who will replace Ronnie as Pat Hughes’s color man for WGN. Rumor has it that the Cubs have hired famed medium Madam Darko to contact Mr. Boudreau about a possible return to the radio booth.
Starting pitcher: Greg Maddux. With Maddux pitching, the Cubs think they can get by without a catcher. “Most batters try to hit Greg’s first pitch”, says Hendry, “and he doesn’t strike out a lot of guys, so the drop-third-strike shouldn’t be an issue. And nowadays, the umpire throws out a new ball after almost every pitch anyway.” Because of his age (he’ll be 44 in 2 days), the Cubs plan to limit him to 70 – 80 pitches per game. That means he’ll probably pitch a complete game in 27 of the remaining games. In the rare event of a play at the plate, Sandberg will cover home.
Relief pitcher / emergency starter: Dave Otto. Just as Dave now often fills in for Santo in the radio booth, he will be Maddux’s backup (should he need one).
That’s it! 9 players. Just like in the old days. Hendry summed it up: “It couldn’t be any worse than the gut-wrenching nightmare we’ve endured up til now. So hey, why not try it?” Why not, indeed. Let’s play two!