The Cubs opened the 1984 season with a seven game trip to the West Coast on which they went 3-4. Three of the four losses were by one run and the other was by two. So the Cubs didn’t get blown out of the water, but didn’t exactly jump out to an amazing start. They returned home for their first homestand of the season to face three National League East foes.
For those of you who don’t remember, in those days the leagues had only two divisions, one East and one West. In the National League, that was two divisions of six. Of course, those divisions weren’t simply divided geographically as multiple teams that played in the NL West are geographically located further east than the St. Louis Cardinals. In those days, the NL East included the Cubs, Cardinals, Pirates, Phillies, Mets, and the Montreal Expos.
The home opener was played on April 13 against the New York Mets. Steve Trout was given the ball for the Cubs and Dwight Gooden took the mound for the Mets. Dwight was a rookie in 1984 and would go on to be Rookie of the Year, pitch in the All-Star game and finish second in the Cy Young balloting. The start against the Cubs was just his second major league start. The game did feature a strong pitching performance. But on this day, that strong performance was not by the Mets starter.
Game 8, April 13 - Cubs crushed Mets 11-2 (4-4)
- Superhero - Steve Trout (.251). Steve threw a complete game allowing just two runs on a seventh inning home run by George Foster. He allowed seven hits and no walks while striking out four. One more time that we see the difference between managing in 1984 and 2017. The Mets started the seventh inning with a single and the home run. Of course, the Cubs were up 8-2, so in those days they allowed Trout to work through it and he retired the next seven hitters he faced.
- Hero - Ryne Sandberg (.107). Ryne had two hits, including a first inning double, a walk, a stolen base, a run and two RBI in five plate appearances.
- Sidekick - Jody Davis (.086). Jody had a huge game with three hits, including a two run homer in the seventh, drew a walk and scored twice in four plate appearances. Jody didn’t appear a step higher because his home run occurred after it was already 8-2.
- Billy Goat - Leon Durham (-.063). Leon actually had a hit, an RBI and a walk in five plate appearances, but also struck out the first three times he batted while the Cubs were running out to an 7-0 lead.
- Goat - Bob Dernier (-.036). Bob was hitless in five plate appearances, though he did reach once on a fielder’s choice, stole a base and scored a run.
- Kid - Mel Hall (.004). In a game that got lopsided by the fourth inning, we see the first appearance on a Goat podium by someone with a positive WPA. Mel had four plate appearances and recorded a double and a walk.
Steve Trout was selected by the White Sox in the first round (eighth overall) of the 1976 draft out of Thornwood High School in South Holland. He made it to the major leagues by 1978 when he made four late season appearances including three starts. Steve was traded to the Cubs in January of 1983 with Warren Brusstar for Scott Fletcher, Randy Martz, Pat Tabler and Dick Tidrow. Trout made 20 or more starts every season between 1979 and 1987, though he never threw 200 innings in a single season. In his first season with the Cubs in 1983, he went 10-14 with a 4.65 ERA in what was to that point, the worst season of his career. Steve bounced back in a big way and had a very successful 1984 season.
Game 9, April 14 - Cubs defeat Mets 5-2 (5-4)
- Superhero - Dick Ruthven (.196). Dick started two games on the opening road trip and the Cubs won both of them. This made it three straight starts that the Cubs won as Ruthven threw six innings allowing six hits, two walks and two runs while striking out five.
- Hero - Lee Smith (.192). And here is another example of the different way a pitching staff was managed in 1984. Lee Smith threw three innings, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out two and recording the save.
- Sidekick - Leon Durham (.111). Leon had an RBI single in the first inning to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead and scored later in the inning to make it 3-0. He later hit a home run to make it 5-2.
- Billy Goat - Bill Buckner (-.043). Bill pinch hit with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth and flew out.
- Goat - Ryne Sandberg (-.042). Ryne had four plate appearances and reached on an error in the first. He scored the first run two batters later.
- Kid - Mel Hall (-.019). Mel makes a second consecutive hard luck appearance in this spot. He had a single with runners on second and third in the first inning that scored Leon Durham, however Ron Cey was thrown out on the play. Mel was then picked off of second base to end the inning.
Dick Ruthven was drafted by the Twins in the first round (eighth overall,) out of Cal State Fresno in 1972. He didn’t sign with the Twins though and was drafted first overall by the Phillies the following year (this was actually the third time he was drafted as he was also picked in the 20th round out of high school by the Orioles in 1969). Dick pitched in the major leagues without first going to the minor leagues for the Phillies and started 23 games as a rookie compiling a 6-9 record and a 4.21 ERA. Dick would be traded four times in his career, including being traded for Jim Kaat in 1975, being traded with someone named Ozzie Osborn (no, really!) almost a year later to the day and eventually being traded to the Cubs in May of 1983 for Willie Hernandez. Dick made two All Star teams in his 14 year career (1976 and 1981). He lost more games that he won in his career despite a career ERA of 4.14. He started 20 games in 12 of his 14 major league seasons and five times threw over 200 innings.
The third game of the Mets series was rained out and so was the first game of the Cardinals series a couple of days later, leading the Cubs to play a doubleheader on April 18.
Game 10, April 18 (first game) - Cardinals shut out Cubs 5-0 (5-5)
- Superhero - Jody Davis (.027). When you see an .027 up top, you know that it is going to be ugly. Jody pinch hit in the seventh inning with the Cubs down 3-0, a runner on first and two outs. He drew a walk. It was that kind of day for the Cubs. Joaquin Andujar threw a complete game shut out for the Cardinals.
- Hero - Richie Hebner (.019). Richie got a rare start and had a walk and a single in his three plate appearances.
- Sidekick - Bob Dernier (-.001). In fairness, even though we do see a negative score hero, Bob Dernier did have two of the Cubs’ five hits in the game.
- Billy Goat - Tom Veryzer (-.084). Tom only got two at bats before being lifted for a pinch hitter and he grounded out in both. The second of those resulted in an inning ending double play.
- Goat - Ryne Sandberg (-.077). He was hitless in four tries including striking out twice.
- Kid - Chuck Rainey (-.068). This is a glass half empty, glass half full performance. Chuck allowed two walks, two hits and his defense committed an error in the first inning on the way to digging a 3-0 hole. Chuck then allowed only three more hits and two more walks over five scoreless innings.
Tom Veryzer was a 31-year-old back up infielder for the Cubs in 1984. He had a 12-year career that started with the Tigers in 1973. He was primarily a shortstop during his career and he had four seasons with the Tigers and Indians in which he played in 125 or more games. He never had a full season where he even approached an OPS+ of 100. The Cubs received him in a trade just before opening day in 1983 from the New York Mets. He played two seasons with the Cubs and never appeared in the major leagues again.
Game 11, April 18 (second game) - Cubs split double header by defeating Cardinals 6-1 (6-5)
- Superhero - Scott Sanderson (.323). Scott came one out shy of a complete game, allowing two hits and a stolen base with two outs in the ninth. Overall, Scott allowed six hits, including a home run, and walked one while striking out seven.
- Hero - Bill Buckner (.093). Bill drove in the first run with a sacrifice fly in the first (-.002), and then gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead with an RBI single in the sixth (.125). Bill had one hit in three at bats.
- Sidekick - Ryne Sandberg (.089). Ryne reached on an error in the first, singled in the third, walked in the sixth and grounded out in the seventh. He scored the go ahead run in the sixth.
- Billy Goat - Gary Woods (-.046). Gary had two at bats before leaving for a pinch hitter in the sixth and was retired both times.
- Goat - Ron Cey (-.029). Ron had one walk in four plate appearances, but did score the Cubs fifth run of the game afterwards.
- Kid - Mel Hall (-.024). Mel pinch hit for Woods in the sixth with one out, runners on first and third and the Cubs up 4-1. He flew out, but Cey was unable to score on the fly ball. Hall did single and score in the eighth, but by that time the Cubs were already up 5-1.
Scott Sanderson was drafted by the Expos in the third round of the 1977 draft out of Vanderbilt University. He attended Glenbrook High School in Northbrook, which I’d have found a lot cooler if it had been a different time. I ended up knowing someone who graduated from GBN about 18 years later. Scott had a 19-year career that included making one All-Star team in 1991 as a member of the New York Yankees. Sanderson came to the Cubs in a trade in December of 1983 that was a three-way deal with the Padres and Expos that included recognizable names like Craig Lefferts and Carmelo Martinez. Scott was a Cub for five seasons. Often limited by back problems in his career, he only threw 200 innings four times, though he had 13 seasons in which he made at least 20 starts.
Game 12, April 19 - Cubs win 6-1 for the second consecutive game, take two out of three from Cardinals (7-5)
- Superhero - Steve Trout (.427). Steve went the distance for the second time in a row, allowing nine hits, two walks and one run.
- Hero - Gary Matthews (.064). Sarge was the table-setter extraordinaire with two hits and a walk in three plate appearances and scoring two runs while driving in one. Gary isn’t higher because he grounded into a double play in the first inning with runners on first and second and no outs (-.100), but he got it all back in the third inning with a two out RBI single (.103).
- Sidekick - Jody Davis (.056). On the day, Jody had a hit and a walk in four plate appearances. He also drove in a run in the sixth when he reached on an error with a runner on third and one out.
- Billy Goat - Larry Bowa (-.062). He did have an RBI double in the eighth, but the Cubs were winning 5-0 at the time. Overall, he had one hit in four tries.
- Goat - Mel Hall (-.033). Mel had two plate appearances and was hitless.
- Kid - Ryne Sandberg (-.023). In five plate appearances, he only reached base once, via walk.
Steve Trout made five April starts in 1984 and had a 3-1 record in those starts with a 2.38 ERA. Expanding outwards, in 10 appearances including one relief appearance from April 13 through May 30, the Cubs went 8-2 in games in which Steve appeared (one of the two losses was a blown save in the relief appearance) and a 1.88 ERA. He was with little doubt the best starting pitcher on the Cubs in the early going.
Game 13, April 20 - Cubs walked it off against the Pirates for third straight win (8-5)
- Superhero - Gary Matthews (.344). A two out three run home run in the fifth inning accounted for most of the WPA (.367), but he also scored the winning run after reaching on a walk with a runner on third and no outs in the tenth. On the day he recorded a hit and two walks in five plate appearances.
- Hero - Ryne Sandberg (.307). Ryne led off the bottom of the 10th with a triple (.289). He was later erased on a forceout at the plate, but he did trigger the rally that won the game. Earlier on, he had an RBI single in the third and also drew a walk. All together, Sandberg reached three times in five plate appearances.
- Sidekick - Lee Smith (.228). He came in with a man on first in the ninth inning and the game tied 4-4. He retired all three batters he faced including a strike out to end the inning.
- Billy Goat - Bill Buckner (-.231). Bill was hitless in four at bats, but did draw a walk in the game. The biggest negative was grounding into a double play with one out and the bases loaded in the third with the score tied 1-1 (-.160).
- Goat - Ron Cey (-.213). Ron was hitless in five tries including two strike outs.
- Kid - Keith Moreland (-.116). He pinch hit with runners on first and second and two outs in the ninth inning but lined out to short.
Gary Matthews, nicknamed Sarge, was a first-round pick of the San Francisco Giants (17th overall) in the 1968 draft. He reached the major leagues for a cameo appearance in 1972 before making his fulltime debut in 1973, a season which saw him named Rookie of the Year. He would go on to appear in the All-Star game in 1979 and appeared on MVP ballots in four different seasons, including 1984 when he finished fifth. He came to the Cubs in the trade we discussed last week that brought Bob Dernier and Porfi Altamarino to the Cubs. He led the NL in walks (103), on-base percentage (.410), and sacrifice flies in 1984. 1984 was far and away his best season as a Cub and arguably, the best season of his career.
Game 14, April 21 - Cubs lose 8-5, split series with Pirates (8-6)
- Superhero - Ron Cey (.265). Ron had two hits in four at-bats including a two-run homer in the fourth that gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead and an RBI single in the eighth to cut the deficit to 8-5.
- Hero - Leon Durham (.247). The Bull had two hits and a walk in his four plate appearances, including a sixth inning home run that made it 4-4 at the time.
- Sidekick - Gary Woods (.129). On a day where the Cubs squandered a three homer output, Gary actually hit the first of the three, a solo homer in the third that cut the Cubs deficit to 2-1 at the time. He also had a double leading off the game. Gary only got 98 at bats on the season and this was one of only four two hit games that season for him.
- Billy Goat - Dickie Noles (-.645). By WPA, this was the fourth-worst game of the year for the Cubs. Dickie came in with one out and a runner on first in the sixth. He got the first batter to ground into a fielder’s choice. The next three hitters went walk, single, single and a 3-2 lead had become a 4-3 deficit. The Cubs escaped more harm when the third out was recorded at third base. Dickie went back out to start the seventh and allowed three straight singles and a double before finally being pulled. In all, he allowed six hits, a walk and five earned runs while recording two outs.
- Goat - Mel Hall (-.125). Mel came into the game in the seventh and was recorded twice including once with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth.
- Kid - Bill Buckner (-.109). He pinch hit with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth and flew out.
Dickie Noles was chosen by the Phillies in the fourth round of the 1975 draft. He made his major-league debut in 1979, starting 14 games for the Phillies. The following year, he was used primarily in relief. He was traded to the Cubs along with Keith Moreland following the 1981 season and made 30 starts for the Cubs in 1982, the most starts he ever made. He pitched primarily out of the rotation again in ‘83 but was used almost exclusively as a reliever in ‘84 for the Cubs. Dickie managed to pitch in parts of 11 seasons, though two of them were totally ineffective cameo appearances in 1988 and 1990. Noles had two stints as a Cub and his time with the Cubs in 1987 was arguably his most effective time in the majors. He was actually loaned to the Tigers late in the 1987 season.
- Gary Matthews 10
- Jody Davis 6
- Richie Hebner 5
- Scott Sanderson 4
- Steve Trout 4
- Keith Moreland 3
- Henry Cotto 3
- Dick Ruthven 3
- Ryne Sandberg 1
- Dickie Noles 1
- Larry Bowa 0
- Gary Woods -1
- Bob Dernier -1
- Lee Smith -2
- Leon Durham -3
- Tim Stoddard -3
- Porfi Altamarino -3
- Chuck Rainey -3
- Tom Veryzer -4
- Bill Buckner -4
- Ron Cey -7
- Mel Hall -9
Next week, we’ll cover an eight-game road trip for the Cubs, during which they will face the same three teams they played this week. This homestand featured three rainouts and only one of the games was made up at that time, with the other two games to be made up later in the season.
The opening road trip saw the Cubs start 3-4 and fall three games out of first place quickly. But this homestand we covered today saw them improve their record to 8-6 and move back within one game of first place. Next week’s column will cover games that spanned the last week of April and into the start of May. We’ll see if the Cubs had a better road trip the second time around.
Thank you again for tuning in and for all of the positive feedback we received last week. Hopefully this column will provide some of you some fond memories, introduce some of the younger readers to players from before their time and provide a diversion to waiting to see how and when all of the offseason player movement plays out. Also, please remember to check back in next Monday for a look at the ninth-worst WPA game for the 2017 Cubs.