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In appreciation of Davey Lopes’ career

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He was a Cub for only a short time, but set one record that might never be broken.

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Davey Lopes played in the major leagues for 16 years and coached and managed for nearly 30 more, and was most recently first-base coach for the Nationals in 2017.

With former Cub Dave Martinez named Nationals manager for 2018, he naturally wanted to bring in his own coaching staff and so Lopes, who will be 73 in May, decided to retire after 45 years in the game.

Although Lopes was just briefly a Cub, from late 1984 through mid-1986, I wanted to write this in appreciation for what he did for the Cubs in just that short time.

He was acquired by the Cubs August 31, 1984, six weeks after the Cubs had sent Chuck Rainey to the Athletics for a PTBNL. He seemed an afterthought; the Cubs didn’t really have any open positions at that time and so of the 16 games he played for the ‘84 Cubs, he started just two of them: September 4 at second base to give Ryne Sandberg a break (he went 2-for-5), and September 26 against the Pirates, three days after the division clincher, in left field for Gary Matthews (he stole a base and scored a run). The rest of his ‘84 games were as a pinch-hitter or pinch runner. Though he went just 4-for-17, he walked six times for a .435 OBP.

Lopes had been in four postseasons and had been on a World Series winner; even so, Jim Frey used him just twice in the NLCS (as a defensive replacement in Game 2 and as a pinch-hitter in Game 4). Lopes thus joined Rick Reuschel and Rich Bordi as Cubs who might have helped them in that NLCS but were either mostly ignored or left off the roster.

In 1985, though, Lopes became a valuable part of the Cubs’ bench. He started 35 games in left field, 19 in center field, 11 in right field and two at third base — all of this at age 40! He hit .284/.383/.444 with 11 home runs and 47 stolen bases in just 99 games. He was caught stealing just four times. The 47 steals is a record, likely never to be broken, for anyone age 40 or over (Rickey Henderson, with 37 in 1999 at age 40, ranks second). All of this was worth 1.8 bWAR, very good for a bench player.

Lopes did even better for the 1986 Cubs: .299/.419/.490 with six home runs and 17 steals in 59 games (2.0 bWAR) before he was traded to the Astros for Frank DiPino. Overall as a Cub: .287/.398/.454 with 17 home runs and 67 steals in 77 attempts in 539 plate appearances, about one season’s worth, and 4.6 bWAR.

Davey Lopes had a very good career, not Hall of Fame quality but perhaps Hall of Very Good; he wasn’t a great manager but was well-respected as a coach. The 1985 Cubs season was a flop, but I’ll always remember Lopes running wild on the basepaths that year. Best to him in his retirement.