The Cubs sneaked near first place in late June, just two games out after a seven-game winning streak, but then lost 13 of 17 and fell out of contention.
A couple of minor trades were made during that fall, but it was the one that happened after the year was over that indicated changes were coming.
January 20: Traded Johnny Callison to the Yankees for a PTBNL
The Callison experiment was a failure, and he wasn’t much better as a Yankee — two partial seasons of batting .231/.266/.338 in 137 games.
The Cubs didn’t get the PTBNL until May 17, when the Yankees sent reliever Jack Aker to the North Siders, yet another attempt to get a 30-something guy to recover past glory. Aker had been a pretty good reliever for the A’s in the 1960s, including leading MLB with 32 saves and posting a 1.99 ERA in 1966. He received some MVP votes.
By 1972, at 31, he wasn’t that guy. He did have an okay season in ‘72, posting 17 saves and a 2.96 ERA in 48 games for the Cubs, but in ‘73 posted an overall 4.10 ERA, and 5.82 in 18 games after the All-Star break, barely pitching in September. The Cubs released him in the offseason.
April 7: Acquired Dan McGinn from the Expos for Hal Breeden and Hector Torres
I’ll remind you that Torres had been acquired for Roger Metzger in October 1970. McGinn provided little value in return for these two players, posting a 5.89 ERA in 42 appearances (two starts).
The Cubs also received a pitcher named Bill Kelso in this deal a month or so later as a PTBNL. Kelso had pitched briefly for the Angels and Reds from 1964-68 but never appeared in a game for the Cubs.
August 18: Acquired Elrod Hendricks from the Orioles for Tommy Davis
Davis was on his second stint with the Cubs, having been acquired also in 1970. He went 7-for-26 in 15 games before this deal. Again, a DH in the NL would have helped, as Davis went on to have three good years doing that in Baltimore.
Hendricks caught 16 games for the Cubs in ‘72 and put up a weird slash line of .116/.321/.279 — that’s 5-for-43 with 13 walks and two home runs. He was 31 and I guess the Cubs thought he was done, because... see below.
October 20: Acquired Tony La Russa from the Braves for Tom Phoebus
Phoebus had been a part of Orioles playoff teams in 1969 and 1970, pitching for them in the World Series in ‘70. But for the Cubs in ‘72, he posted a 3.78 ERA in 37 games (one start). He never played for the Braves.
I’ve written about TLR’s single appearance in a Cubs uniform several times here, most recently last April on its 50th anniversary.
What an odd little trade, between the two players involved they played one total game for their new team and never batted.
October 27: Acquired Frank Estrada from the Orioles for Elrod Hendricks
Back in Baltimore, Hendricks had some decent years as a backup catcher and also played briefly for the Yankees. He later became a longtime bullpen coach for the O’s, serving 28 years in that position, the longest tenure for any coach in Baltimore history.
Frank Estrada was a catcher who never played for the Cubs. After spending 1973 in their system, the native of Mexico returned home and played for more than 20 years in the Mexican League, eventually becoming a longtime manager there as well. He also managed Mexico’s team in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006.
November 21: Acquired Bob Locker from the Athletics for Bill North
Good heavens, no, John Holland, What were you thinking?
There were insinuations of racism here. North played in just a handful of games for the Cubs in 1971 and 1972, as was typical of the time, young players did not get much of a chance for the North Siders.
Locker had been a pretty good reliever for the White Sox and A’s for several years, and in fact put together a 2.6 bWAR season for the Cubs in 1973, with a 2.54 ERA and 18 saves.
But North became a star in Oakland. He stole 53 bases in 1973, scored 98 runs and received some downballot MVP votes. He topped that with 54 steals in 1974 and 75 in 1976. All told, North stole 389 bases after he left the Cubs. The most career steals by any Cub in the live-ball era (after 1920) is 344, by Ryne Sandberg.
North posted 26.3 bWAR after the trade. Locker was traded away after a 2.6 bWAR season. This was one of the worst Cubs deals of the 1970s.
Sleuthing note about the photo of North shown above: That’s definitely Shea Stadium, and since the Cubs went to the beltless look in 1972, that one has to be from 1971. It’s not possible to narrow it down to a single at-bat, but the only games North played at Shea in 1971 were both games of a doubleheader September 15. North went 2-for-7, both singles, and recorded his first career steal in Game 1.
November 30: Acquired Dave LaRoche from the Twins for Bill Hands, Joe Decker and Bob Maneely
Once again, John Holland fails.
Hands was nearing the end of his career and didn’t do much for the Twins (or Rangers, where he wrapped up things in 1975).
But Decker had two good years in Minnesota before injuries shortened his MLB career; he was done after a few games with the Mariners in 1979.
LaRoche was just lousy for the Cubs. In two seasons he posted a 5.17 ERA in 94 appearances, with nine saves and seven blown saves. Naturally, when traded after 1974 he became good again, making two All-Star teams in Cleveland and getting some downballot MVP votes with the Angels in 1978.
Talent judgment was not the Cubs front office’s strong suit in the 1970s. Nothing good came to the Cubs from these 1972 trades. Grade: F
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