The Rundown: First Big Cubs FA Dave Kingman, Javy Baez Was Biggest Cubs Story of ’18, Selig Autobiography
Jon Lester is widely recognized as the best free agent the Cubs have ever signed. Do you remember the first major free agent signed to play for the Northsiders? It was Dave Kingman.
The slugging outfielder signed with the Cubs on November 30, 1977 and played three years in Chicago. Kingman received a five-year, $1.4 million deal from GM Bob Kennedy and proved to be well worth the investment. He clubbed 94 total homers — including a league-leading 48 in 1979 — with 251 RBI and slashed .278/.569/.907 before being traded to the Mets after the ’79 season. In his three seasons with the Cubs he finished with an OPS+ of 132, 146, and 128 and was worth 7.4 WAR, a number that was crushed by poor defense. He was 29 years old during his first season with the Cubs.
At the time, Kingman’s annual salary of $275,000 was ranked just outside of MLB’s top 20 salaries, but he actually earned less than OF Bobby Murcer, acquired in trade from the San Francisco Giants along with his $320,000 AAV. As was the Cubs MO at the time, they’d field a few guys who were better than league average surrounded by a number of pathetic teammates.
For instance, the third base platoon of Steve Ontiveros and Rodney Scott finished the 1978 season with one home run and 37 RBI between them. Things were so bad that the Cubs traded for Davey Johnson on August 6, who hit two home runs in 24 games for Herman Franks’ squad, and then retired.
The highlight game for me, one that encapsulated Kingman’s time with the Cubs, was a 23-22 loss to the Phillies on May 17, 1979. “Kong” hit three dingers in that game and played horribly in left field. The score was 7-6 after the 1st inning and Phillies starter Randy Lerch, who had homered in the top of the 1st, recorded only one out in the bottom half. Dennis Lamp started for the Cubs and similarly recorded just a single out.
Bryce Harper is the player that most fans want to see the Cubs sign this winter. The 26-year-old free agent has clubbed 87 homers with 278 RBI, a .267 BA, and a .505 slugging percentage across the past three seasons. He has been worth 7.5 WAR, a number that has been crushed by poor defense. His OPS+ during those three seasons was 114, 156, and 133.
By no means am I saying that Harper and Kingman are similar players. Kingman was a two-outcome player, or as my dad would say “Every pitcher strikes out Kingman three times before he eventually parks one.” In fact, if you use Bill James’ Similarity Scores at Baseball-Reference as a guide, Harper’s batting profile is more similar to players like J.D. Martinez and Josh Donaldson. But the numbers provide some interesting perspective, particularly since Harper will command the richest contract in the history of the game.
By the way, nobody says “parks one” anymore, and that’s tragic.
Cubs News & Notes
- As first reported by Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, former Cubs minor league field coordinator Tim Cossins will join the Orioles in a similar capacity.
- Kendall Graveman may not pitch for the Cubs in 2019 as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, but he knows his first season in Chicago will still be a valuable experience. Some of his optimism comes from the hiring of his former teammate, Brad Mills, the news of which Graveman apparently broke.
- Javier Baez may regress in 2019, but a healthy Kris Bryant should help pick up the slack. Imagine adding healthy seasons by Bryant and Yu Darvish to a 95-win team. Bryant hopes to bounce back in 2019.
- Joe Maddon’s future in Chicago may depend upon his past.
- Cubs beat reporter Jordan Bastian answers questions in this week’s Beat Reporter’s Inbox.
- Baez was enormous in 2018, and was one of the biggest sports stories in all of baseball.
#2018Top10: Javy Baez had a huge breakout season for the Cubs in 2018. pic.twitter.com/TnYGIeQL90
— NBC Sports Chicago (@NBCSChicago) December 27, 2018
The Twins and Nelson Cruz are in agreement on a one-year, $14.3 million contract with an option for 2020.
The Padres have had “continued talks” with the Marlins about a possible J.T. Realmuto trade. The Padres could move Austin Hedges for pitching help if they are able to acquire Miami’s catcher.
The Yankees believe they are still the frontrunners to sign free agent SS Manny Machado.
Pirates’ SP Trevor Williams catfished an unsuspecting waiter who thought Williams was Bryce Harper, and convinced him he was signing with the Yankees.
Former Tribune reporter Phil Rogers announced he has ghost-written a Bud Selig autobiography which will be published in July 2019. The two conversed on round trip excursions between Milwaukee and Chicago on Amtrak’s Hiawatha line. The working title is For the Good of the Game and NBC’s Craig Calcaterra lit into Rogers, Selig, and the proposed book on Twitter yesterday.
Dave Schoenfield of ESPN looks at some of the biggest questions facing baseball as the calendar rolls from 2018 into 2019.
The White Sox are reportedly in the market for a relief pitcher, and one name that could fill in that void is Adam Ottavino. The Red Sox and Rockies are also interested.
The Phillies, Nationals, Reds, Rangers, Giants, and Brewers are among the teams showing interest in free agent infielder Josh Harrison.
Rays’ OF Tommy Pham was critical of Tampa Bay’s fanbase and thinks the team should build a new ballpark or move to another city.
I can’t even…
Chicago Cubs' 1908 mascot was horrifying; possibly a giant squirrel. pic.twitter.com/w9Oxcpczm5
— History Lovers Club (@historylvrsclub) December 27, 2018
Friday Walk Up Song
First, a look at five videos that just missed the cut on my Top 20 list before I announce my second favorite music video of all time.
- California Love by 2Pac. Overlooked at the time thanks to a preponderance of saccharine post-grunge and bland R&B videos released in 1996 and ’97, this timeless song mimics the movie Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome to deliver a truly epic video. Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur were at the top of their games on this masterpiece.
- Hey Ya! by Outkast. Recreating the Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, Andre 3000 plays all eight members of a fictional band called The Love Below.
- Jeremy by Pearl Jam. The third single from Pearl Jam’s groundbreaking debut album Ten, Jeremy is a sobering look at the life of a disaffected teenager. Much controversy ensued, as the video features a bullied boy who drifts into depression before shooting himself in front of his classmates.
- Walk This Way by Run-DMC. This groundbreaking video proved that rap music could crossover into mainstream pop thanks to a big assist from Aerosmith. The message is that artists are artists and music is music, no matter what the form. The performers show immense respect for one another and literally and figuratively break down the barriers that separated their mediums with this video.
- Sabotage by the Beastie Boys. It lost all five VMA video categories in which it was nominated but this Spike Jonze joint is an MTV classic as far as I’m concerned.
Now my number two favorite video of all time: Buddy Holly by Weezer. Jonez strikes again with an outstanding concept. Combining Weezer’s catchy single with a scene from the TV sitcom Happy Days — complete with canned laugh track and scenes from the series — was simply brilliant. The song fits perfectly, as does the band’s look. The fact that Jonez got Al Molinaro to be in the video elevated it further. The wonderful video took home four VMAs in 1995 including Best Direction, Best Editing and Breakthrough video, but lost out to TLC’s Waterfalls for Video of the Year in a gross miscarriage of justice. Please, try the fish.