The All-Chicago Team: 1980-1989

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The All-Chicago Team: 1980-1989

By Tony Andracki and JJ Stankevitz
CSNChicago.com

This spring, we at Cubs Talk and White Sox Talk have decided to unify Chicago's two baseball teams into one in an effort to pick out the best players to grace each side of the city over the last 50 years. Each Wednesday during spring training, we'll roll out a different All-Chicago team, beginning today with the best Cubs and White Sox players from 1980-1989. If you didn't catch our first two installments, check out our 1990-1999 and 2000-2011 teams.

Tony: In some areas, this 1980s list was easy. Carlton Fisk as catcher? Done. Ryne Sandberg as second baseman? No question. Leon Durham at first and Ron Cey at third even went largely unchallenged. In other ways, this was a tough list. Center field, for example, was incredibly difficult. There was no clear-cut favorite and CF was largely a crapshoot in Chicago in the '80s.

JJ: Yeah, as you'll see below, we were chided for not having Rudy Law in center. He had two good years, then two bad years with the Sox. Chet Lemon had two good years, too, and while those were his only two with the Sox in the decade, they were better than Law's, so he got the spot.

Tony: I wanted to put Shawon Dunston here at SS over Ozzie, but it just couldn't be done. Ozzie wasn't head and shoulders better, but he was still the logical choice.

JJ: Guillen's defensive ability earned him this spot. Offensively, there's no question Dunston was better.

Tony: Jody Davis was an iconic Cubs player in the '80s, but I was a bit iffy at first in handing him a bench spot. As JJ found, he was the Cubs' second-most valuable position player of the decade by WAR. This is the first time we've actually had a clear-cut favorite as a catcher and then another catcher crack the bench.

JJ: Finally, a week without a catcher debate!

Tony: The rotation was also extremely difficult. There were plenty of solid options, but nobody great. Names like Dennis Eckersley, Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton toed the rubber in Chicago, but the latter two were in the twilight of their careers and Eck was pitching before he truly became a star. There were a plethora of pitchers who were good one year, but not the next, or had lofty win totals. Richard Dotson won 22 games in '83, but never topped 14 in any other season and also led the league in losses with 17 in '86. He made 228 starts for the Sox in the '80s, but his record was only 92-88 in that span and he boasted a 4.04 ERA and a surprisingly-bad 1.38 WHIP. Also, his KBB ratio was just 1.36. Not exactly All-Decade worth numbers.

JJ: Honestly, I didn't even look at Dotson's win totals. I just don't think that's a worthwhile stat. We could've built a good case based on his 1982-1984 (3.53 ERA, 25 complete games), and in retrospect, maybe we should've. But Eck did have some good years with the Cubs, including an MLB-best KBB ratio in 1985. This was one we agonized over. Fire away.

Tony: Rick Sutcliffe was an easy choice as the "ace" of the decade and if anybody questions that, I'd love to hear the argument there. The guy won the NL Cy Young in only 20 starts in '84, for Pete's sake!

JJ: Yeah, but LaMarr Hoyt was fantastic in 1983, leading baseball in WHIP, walk rate and KBB. And he won the Cy Young that year, too.

C: Carlton Fisk
1B: Leon Durham
2B: Ryne Sandberg
3B: Ron Cey
SS: Ozzie Guillen
LF: Ron Kittle
CF: Chet Lemon
RF: Andre Dawson
DH: Harold Baines
Bench: Greg Luzinski
Bench: Jody Davis

SP: Rick Sutcliffe
SP: Britt Burns
SP: LaMarr Hoyt
SP: Greg Maddux
SP: Dennis Eckersley

Closer: Lee Smith
RH reliever: Bobby Thigpen
LH reliever: Willie Hernandez

The final word
David Kaplan: Wow, I am stunned by some of the selections on this team. Chet Lemon as the CF? He left the White Sox in 1981! In addition, he only played in 94 games during the 1981 season. No chance he should be on this team. A better choice? White Sox CF Rudy Law, who stole 77 bases in 1983 and played four seasons on the South Side.

Dennis Eckersley? That's ridiculous! His numbers as a starter for the Cubs were lousy. How can you guys not have Richard Dotson on your team! His numbers crush Eckersley's.

Some of the other choices are easy like Sandberg and Fisk but I debated long and hard whether Shawon Dunston would be a better choice over Ozzie Guillen at shortstop. Greg Luzinski? He was okay, but with the Cubs not having a decade full of great teams he probably gets a spot, but that is more a testament to the lack of competition than his numbers.

Chuck Garfien: I dont have a problem with Carlton Fisk as catcher. Slam dunk there. Same with the infield of Durham, Sandberg, Cey, and Guillen.

As much as I loved Chet Lemon as a child, he only played a season and a half with the White Sox in the 80s and didnt make that big of an impact in the decade. He was an All-Star with the White Sox in 1978 and 1979. Id give the CF nod to Rudy Law, who stole 77 bases for the 1983 White Sox, and played a huge role at the top of the lineup in the Sox winning the division.

Dennis Eckersley never won more than 11 games with the Cubs as a starter. Thats the best you can come up with as a 5th starter? How about Richard Dotson? He went 22-and-7 for the White Sox in 1983. He won 14 games the year after that.

Check back next week for our Chicago all-decade team of the 1970s!

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

Bobby Howry wasn't aware of the fact he was part of one of the more infamous transactions in White Sox history until a few years after it happened. 

In 1997, with the White Sox only 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians, general manager Ron Schueler pulled the trigger on a massive trade that left many around Chicago — including some in the White Sox clubhouse — scratching their heads. Heading to the San Francisco Giants was the team's best starting pitcher (left-hander Wilson Alvarez), a reliable rotation piece (Doug Drabek) and a closer coming off a 1996 All-Star appearance (Roberto Hernandez). In return, the White Sox acquired six minor leaguers: right-handers Howry, Lorenzo Barcelo, Keith Foulke, left-hander Ken Vining, shortstop Mike Caruso and outfielder Brian Manning. Only Foulke had major league experience, and it wasn't exactly good (an 8.26 ERA in 44 2/3 innings). 

Howry was largely oblivious to the shocking nature of the trade that brought him from the Giants to White Sox until, before the 1999 season, he was featured in a commercial that referenced the "White Flag trade."

"I don't even know if I knew it was called that before then," Howry recalled last weekend at the Sheraton Grand Chicago at Cubs Convention. 

The trade was a stark signal that youth would be emphasized on 35th and Shields. Both Alvarez and Hernandez were set to become free agents after the 1997 season, and the 40-year-old Darwin wasn't a long-term piece, either. With youngsters like Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee rising through the farm system, the move was made with an eye on the future and maximizing the return on players who weren't going to be long-term pieces. 

Sound familiar? 

It's hardly a perfect comparison, but when the White Sox traded Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox in December for four minor leaguers — headlined by top-100 prospects in Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech — it was the first rebuilding blockbuster trade the organization had made since the 1997 White Flag deal. Shortly after trading their staff ace at the 2016 Winter Meetings, the White Sox shipped Adam Eaton — their best position player — to the Washington Nationals for a package of prospects featuring two more highly-regarded youngsters in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. 

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And there still could be more moves on the horizon, too, for Rick Hahn's White Sox (Jose Quintana has been the subject of persistent rumors since the Winter Meetings). But for those looking for an optimistic outlook of the White Sox rebuilding plans, it's worth noting that the club's last youth movement, to an extent, was successful.

Only Howry (3.74 ERA over 294 games) and Foulke (2.87 ERA, 100 saves over 346 games) became significant long-term pieces for the White Sox from those six players brought over in 1997. And it wasn't like Schueler dealt away any of the franchise's cornerstones — like Frank Thomas, Albert Belle and Robin Ventura — but with future starters in Lee, Ordonez and Chris Singleton on their way the White Sox were able to go young. A swap of promising youthful players (Mike Cameron for Paul Konerko) proved to be successful a year and a half later. 

And with a couple of shrewd moves — namely, dealing Jamie Navarro and John Snyder to the Milwaukee Brewers for Cal Eldred and Jose Valentin — the "Kids Can Play" White Sox stormed to an American League Central title in 2000. 

"It was great," Howry said of developing with so many young players in the late 1999's and 2000. "You come in and you feel a lot more comfortable when you got a lot of young guys and you're all coming up together and building together. It's not like you're walking into a primarily veteran clubhouse where you're kind of having to duck and hide all the time. We had a great group of guys and we built together over a couple of years, and putting that together was a lot of fun."

What sparked things in 2000, Howry said, was that ferocious brawl with the Detroit Tigers on April 22 in which 11 players were ejected (the fight left Foulke needing five stitches and former Tigers catcher/first baseman Robert Fick doused in beer). 

"About the time we had that fight with Detroit, that big brawl, all of a sudden after then we just seemed to kind of come together and everything started to click and it took off," Howry said. 

The White Sox went 80-81 in 1998 and slipped to 75-86 in 1999, but their 95-67 record in 2000 was the best in the league — though it only amounted to a three-game sweep at the hands of the wild-card winning Seattle Mariners. 

Still, the White Flag trade had a happy ending two and a half years later. While with the White Sox, Howry didn't feel pressure to perform under the circumstances with which he arrived, which probably helped those young players grow together into eventual division champions. 

"I was 23 years old," Howry said. "At 23 years old, I didn't really — I was just like, okay, I'm still playing, I got a place to play. I didn't really put a whole lot of thought into three veteran guys for six minor leaguers." 

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox 2016 first round pick Zack Collins joins the podcast to talk about his future with the White Sox, when he hopes to make the big leagues and the doubters who question whether he can be a major league catcher.   He discusses comparisons with Kyle Schwarber, his impressions of Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, why his dad took him to a Linkin Park concert when he was 6 years old and much more.