By Tony Andracki and JJ Stankevitz
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!