Wednesday, August 13, 2008

1908 vs. 2008: Leftfield

1908: Jimmy Sheckard

Sheckard was the final piece to the Championship puzzle when he was acquired before the 1906 season to play left field. He was known for his speed (he led the league in steals twice), his good eye (he was in the top ten in walks nearly every year), and his rascally sense of humor. Unfortunately for Sheckard, that sense of humor rubbed his teammate Heinie Zimmerman the wrong way. Early in the season they got into a fight in the locker room, and Zimmerman threw a bottle of ammonia at Jimmy--nearly blinding him. If the ballpark wasn't located just steps away from Cook County hospital, he almost certainly would have lost his sight. As it was, it cost him several weeks of playing time. (It also cost Zimmerman several weeks...he was beaten to a pulp by his manager and teammates)

Sheckard's hitting never really returned in 1908 (he ended the year hitting only .231), but he still managed to make an impact at the top of the order (mostly batting second) with his speed (18 steals) and his walks (he finished in the top 5 that year). He played with the Cubs for four more seasons and retired in 1913.

2008: Alfonso Soriano

Like his 1908 counterpart, Soriano missed several weeks of the season with an injury, and is a bit of a hot dog--just like Jimmy Sheckard. He also hits at the top of the lineup and has good speed--but that's where the similarities end.

Alfonso Soriano is a power hitter who can carry the team on his back when he is hot. He is the marquee player on a team full of marquee players. He is likely to make a mistake in the field that will seemingly lose the game before making up for it by getting the game-winning hit.

Historically his hot streaks have not coincided with his appearances in the post season. If those two forces coincide in 2008, he could take the Cubs to the promised land.