Wednesday, August 27, 2008

1908 vs. 2008: Second Base

Between now and the end of the season we're going to compare the last Cubs championship team to this year's future championship team. Next stop: Second Base.


Johnny Evers was such a vocal irritant when he was playing second base, manager/first baseman Frank Chance actually considered moving him to a different position so he didn't have to hear him talk. Evers was known as an aggressive competitor, and probably the most baseball savvy member of the Cubs. It was his heads up play in the famous Merkle game that led to the Cubs pennant in 1908.

1908 was also the season he really came into his own as a hitter. His .300 average was the highest on the Cubs, and one of the best in the league (this was the deadball era), and only one other player in baseball had a better on-base percentage that year. Once he got on the bases, he was even more dangerous. Despite his small size (he was only 125 pounds), he never hesitated to slide into the base with his spikes up. He was one of the best base-stealers on the team--in 1908, he swiped 36 bases.

Evers was a tough Irish-Catholic New Yorker by birth, and despite his heroics on the field, he didn't mesh that well with his teammates. (His nickname was "The Crab"). His double-play mate Joe Tinker, for instance, didn't talk to him at all. They despised each other.

He later managed the Cubs (1913), was fired by the Cubs (1913), and went on to win the MVP during a season he led the Boston Braves to the World Series championship (1914).

He was elected to the Hall of Fame along with Joe Tinker and Frank Chance shortly before his death in 1947.


When the Cubs signed Mark DeRosa as a free agent before the 2007 season, it's fair to say the signing was greeted with a less-than-enthusiastic response from the Chicago media and Cubs fans. After all, they had two young infielders on the roster (Ronnie Cedeno & Ryan Theriot). It seemed like just another example of the Cubs signing a mediocre veteran instead of letting the kids have a chance.

But DeRosa quited those critics pretty quickly with his gritty play, his versatility in the field (he has played every position except SS, CF and C), and his ability to get on base. Like his 1908 counterpart, DeRosa is a key member of the team who seems to get more than his share of crucial hits. Unlike Johnny Evers, though, Mark DeRosa's game is not speed--it's power. By the end of the year he will be one of up to six Cubs players with more than 20 home runs.

Some of his teammates consider DeRosa the MVP of the team because of all the different ways he helps them win.