Wednesday, September 3, 2008

1908 vs. 2008: Shortstop

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: Shortstop


By 1908 standards, Tinker was what we would now call a 5-tool player. He was among the league leaders in homers, RBI, and stolen bases (he led the Cubs in the first two categories), and was one of their steadiest fielders. In 1908, he also led the league in games played; a man that could be counted on to penciled in to that 7th slot in the batting order every day.

The ever steady Tinker was a crucial part of the championship club. In addition to his physical skills, he was a tough and gritty competitor--never afraid to let his fists do the talking. He once got into a fight on the field...after the game...dressed in his street clothes. He had a particular hatred for the Giants, stating: "If you didn't honestly and furiously hate the Giants, you weren't a real Cub."

His teammates loved Joe, except of course his double-play mate Johnny Evers. They only spoke to each other on the field, and only about baseball. Knowing their personal feelings for each other, it's amazing how well-oiled that Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance double play combination worked. They were pioneers in many ways--using signals on the field to adjust to upcoming pitches. Opponents were amazed at how difficult it was to get a ball through that infield. (Hence, the poem penned in 1910).

All three men (Tinker, Evers & Chance) would eventually manage the Cubs. Tinker's chance came in the first season the Cubs played at what is now known as Wrigley Field (1916). He was inducted into the Hall of Fame along with Chance and Evers in 1946.


Though he is the same age as his 1908 counterpart (28), Theriot is considered one of the young players on the 2008 team whereas Tinker was one of the grizzled veterans of his team. While Tinker was a power hitter, Theriot is more of a slap-hitter concerned with on-base percentage. And while Tinker was a fighter, Theriot is more of a calming force in the clubhouse.

But between the lines, the two men shared a common get-your-uniform-dirty grit. Theriot isn't afraid of stealing a base (though he occasionally overreaches in that area), and his play at shortstop is so steady that fans often don't even notice that he rarely makes mistakes.

It's no coincidence that the Cubs didn't start clicking until they put Ryan Theriot in the every day lineup. He has batted lead-off, second, seventh and eighth, but wherever he hits, he does something that the Cubs didn't do for many many years before his arrival; he takes a few pitches.