These Cubs greats make 1-year dream team

January 4th, 2021

CHICAGO -- Dreaming up an all-time team is a fun exercise. There are Hall of Famers with long track records and one-year wonders who captivated fans. Some players stacked up traditional statistics, while others dominated advanced metrics. Performances in early eras can look unfathomable when compared to modern-day production.

Still, it is fun to imagine recent stars taking the field with legends from yesteryear. Picture Sammy Sosa in his prime sprinting out to right field, while Hack Wilson and Billy Williams jog to their spots in the outfield. Fergie Jenkins is on the mound warming up, while Rogers Hornsby fields grounders. That is the idea behind this project, which aims to build each team's all-time roster through the best one-year performances in franchise history.

Here are our picks for the Cubs' all-time roster, using the best single-season showing for each position:

C: 1930
The greatest catcher in franchise history pieced together his greatest season in '30, when the Cubs finished two games back of St. Louis for the National League pennant. In 141 games, Old Tomato Face mashed 37 home runs, roped 31 doubles and collected 122 RBIs. The Hall of Fame catcher had a .339/.404/.630 slash line. Hartnett went on to make six All-Star teams and took home an MVP for Chicago. He launched one of the great homers in Cubs history and played in four World Series, but never got his ring.

1B: 2005
With apologies to the great line of first basemen throughout Cubs history, Lee's 2005 performance was not only one of the best at his position, but one of the great single-season showings overall. Lee picked up a Gold Glove Award for his defense, and he powered the Cubs' lineup with a .335/.418/.662 slash line. His 1.080 OPS led the Majors, as did his 50 doubles and 174 OPS+ that summer. Lee had 46 homers, 107 RBIs, 120 runs scored and 7.7 WAR (Baseball Reference), placing third in NL MVP voting.

2B: 1929
Hornsby was in his prime when he joined the Cubs -- only a few seasons removed from winning an MVP for St. Louis. In his debut season for Chicago in '29, all the Hall of Famer did was put up 10.4 WAR, which is still a single-season record for the franchise. That gives him the nod here over Ryne Sandberg's 1984 performance. Hornsby slashed .380/.459/.679 (1.139 OPS) with 39 homers, 149 RBIs and more walks (87) than strikeouts (65). His 156 runs scored and 229 hits notched remain one-year club records for the Cubs. He took home the MVP for his showing.


SS: 1958
Affectionately known as Mr. Cub, Banks blossomed in '58-59, becoming the first player to win back-to-back MVP Awards in the NL. His offensive output in both seasons was incredibly similar, making it hard to pick one as the better of the two. For this, we'll go with '58, given that it was the first of two MVP campaigns. That year, Banks hit .313/.366/.614, leading the NL in slugging percentage and pacing the Majors in total bases (379). He had 47 homers, 129 RBIs, 119 runs and 193 hits in 154 games.

3B: 1967
An argument could be made to list Kris Bryant's 2016 showing here, but Santo had three years ('64, '66 and '67) worthy of consideration. The '64 (164 OPS+) and '66 (161 OPS+) were the better offensive seasons, but '67 (153 OPS+) grades out as Santo's best when factoring in his defense. Santo picked up a Gold Glove in what amounted to a 9.8 WAR performance, which included a .300/.395/.512 slash. The Cubs legend and Hall of Famer had 31 homers, 98 RBIs, 107 runs and nearly as many walks (96) as strikeouts (103).

LF: 1972
Williams was a source of consistency for the Cubs, but the Hall of Famer's best tour came in his 14th year (and age-34 season) with the franchise. In '72, Sweet Swingin' Billy led the Majors in total bases (348), average (.333) and slugging percentage (.606), while leading the NL in OPS (1.005). Williams belted 37 homers, legged out 34 doubles and drove in 122 RBIs. He had more walks (62) than strikeouts (59), collected 191 hits and finished second in MVP voting to Johnny Bench.

CF: 1930
When the New York Giants parted ways with a young Wilson, who hit just .239 in 1925 and had fallen out of favor with manager John McGraw, the Cubs picked him up and landed a superstar. By 1930, Wilson had grown into one of the game's premier sluggers. That year, the center fielder led the Majors with 56 homers and set an MLB record that stands to this day with 191 RBIs. Wilson hit .356/.454/.723 and set the Cubs' single-season mark for OPS (1.177). He scored 146 runs and had 208 hits in 155 games.

RF: 2001
The season that Slammin' Sammy will be associated with for generations to come will be 1998, when he and Mark McGwire electrified the nation with their pursuit of the single-season home run record. McGwire belted 70, while Sosa launched a club-record 66 and took home the NL MVP. Three years later, however, Sosa had an even better campaign. He hit .328/.437/.737, setting the Cubs' one-year record for slugging. He had 64 homers, 146 runs scored, 160 RBIs, 10.3 WAR and set franchise records for extra-base hits (103) and total bases (425).

SP: 1971
Picking the best single-season pitching performance for the Cubs is complicated. Do you go with a modern show of dominance like Jake Arrieta in 2015? He went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA and took home the NL Cy Young Award. Or, do you reach back to 1885 and go with John Clarkson? All he did was win 53 games with a 1.85 ERA in 623 innings. That's not a typo. We'll reach to the middle, where Jenkins had an incredible Cy Young-winning campaign in '71. Jenkins led MLB with 24 wins, 30 complete games and a 7.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The right-hander spun a 2.77 ERA over 325 innings, beginning with a 10-inning masterpiece to beat Bob Gibson on Opening Day. He struck out 263 and walked 37 in 39 starts.

RP: 1977
Sutter won the NL Cy Young Award in 1979, but his '77 performance was even better. That season, the Hall of Fame relief ace set single-season records for the Cubs in Fielding Independent Pitching (1.61) and ERA+ (328). Sutter turned in a tidy 1.34 ERA in 62 appearances, in which he struck out 129, walked 23 and yielded just 69 hits in 107 1/3 innings. The righty logged at least three innings nine times and worked a multi-inning effort in 36 games. Consider this: Sutter averaged 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings when all MLB relievers combined averaged 5.4 in 1977.