Cubs

Crosstown crossovers in the last 15 years

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Crosstown crossovers in the last 15 years

When Kosuke Fukudome appears in his first game for the White Sox in 2012, he'll become the 17th player to play for both the Cubs and White Sox since interleague play began in 1997. The other players on the list range from obvious to forgotten to completely random.

My criteria for doing this is simple: The player had to play on both the Cubs and White Sox from 1997 on. That means Sammy Sosa (White Sox 1989-1991, Cubs 1992-2004), Kevin Tapani (White Sox 1996, Cubs 1997-2001) and Tanyon Sturtze (Cubs 1995-1996, White Sox 2000) didn't make the cut, among others.

Without further ado, let's go to the list:

Will Ohman: Cubs 2000-2001, 2005-2007, White Sox 2011
With the Cubs: Ohman threw 160 innings, the most with any team, and posted a 4.33 ERA.
With the White Sox: Entering the second season of a two-year, 4 million deal, Ohman will be Robin Ventura's primary left-handed reliever in late-game situations if Matt Thornton closes.

Juan Pierre: Cubs 2006, White Sox 2010-2011
With the Cubs: Pierre led the National League in hits, at-bats and caught stealings.
With the White Sox: Pierre had a good 2010, but struggled in 2011. Led the AL in caught stealings in both years.

Bob Howry: White Sox 1998-2002, Cubs 2006-2008, 2010
With the Cubs: Was torched in 2008 after two solid years in 2006 and 2007; infamously had a fan run up to him in the ninth inning of a game Howry blew in 2007.
With the White Sox: Came over from San Francisco as part of the 1997 White Flag trade, was a key part of the 2000 AL Central champion's bullpen.

David Aardsma: Cubs 2006, White Sox 2007
With the Cubs: Had a 4.08 ERA, but allowed nine home runs in 54 innings.
With the White Sox: Started out great, but fizzled along with the rest of the bullpen and finished the year with a 6.40 ERA.

Neal Cotts: White Sox 2003-2006, Cubs 2007-2009
With the Cubs: Ran into injury issues, saw some effectiveness in 2008 but was out of baseball with a 7.36 ERA in 2009.
With the White Sox: Was dominant as the team's go-to lefty during the 2005 World Series run.

Aaron Miles: White Sox 2003, Cubs 2009
With the Cubs: Following a career year in St. Louis, Miles hit .185 with the Cubs in his worst season as a pro.
With the White Sox: Had some promising OBP numbers in the minor leagues, got 12 at-bats in the majors in 2003 and was shipped to Colorado for Juan Uribe that winter.

Scott Eyre: White Sox 1997-2000, Cubs 2006-2008
With the Cubs: Had a 4.03 ERA in three years. But let's use this time to point out that he received an MVP vote in 2005 with the Giants.
With the White Sox: Struggled as both a starter and reliever, compiling a 5.66 ERA. Came into his own as a pitcher after being dealt to Toronto following the 2000 season.

Ross Gload: Cubs 2000, White Sox 2004-2006
With the Cubs: Played in 17 games as a September call-up and hit his first career home run on the fourth of the month against the Rockies.
With the White Sox: Finished seventh in the 2004 Rookie of the Year voting and was a fantastic backup to Paul Konerko in 2004 and 2006, posting on-base percentages of .375 and .354, respectively.

Kenny Lofton: White Sox 2002, Cubs 2003
With the Cubs: Was a part of one of Jim Hendry's greatest coups as a GM as he came to Chicago along with Aramis Ramirez from Pittsburgh in a deal that centered around Bobby Hill. His .381 OBP was huge for the Cubs during their NLCS run.
With the White Sox: Played a solid 96 games before he was sent to San Francisco before the trade deadline.

Josh Paul: White Sox 1999-2003, Cubs 2003
With the Cubs: Signed on July 4 after being released by the White Sox, the Buffalo Grove native went hitless in seven plate appearances.
With the White Sox: Before Doug Eddings ruled he didn't catch Kelvim Escobar's offering in the 2005 ALCS, Paul was a fairly dependable backup for the Sox in 2001 and 2002.

Tom Gordon: Cubs 2001-2002, White Sox 2003
With the Cubs: Was effective when healthy, saved 27 games in 2001. Was traded to Houston before the deadline in 2002.
With the White Sox: After Billy Koch tanked, Gordon helped hold the Sox bullpen together, saving 12 games with a 3.16 ERA.

Jason Bere: White Sox 1993-1998, Cubs 2001-2002
With the Cubs: Pitched his last full season in the majors in 2001, starting 32 games with a 4.31 ERA.
With the White Sox: As a rookie, started 24 games with a 3.47 ERA for the Western Division champs, then followed that up with a 3.81 ERA in 24 starts the next year. Completely fell off in 1995, then ran into elbow problems before joining Cincinnati in 1998.

Robert Machado: White Sox 1996-1998, Cubs 2001-2002
With the Cubs: Appeared in 74 games while backing up Todd Hundley and Joe Girardi.
With the White Sox: Spent most of his time with the Sox in 1998 after joining the big-league club in late July.

Darren Lewis: White Sox 1996-1997, Cubs 2002
With the Cubs: Finished out his 13-year career by serving in a backup role, still managed to post a .326 OBP in 58 games.
With the White Sox: Was decent for a back-of-the-lineup hitter in 1996; traded to Los Angeles in 1997 for Chad Fonville.

Matt Karchner: White Sox 1995-1998, Cubs 1998-2000
With the Cubs: Wasn't worth trading Jon Garland.
With the White Sox: Was worth trading for Jon Garland.

Larry Casian: Cubs 1995-1997, White Sox 1998
With the Cubs: Was extremely successful in limited time in 1995 and 1996, struggled in 1997 and was claimed off waivers by the Royals.
With the White Sox: Appeared in four games, throwing four innings and giving up five runs to close out his career.

Enter Jim Hickey, the Cubs' new pitching coach tasked with shepherding one of baseball's best staffs

Enter Jim Hickey, the Cubs' new pitching coach tasked with shepherding one of baseball's best staffs

MESA, Ariz. — For years, Chris Bosio was credited as part of the reason for the Cubs’ recent string of pitching success. He helped turn Jake Arrieta into a Cy Young winner and oversaw pitching staffs that led the Cubs to three consecutive NLCS appearances and that curse-smashing World Series win in 2016.

But now it’s 2018, and Bosio is out. Jim Hickey is in.

The Cubs’ new pitching coach arrives with high expectations and has been tasked with shepherding a group of arms that saw a few too many bumps in the road last season. Jon Lester had his worst season in a long time, Jose Quintana’s numbers weren’t as good as they had been during his time with the White Sox, Tyler Chatwood led the National League in losses last season, and Yu Darvish got roughed up in a pair of World Series starts. And that’s before even mentioning the bullpen.

Still, even with all that said, the Cubs look to have, on paper, one of the best starting rotations in the game. And the upgrades in the bullpen have tempered some of the rage over the relief corps’ repeated postseason implosions. Theo Epstein’s front office had a mission this offseason to improve the pitching staff, and Hickey is a very large part of trying to accomplish that mission.

“What really was the slam dunk in my decision to come to Chicago or at least the finishing touches on it was getting to meet Theo, getting to meet Jed (Hoyer), going physically to Chicago, go to the offices there, seeing the physical building, meeting the people inside, just getting that vibe. Everybody was on the same page, and that page was winning,” Hickey said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. “And also built not just to win here for two or three years but for a sustained period of time, and that was what was very, very attractive.”

Hickey’s ties to the Cubs are obvious. He worked as Joe Maddon’s pitching coach in Tampa Bay for eight seasons before Maddon left to take over managing duties on the North Side. The two coached some phenomenal pitchers with the Rays, guys like James Shields, David Price, Scott Kazmir and Chris Archer and won an American League pennant in 2008. Prior to that, Hickey coached for the Houston Astros and oversaw a staff that included Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt en route to the 2005 World Series.

How does the Cubs’ rotation of Lester, Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Quintana and Chatwood compare to those great rotations from Hickey’s past?

“That’s a really tough question. But I think one through five, it may be as deep as any staff that I’ve had,” he said. “Really tough to say. I’ll give you a better idea after the season’s over, but one through five, it’s really, really good. Had some very, very good staffs, obviously, in years past. But these five guys, we talk about it all the time, the starters pitching innings and not falling into this pattern of starters being used less and less and the bullpen being used more and more.

“If you were to give me a staff of five guys, or give anybody a staff of five guys, that threw between 185 and 200 innings, you would probably have a championship-caliber club. And that’s what my expectations are out of this staff, and I think they will be a championship-caliber club.”

Hickey’s toughest task, though, likely won’t be working with all those veteran starters but instead working with a  bullpen that struggled under the bright lights of the postseason last October. While Cubs relievers had the sixth-lowest ERA in baseball during the regular season (3.80), the playoffs were a different story, with the bullpen rocked to the tune of a 6.21 ERA. Cubs relievers walked a postseason-high 27 batters while striking out only 35 in 37.2 innings.

The front office tried to fix that strike-throwing problem by bringing in new closer Brandon Morrow, who shone with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season, and Steve Cishek, who has closing experience from his time with the Miami Marlins and Seattle Mariners, plus he worked with Hickey last season in Tampa Bay.

But Hickey is the bigger key to fixing that problem, and it’s one of his biggest objectives to not just bring the walks down but make the Cubs one of the best staffs in baseball when it comes to issuing free passes.

“I really think that walks, especially out of the bullpen, are a little bit more of a mindset than they are anything physically or mechanically wrong,” he said. “You come into a situation where maybe you give up a base hit and maybe it changes the game, so you’re a little bit reluctant to throw the ball over the plate.

“So I think it’s more of a mindset, and once the group gets the mindset of ‘attack, attack, attack,’ it’ll be contagious. And I think it is contagious. I think last year it was probably contagious in that there was more walks than you would like, and I think as you turn the corner and head the other direction, that would be contagious, as well.

“I have very few outcome goals in a season. I don’t sit there and say, ‘I want to lead the league in earned-run average’ or ‘I want to lead the league in strikeouts.’ … But that one thing, that one outcome goal that I always have for a staff is to have the least amount of walks in the league. And I think at the end of the day, especially with the talent that’s out there, if that is the case, it’s going to be an extremely successful season.”

Ben Zobrist knows reality of Cubs' crowded lineup: 'There are going to be good players that have to sit on the bench'

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USA TODAY

Ben Zobrist knows reality of Cubs' crowded lineup: 'There are going to be good players that have to sit on the bench'

MESA, Ariz. — Ben Zobrist has long been known for his versatility on the field. But it might take a new kind of versatility to get through what’s facing him for the 2018 season, being versatile when it comes to simply being on the field.

Zobrist was among several notable Cubs hitters who had a rough go of things at the plate in the follow-up campaign to 2016’s World Series run. He dealt with injuries, including a particularly bothersome one to his wrist, and finished with a career-worst .232/.318/.375 slash line.

And so, with younger guys like Javy Baez, Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. forcing their way into Joe Maddon’s lineup, it’s a perfectly valid question to ask: Has the 36-year-old Zobrist — just 15 months removed from being named the World Series MVP — been relegated to part-time status for this championship-contending club?

Obviously that remains to be seen. Joe Maddon has a way of mixing and matching players so often that it makes it seem like this team has at least 12 different “starting” position players. But Zobrist, ever the picture of versatility, seems ready for whatever is coming his way.

“I’m prepared for that, if that’s what it comes to. I told him, whatever they need me to do,” Zobrist said Sunday, asked if he’d be OK with being in a platoon situation. “You’ll see me at some different positions. As far as at-bats, though, I’ve got to be healthy. That was the biggest thing last year that kept me from getting at-bats and being productive. So if I can be healthy, I think I can play the way that I’m capable of, and the discussion then at that point will be, ‘How much can you play before we push you too far?’

“We’ve got a lot of great players, and there are going to be good players that have to sit on the bench on our team at times. But no one ever rusts because you know how Joe uses everybody. You’re still going to play. Even if you don’t start, you’re probably going to play later in the game. It’s just part of the National League and the way Joe Maddon manages.”

It’s no secret, of course, that when Zobrist is on, he’s the kind of player you want in the lineup as much as possible. It was just two seasons ago that he posted a .386 on-base percentage, banged out 31 doubles, smacked 18 home runs and was a starter for the team that won the World Series.

But he also admitted that last year’s injury fights were extremely tough: “Last year was one of the most difficult seasons I’ve ever had as a player.” Zobrist said that while he’s feeling good and ready to go in 2018, with his recent physical ailments and his advancing age, he’s in a different stage in his career.

“At this point in my career, I’m not going to play 158 games or whatever. I’m going to have to manage and figure out how to play great for 130,” he said. “And I think that would be a good thing to shoot for, if I was healthy, is playing 130 games of nine innings would be great. And then you’re talking about postseason, too, when you add the games on top of that, and well, you need to play for the team in the postseason, you’ve got to be ready for that, too.

“From my standpoint, from their standpoint, it’s about managing, managing my performance and my physical body and making sure I can do all that at the highest level, keep it at the highest level I can.”

Maddon’s managerial style means that Zobrist, even if he’s not technically a part of the everyday starting eight, will still get the opportunity to hit on a regular basis, get a chance to play on a regular basis. Baez figures to be locked in as the team’s No. 1 second baseman, but he’ll need days off. Maddon mentioned Sunday that Zobrist, along with Happ, have been practicing at first base in an effort to be able to spell Anthony Rizzo. It’s the crowded outfield where Zobrist could potentially see the most time. He’ll be a piece of that tricky daily puzzle along with Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and the aforementioned Almora and Happ.

Unsurprisingly, in the end that versatility, combined with how Zobrist has recovered physically and whether he can get back to how he’s produced in the past, will determine how much he will play, according to the guy writing out the lineups.

“I think he’s going to dictate that to us based on how he feels,” Maddon said. “Listen, you’re always better off when Ben Zobrist is in your lineup. He’s a little bit older than he had been, obviously, like we all are. I’ve got to be mindful of that, but he’s in great shape. Let’s just see what it looks like. Go out there and play, and we’ll try to figure it out as the season begins to unwind because who knows, he might have an epiphany and turn back the clock a little bit, he looks that good. I want to keep an open mind.

“I want to make sure that he understands we’re going to need him to play a variety of different positions. He’s ready to do it, he’s eager, he’s really ready. He was not pleased with his year last year, took time to reflect upon it and now he’s really been refreshed. So I think you’re going to see the best form of Ben Zobrist right now.”

Two years ago, Zobrist played a big enough role to go to the All-Star Game and get named the MVP of the World Series. In the present, that role might be much, much smaller. But Zobrist said he’s OK with anything, admitting it’s about the number of rings on the fingers and not the number of days in the starting lineup.

“I’m 36 as a player, so I’m just trying to win championships at this point. It’s not really about what I’m trying to accomplish as an individual,” Zobrist said. “Everybody wants to have great seasons, but I’ve told (Maddon), ‘Wherever you need me, I’m ready.’ Just going to prepare to fill the spots that need to be filled and be a great complement to what’s going on.”