Wednesday, February 6, 2013

February 6- Chicago Cubs

Last night I let my followers put it to a vote as far as which team I would be writing about tonight. So far in my quest I had only written about the Athletics franchise more than once, but that had a specific purpose. I’ve been doing my best to go through all 30 teams at least once before picking, and writing about another style of theirs; and the fans voted in high numbers for the Chicago Cubs.

At first I was really hoping that the Cubs wouldn’t win out, as they are one of the few franchises who don’t have that many hats. When I posted the tweet I could only think of three hats of theirs I could write about, two of which have specific dates on them that I will write about when the anniversary comes to pass. But, after searching back through my hats again (I still haven’t put them on my wall yet) I found this guy, a 1912 Cooperstown Collection cap that the Cubs used this last season. If you read my post about the Milwaukee Brewers from last night you’ll remember that I’m a huge fan of navy blue. For some reason, in my opinion at least, royal blue has always looked weird on me. So, when New Era put this model on their sales rack, I jumped all over it. There’s nothing too fancy about it either; navy blue panels and bill with a white “C”. However, going back through the stat sheet from 1912 proved to be a little more challenging when trying to come up with numbers to mark on this sucker.

Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown was at the forefront of my mind, but simply because of the softball episode from The Simpsons back in 1992 as Mr. Burns wanted him on his team of ringers. Despite being a Hall of Famer, Brown’s stats in 1912 were not exactly top notch. He had only appeared in 15 games that season, but did OK with a 2.64 ERA. His 5-6 record with 34 strikeouts didn’t exactly win me over. I then moved on to another Hall of Famer from that season, Joe Tinker. Like Brown, not a real balls to the wall season: .282/0/75 while playing shortstop. Tinker did finish fourth in the MVP voting that year, yes, with those stats. But, I made my decision on yet another Hall of Famer Johnny Evers.

.341/1/63- Yes, believe it or not those were Evers’ stats in 1912. And to make things worse, Evers finished 20th in the MVP voting that year. Now, please take a moment to look that what I had previously said about Tinker’s stats, and finish in the MVP voting and compare them to Evers. I can wait…

Evers made his MLB debut with the Cubs on September 1 at shortstop, as Selee moved Tinker from shortstop to third base. Three days later, Selee returned Tinker to shortstop and assigned Evers to second base. In his month-long tryout with the Cubs, Evers batted .222 without recording an extra-base hit and played inconsistent defense. However, Lowe's injury did not properly heal by spring training in 1903, allowing Evers to win the starting job for the 1903 season. Lowe recovered during the 1903 season, but Evers' strong play made Lowe expendable; Evers finished third in the NL in fielding percentage among second basemen (.937), and finished fifth in assists (245) and putouts (306). The Cubs sold Lowe to the Pittsburgh Pirates after the season. Evers played 152 games in the 1904 season. Defensively, his 518 assists and 381 putouts led the NL, though his 54 errors led all NL second basemen.

During the 1906 season, Evers finished fifth in the NL with 49 stolen bases, and led the league with 344 putouts and led all second basemen with 44 errors. The Cubs won the NL pennant in 1906, but lost the 1906 World Series to the Chicago White Sox four games to two; Evers batted 3-for-20 (.150) in the series. During the 1907 season, Evers led the NL with 500 assists. The Cubs repeated as NL champions in 1907, and won the 1907 World Series over the Detroit Tigers, four games to none, as Evers batted 7-for-20 (.350).

During the 1908 pennant race, Evers alerted the umpires to Fred Merkle's baserunning error in a game against the New York Giants, which became known as "Merkle's Boner". Al Bridwell hit what appeared to be the game-winning single for the Giants, while Merkle, the baserunner on first base, went to the clubhouse without touching second base. Evers called for the ball, and the umpire ruled Merkle out. NL president Harry Pulliam ruled the game a tie, with a makeup to be played. The Cubs won the makeup game, thereby winning the pennant. The Cubs then won the 1908 World Series over Detroit, four games to one, as Evers again batted 7-for-20 (.350). For the 1908 season, Evers had a .300 batting average, good for fifth in the NL, and a .402 on-base percentage, second only to Honus Wagner.

Evers drew 108 walks during the 1910 season, trailing only Miller Huggins. However, Evers missed the end of the season with a broken leg. Without Evers, the Cubs won the NL pennant, but lost the 1910 World Series to the Philadelphia Athletics, four games to one. Evers agreed to manage the Navy Midshipmen, a college baseball team, in 1911, despite the opposition of Cubs' manager Frank Chance. He experienced a nervous breakdown in 1911; returning to the Cubs later in the season, he played in only 46 games that year. Evers indicated that this was a result of a business deal that cost Evers most of his savings. Evers rebounded to bat .341 in 1912, good for fourth in the NL, and he led the NL with a .431 on-base percentage. Team owner Charles W. Murphy named Evers manager in 1913, signing him to a five-year contract, succeeding Chance.

After the 1913 season, Evers was offered $100,000 ($2,322,896 in current dollar terms) to jump to the Federal League, but he opted to take less money to remain with the Cubs. In February 1914, after Evers signed his players to contracts, Murphy fired Evers as manager and traded him to the Boston Braves for Bill Sweeney and Hub Perdue. Murphy insisted that Evers had resigned as manager, which Evers denied. Evers insisted he was a free agent, but the league assigned him to the Braves.

Evers went on to win the MVP that season, but with stats similar to Tinker’s in 1912 (.279/1/40). I can only assume that the decision was a make-up call for what happened in 1912, a surprisingly common move the baseball writers pulled back in the old days.

Oh, and in case you were wondering who ended up with the award in 1912, it was Larry Doyle from the New York Giants who went .330/10/90. Doyle deserved it for sure, but Evers really should have been much higher on the radar.

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