Ron Cey wants it understood that he is not just another former Dodger infielder running around looking odd in somebody else's uniform. "I feel terrific," says Cey in Cub pinstripes. "This is a new challenge, a fresh start. There's no question that this was the best move for me at this time." The stumpy Penguin always looked a bit odd, even in Dodger Blue, but the sight of him in the Chicago infield after 10 seasons as the Los Angeles third baseman is unsettling.
The transfer to the Windy City doesn't seem to bother Cey nearly as much as the suggestions that he's upset about what the Dodgers thought his years of loyal service and 228 home runs were worth-two minor league players. "I'm not really bitter," he protests, "although the situation could have been handled better. All season I heard about the trade talk through the papers, never up front. All I ask is honesty. Somebody could have come up to me personally and told me. I think it affected my performance."
Not appreciably, though. He hit .254 last year with 24 homers and 79 RBIs, figures compatible with his career statistics in L.A. and if duplicated this year would seem to justify Chicago General Manager Dallas Green's signing him to a five-year contract. The Cubs acquired Cey first as a player, second as an outsider who can infuse this perennially sorry team with a touch of class. "I think they want me to make the situation here a little better," says Cey. "I think they hope that the attitude I have will help us all."
Cey will join an infield that, with the exception of 23-year-old Second Baseman Ryne Sandberg, is long in the tooth. Cey is 35, Shortstop Larry Bowa, imported a year ago from Philadelphia as another winning influence, is 37, and First Baseman Bill Buckner, who drove in a career-high 105 runs last year, is 33.
The baby, Sandberg, was last year's third baseman until September when Cub Manager Lee Elia moved him over. "Bump Wills [the regular second baseman in '82] had said he was going free agent," says Elia, "so I didn't want to lose a month with him when we could be finding out if Sandberg could play there. He showed us he could."
Wills eventually moved on to Japan. Sandberg had a creditable rookie season, hitting .271 with 33 doubles and 32 stolen bases. With Cey and Buckner driving in runs, and Sandberg and Bowa scoring them, the Cubs will have some infield punch. Bull Durham, who hit 22 homers, will add more, and so may rookie Center-fielder Mel Hall. Another youngster, Jody Davis, is solid behind the plate, which will allow Keith Moreland to pursue full-time his new career as an outfielder.
The Cubs' shortcomings are in front of the plate, where only Dickie Noles and 39-year-old Ferguson Jenkins are proven quantities. Jenkins needs only 22 wins to reach 300 for his career. With Chicago, that may take a while.
Chicago's best chance of winning came whenever it led its opponent entering the seventh inning; on those occasions the Cubs had an outstanding 51-7 record. Prime contributors were Leon Durham and Bill Buckner, who batted .348 and .341, respectively, with men in scoring position. When the Cubbies trailed the opposition entering the seventh inning, they were just 9-69.