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Four years ago the Cubs had two future Hall of Famers on their
roster. One they clung to, shelling out a then-unprecedented
$28.4 million to extend second baseman Ryne Sandberg's contract
through 1997. The other they did not, failing to keep Greg
Maddux happy enough to stick around past the 1992 season. Less
than halfway through his hefty new deal, Sandberg quit the game.
Last season in Atlanta, Maddux earned his fourth straight Cy
Young Award and a World Series ring.

The Cubs can only speculate about what their fortunes might have
been if they had allocated their esteem and money differently in
1992. But at least now they have a future Hall of Famer locked
up again. The 36-year-old Sandberg is back this season, having
decided to return, in part because the Cubs began playing
exciting baseball last year. But if Sandberg liked what he saw
when Chicago hung in the wild-card race until the last week of
the '95 season, much of what he saw is no longer anywhere in

Extra! Extra! The Tribune Co. still doesn't know how to spend
its dough. In the off-season, club president Andy MacPhail
refused to re-up third baseman Todd Zeile (14 home runs, 52 RBIs
in '95), stopper Randy Myers (a league-high 38 saves) and
shortstop Shawon Dunston (.296, 14 homers and 69 RBIs). Nor did
Chicago even enter the orbit of the free-agent stars who might
have replaced the departed players.

Why would a big-market team with such deep pockets be so stingy?
One reason might be that no matter how uncompetitive the Cubs
are, Wrigley Field (capacity 38,765) always draws an overflow
crowd. Another reason might be Chicago's ill-fated foray into
the free-agent market in '91, when the team squandered $25
million on slugger George Bell and pitchers Dave Smith and Danny
Jackson, none of whom lived up to expectations. "I know the fans
are concerned, and I care what they think," says general manager
Ed Lynch. "But we weren't going to spend all our money for some
instant gratification."

Cubs management also seems to believe that Sandberg will save
the day by coming back close to his old form, a la Michael, a
la Magic. "If Ryno can hit around .270, hit 15 to 20 home runs,
drive in some big runs and make all the plays, that would be
incredible," says first baseman Mark Grace. Indeed, that would
be a la Merlin. No matter how well waterskiing and snow skiing
kept him in shape, Sandberg went 17 months without taking a
grounder. And the master of the basket shot--a fly ball just long
enough to clear Wrigley's left-centerfield wall--was losing his
pop when he left. "I just hope," says one scout, "he doesn't do
anything to take himself out of the Hall of Fame."

Though the team came through with a total of $30 million to
retain Grace and two-time 30-30 rightfielder Sammy Sosa for the
next three years, the lineup is essentially punchless beyond
those two, which renders the jet stream at Wrigley's ivied
confines essentially useless. Take away Sosa's 36 jacks and this
year's Cubs starters combined for only 59 in 1995--or nine more
than Cleveland's Albert Belle hit.

Still, the Cubs' defense should be sound, and the mid-'95 deal
with Houston that brought in catcher Scott Servais (.286 as a
Cub) and leftfielder Luis Gonzalez (a career .326 hitter in
Wrigley) could prove to be a bonanza. As for the all-righthanded
rotation...well, what you see depends on your viewing angle.

After Jaime Navarro, who shed 15 pounds and emerged as the ace
last season, and Frank Castillo, who hurled 8 2/3 no-hit innings
against the Cardinals in September, there's a distinct streak of
schizophrenia. Jim Bullinger went boom in the season's first
half (6-1, 2.89 ERA) and bust in its second (6-7, 4.88). Kevin
Foster, after finishing 3-4 with a 2.89 ERA in 1994, watched his
ERA balloon by 56% and surrendered a league-high 32 homers in
'95. And over the last two years Steve Trachsel, fourth in the
1994 rookie of the year voting, has been a king on the road
(13-6, 3.76) and roadkill at home (3-16, 4.75).

Meanwhile, Myers will be replaced in the pen by sinkerballer
Doug Jones, 38, whose primary virtue is that he came cheap
($825,000). "You don't want to buy in a high market unless you
have to," MacPhail says. "There are ways to improve your team
that are not as expensive. What fans really want is to win in
June and July." These Cubs may be hard-pressed to do even that.


COLOR PHOTO: V. J. LOVERO COVER PHOTO [Varies by region] Comeback Cub Ryne Sandberg makes a rousing return to Chicago COLOR PHOTO: STEPHEN GREEN Even if Grace is amazing, the Cubs lack the luster to escape the NL shadows. [Mark Grace in game]


1995 Team Statistics (NL rank in parentheses)

Batting Average .265 (6)
Home Runs 158 (4)
ERA 4.13 (8)
Fielding Pct. .979 (10)

Airing It Out

Among active pitchers with at least 250 career innings pitched,
only Sid Fernandez has a lower ratio of groundouts to air outs
than the Cubs' Kevin Foster. It has been said that fly-ball
pitchers can't win in Wrigley Field, but Foster had a 7-4 record
in the Friendly Confines last season and has had a 15-15 record
since joining Chicago in 1994; over the last 20 years, only
three fly-ball pitchers (those whose ratio of groundouts to air
outs is less than one) have won more games for the Cubs.

Lowest Career Ratio of Groundouts to Air Outs (among active
pitchers with at least 250 innings)

Ground Air Ratio

Fernandez 1,155 2,540 0.45

Foster 174 348 0.50

Van Poppel 298 453 0.66

Wetteland 341 513 0.66

Browning 1,884 2,833 0.67

Most Wins by Cubs' Fly-ball Pitchers (1976-95)

Ratio Overall W-L at
W-L Wrigley

Sanderson, 1984-89 0.88 42-42 22-19

McGlothen, 1978-81 0.99 31-35 18-14

Eckersley, 1984-86 0.83 27-26 16-12

Foster, 1994-95 0.50 15-15 8-6

McElroy, 1991-93 0.95 12-11 7-6


For three years righthander Terry Adams struggled in the minors
for the Cubs, serving up more walks (191) than strikeouts (183)
while failing to advance beyond Class A. What made Adams's woe
all the worse was his potential: With a low- to mid-90's
fastball, he was the hardest thrower in Chicago's system. But
since being shifted from starter to reliever two years ago, the
23-year-old has blossomed. In Double A and Triple A ball last
season, he walked 18, fanned 36, had a 1.42 ERA and amassed 24
saves before receiving an August call-up. The Cubs don't see
Adams immediately filling the void created by the departure of
Randy Myers. But, says G.M. Ed Lynch, "we definitely think Terry
has a future as a closer."



CF Brian McRae .288, 12, 48, 27
2B Ryne Sandberg* .238, 5, 23, 2
1B Mark Grace .326, 16, 92, 6
RF Sammy Sosa .268, 36, 119, 34
3B Dave Magadan[**] .313, 2, 51, 2
LF Luis Gonzalez .276, 13, 69, 6
C Scott Servais .265, 13, 47, 2


SS Rey Sanchez .278, 3, 27, 6
IF Leo Gomez[**] .236, 4, 12, 0
OF Ozzie Timmons .263, 8, 28, 3
C Matt Merullo[**] .282, 1, 27, 0


RH Jaime Navarro 14-6, 3.28
RH Frank Castillo 11-10, 3.21
RH Kevin Foster 12-11, 4.51
RH Jim Bullinger 12-8, 4.14
RH Steve Trachsel 7-13, 5.15


RH Doug Jones[**] 22, 5.01
RH Mike Perez 2, 3.66
RH Terry Adams (R) 1, 6.50
LH Bob Patterson[**] 0, 3.04

*1994 statistics (retired for entire '95 season)
[**] New acquisition (R) Rookie