The Cubs have unquestionably been in a rebuilding period for the past four seasons. Many non-Cubs supporters like to joke that the team has been in rebuilding mode for the past 106 years. The North Siders haven’t made the playoffs since 2008 and back then the roster looked considerably different. The Cubs were still owned by the Chicago Tribune Company and managed by “Sweet Lou” Pinella. Both Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano led the team with 12 wins and combined for nearly 250 strikeouts. It was year one of the Kosuke Fukudome experiment in Chicago and Alfonso Soriano was in year two of his seven-year, 136 million dollar contract.Things looked promising for the Cubs that season as they held the best record in baseball at 97-64 and would take on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round of the playoffs.
The Cubs were swept in three games and would be outscored by the Dodgers 20-6. Shortly after the season collapsed, Pinella would announce his retirement, Tom Ricketts bought the team from the Tribune, and key players to the 2008 playoff season were soon traded away.
Since Theo Epstein took over as Cubs President of Operations in October 2011, Cubs loyalists have embraced, reluctantly perhaps, that the team was about begin a rigorous rebuilding period. It was not going to be an easy period of time for the fans as they would have to watch their team post losing records four of the last five seasons. Even more difficult for Cubs supporters to watch was their division rival, the St. Louis Cardinals, go on to win a World Series Championship in 2011 while making another trip to the big show last season.
Generations of Cubs fans have watched the team come up short of the ultimate goal and it’s more than likely that there is no living survivor from the 1908 championship. But there are plenty of fans today who remember the 1984 Chicago Cubs as being one of the last team Cubs fans could grasp to in hopes of bringing Chicago a World Series Championship (a vast majority of fans choose to forget the Bartman season back in 2003).
The 1984 season was truly a remarkable year for the organization and their fans. This was the third season the team was owned by the Tribune Company and the roster moves were orchestrated by general manager Dallas Green. The team had a busy off-season that started with the firing of manager Lee Elia, who had managed the team for two seasons and posted dismal a 71-91 record in 1983. Jim Frey would be brought in to manage the team after spending two seasons as the Kansas City Royals manager just a few years prior.
Despite being 20 games under .500 for the previous season, the team showed flashes of greatness and gave Green a repairable ball club. One way for the team to rebuild off a hard-fought 1983 campaign was to make the team younger and Green accomplished this by releasing long-time starting pitcher Ferguson Jenkins. The 40-year old right-hander was just 16 games shy of his 300th win in his second stint with the Cubs. This move might not have sat well with long-time Cubs fans, but allowed season long roster moves that ultimately worked out in the teams favor.
A busy off-season continued when veteran relief pitcher Bill Campbell and 24-year old catcher Mike Diaz were shipped off to Philadelphia in exchange for Porfi Altamirano, Bob Dernier, and outfielder Gary Matthews, who was the 1983 NLCS MVP for the Phillies in their run to the World Series. The Cubs roster was set for opening day 1984 and they fielded a team consisting of Bob Dernier batting lead-off, Ryne Sandberg following in the order, Gary Matthews, Ron Cey, and Keith Moreland batting three, four, and five, and the batting order was rounded out with Jody Davis, Leon Durham, and Larry Bowa.
First-half of the 1984 season
The Cubs opened the season by going 12-8 in the month of April. The team was tied with the Mets for first with the Phillies close behind both teams. The team finished the first-half of the season 42-34 and now found themselves tied with the Phillies for first place with the Mets chasing only a half game in the standings.
The first three months of that season will be most remembered for the players that joined the Cubs in what would be their first playoff season since losing in the 1945 World Series. On May 25th the Cubs traded first baseman Bill Buckner to the Boston Red Sox for Mike Brumley and two-time All-Star pitcher Dennis Eckersley. The team continued shopping on June 13th when the Cubs traded 24-year old Joe Carter, along with Don Schulze, Mel Hall, and Darryl Banks, to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Rick Sutcliffe, George Frazier, and Ron Hassey. These two trades before the All-Star break would solidify the starting rotation with Eckersley and Sutcliffe now in mix with Steve Trout, Scott Sanderson, and Dick Ruthven.
Up Next: Ryne Sandberg and 1984 Playoffs