The Cubs started the 1990 season full of optimism. They came out of nowhere in 1989 and won the Eastern Division. But they flopped in the NLCS (seems like that has happened a lot!!) and were ready to get back to the playoffs in 1990. The team had strong veterans like Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson, good young players like Mark Grace, Dwight Smith and 1989 Rookie of the Year Jerome Walton, plus a pitching staff led by Greg Maddux.
So in 1990 they repeated as division champs and atoned for the flop in the '89 playoff. Well, in my dreams they did, but in reality, it was a 77-85 record and a 4th place finish.
Manager Don Zimmer was in his third season as Cubs skipper. In 1989 he took a lot of gambles, often going against the book, and they always seemed to pay off. His 1990 luck was as bad as his 1989 luck was good. And his critics became more vocal. Midway through the 1991 season, Popeye was canned.
There were several highlights worth mentioning....
...a team batting average of .263, second in the league.
...Three hitters, Dawson, Sandberg, and Grace, with averages over .300
...Ryne Sandberg became the first second baseman in MLB history with consecutive 30 HR seasons. Ryno also won his 8th consecutive Gold Glove.
...Seven players had at least 10 stolen bases, the first time the Cubs did that since 1924.
So what was the problem? In a word, pitching. The '90 Cubs used a franchise record 15 different starting pitchers. Maddux won 15 games, and Mike Harkey was 12-6, but after that, the rotation was a disaster. So too was closer Mitch William, with a 1-8 record and a 3.91 ERA.
The team did have fan support, drawing 2,243,791 fans, good for the second highest total in franchise history. A box seat was now $15, up significantly from the 1980 price of $6.50. The team was becoming a hot ticket and Tribune Company was cashing in. Bleacher seats tripled in price from 1980, now costing $6.
Tomorrow I'll show you the star-loaded starting lineup.