Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Cubs 101 - Pt. 47 - Looking Back on the Riggleman and Lynch Era

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I'm unsure if their tenure in Chicago was justified, but Jim Riggleman and Ed Lynch joined the club together before the start of the 1995 season.  During their five-year tenure, the Cubs would reach the playoffs once, finish over .500 twice, and lose 86-or-more games three times.  Not exactly ringing endorsements for future employers.

Ed Lynch was a former-player-turned-executive who was best known in Chicago for the time, as a Met, when he beaned Cub Keith Moreland and got plowed by the large third baseman like a track of fertile soil.  As an executive his work was less-than-impeccable and he had more than his fair share of detractors by the time I began to familiarize myself with him in '97. 

Considering how poorly the team played, minus their one playoff year in '98 when they had the ungodly stuff of Kerry Wood and the epic power of Sammy Sosa, it's hard to argue against Lynch having deserved it.  Perhaps he was handcuffed by a MacPhail-mandated budget, or maybe he was just a dope -- as best exampled by the headline acquisition of Expos closer Mel Rojas, who I wouldn't have entrusted to save anything, be it a game or a village of hell-bound Peruvian infidels.  But nothing to fear, Lynch was able to make up for his tremendous mistake by dealing Rojas, Brian McRae -- whose departure left Mark Grace weeping, as they were best friends -- and Turk Wendell to the Mets for "key contributors" Mark Clark, Lance "One-Leg" Johnson, and Manny "Sammy's Pal" Alexander. 

Still, Lynch's short-sighted moves were certainly important to the '98 playoff drive.  He was certainly the executive who approved of the acquisitions of closer Rod Beck (51 saves in '98), who acquired slugging left fielder Henry Rodriguez for the baseball equivilent of magic beans*, and who landed Mickey Morandini from the Phillies for Doug Glanville.

Granted, H-Rod would be a two-hit wonder, leaving Chicago in the middle of his third season with the team while those magic beans grew into Miguel Batista, a versatile starting pitcher who won 16 games in 2007 for the Mariners.  Granted, Mickey Morandini would have one good year with the Cubs while Doug Glanville would be a servicable center fielder for the Phillies for four-or-so seasons, although he never grew into star-status.  And, granted, Lynch probably was the one who approved of Kerry Wood's start in the '98 NLDS, the final one he'd make until after he returned from Tommy John Surgery in 2000, the season after Lynch got his ass canned.  In other words, Lynch chose to burn brightly for less time, and it's no surprise that he hasn't held an executive's role with any club since his "demotion."

Then again, Lynch did draft such future stars as Kerry Wood and Jon Garland, not to mention reliable major leaguers Kyle Lohse, Scott Downs, Michael Wuertz, Erik Hinske, along with their fair share of total busts like Corey Patterson.  If only any of those success stories, after Kerry Wood, spent any amount of time with the Cubs rather than serving as trade fodder for one-year-(at best!)wonders...

Jim Riggleman, meanwhile, remains the longest tenured manager of my lifetime.  We'd have to go back to Leo Durocher to find a Cubs skipper who served as much time with the organization.  It's too bad so much time was spent on such a mediocre manager -- Riggs was, upon reflection, perhaps better than those who'd follow him but he suffered from the same crippling mentality as Baker -- he'd bat the center fielder first (whether it be Brant Brown and his .340ish OBP in 1998 or Jose Hernandez and his .311 OBP) and the second baseman second.  His rosters seemed built more on tradition than on sense, and it's unlikely that he really helped the team win games in the way we like to think Lou Piniella might.

Regardless, both Lynch and Riggleman are long gone from the Cubs, but it remains absurd to consider their few accomplishments in the face of how long they kept their jobs.  An entire half decade belonged to them -- five years we'll never get back. 

Pity who their replacements were.  Even worse, pity the fact that their boss, Andy MacPhail, got to keep his job for more than another half decade after they left. 

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Mel Rojas

I know Rojas was a complete disaster, but was it really a dumb signing at the time?

During his 6 years before coming to the Cubs, his stats were pretty impressive -- 2.99 ERA, 135 ERA+. Decent strikeout numbers, not too many walks (K/BB ratio of 2.5). He had an 84% save percentage during his two years as the Expos' 9th-inning guy, including 90% the year before the Cubs signed him.

His flameout was epic, but was there some particular reason Lynch should have expected it? (Maybe he was much older than his stated age of 30?)

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