Watching Cubs baseball this year has been tough. They’re competing with Houston for the worst record in baseball. Tough seasons like this force me to remember better days. In the not so recent past the 2003 Cubs captured our attention and consumed our summer. Where have those stars gone and when will the team return to prominence?
The 2003 season re-energized Cub Nation. After winning 88 games in a mediocre Central Division, the team came within 5 outs from making the World Series. That NLCS collapse against the Marlins still pains Cub fans today. Almost every fan remembers the series of unfortunate events which eventually led to a Game 7 loss instead of a trip to the World Series. Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano (for now) and Aramis Ramirez remain on the 2011 roster but most of the key members have since departed. Here is a look at where they went off to.
After 2003 Sammy Sosa spent one final season in Chicago before being traded to Baltimore. He had one poor season with the Orioles (14 home runs, .221 average) before sitting out of baseball in 2006 due to lack of interest around the league. His original team, the Texas Rangers, added him to their 2007 roster and he was able to reach the 600 career home run milestone. Though he was never caught, many suspect he was involved with performance enhancing drugs which will likely prevent him from making the Hall of Fame.
Joe Borowski recorded 33 saves with a sub-3.00 ERA for the Cubs in 2003. After struggling for the next couple years, the Cubs released him. From 2005 through 2008 he spent time as a setup man or closer for the Rays, Marlins and Indians posting a couple 35+ save seasons. Borowski officially retired in 2009 after being released by the Indians the previous year. He was never a dominant closer but found a way to let runners on base and then get out of a jam.
Outfielder Moisés Alou had his best season with the Cubs the year after their ’03 playoff run, hitting 39 home runs in 2004. He had two solid years with the Giants and one good year with the Mets before a torn hamstring ended his career in 2008. Despite the good stats he put up with the Cubs, he’ll be remembered for the tantrum he threw after the ‘Bartman Incident’ in the playoffs that year.
Mark Prior‘s first and last remarkable season as a major league pitcher was in 2003. He remained with the Cubs through 2006 but never won more than 11 games and suffered numerous injuries. He was on the Padres minor league roster in 2009 and played independent league baseball and on the Rangers minor league team in 2010. This year he is pitching on the Yankees minor league team transitioning to a relief pitching role. It’s unlikely he’ll make it back to the majors but if he does, it will be as a shell of his former talented self.
In seventeen seasons Kenny Lofton played on 11 different teams. He spent only half a season with the Cubs but made an impact as a lead off replacement for the injured Corey Patterson. Lofton was already 36 when he joined the Cubs but managed to play with the Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers, Rangers and Indians before retiring in 2007. From most accounts he wasn’t a good locker room presents which explains his journeymen status despite his talents as a hitter and fielder.