2003 Chicago Cubs
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2003 Chicago Cubs / Franchise: Chicago Cubs / BR Team Page
Clinched Division: September 27, 2003, vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
Managed by Dusty Baker
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2003 Chicago Cubs were led by a veteran lineup and young All-Star pitching. Slugging outfielders Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou anchored the offense, combining for 62 home runs and 194 RBIs. While All-Stars Mark Prior (2nd in strikeouts, 3rd in ERA, and T-2nd in wins) and Kerry Wood (1st in strikeouts, 4 complete games, and 2 shutouts) led a pitching staff with the third best ERA in the National League. Dubbed a "strikeout staff" like teams from previous years, the Cubs fielded an outstanding pitching staff. Between 2001 and 2003, the Cubs set many all-time strikeout records for Major League Baseball, often against the Houston Astros, and particularly against their cross-state rival, the Milwaukee Brewers, consistently striking out the 3-4-5 hitters in the batting order of Geoff Jenkins, Jeromy Burnitz and Richie Sexson. For instance, the Cubs teams set the record for most times striking out the side.
The Cubs battled for a division lead at the end of April. They remained in first place until early June and trailed by 1 game at the end of the month. But in July, they started to fade, falling to 3rd place and 5 1/2 games back by July 23rd. But it was on that date that the club traded for centerfielder and leadoff man Kenny Lofton and third baseman Aramis Ramirez. The new additions helped to jump start the struggling Cubs' offense, reducing the division deficit to 2 1/2 games by the end of August. Then in September the Cubs went on a tear, winning 19 of 27 games and clinching their first division title in 19 years. But it was postseason miseries that would define the season.
The Cubs battled to a 3 games to 2 win over the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS, earning the organization's first playoff series victory since 1908. But the Cubs lost the NLCS to the Florida Marlins, 4 games to 3, after taking a 3 games to 1 lead. After being shut out in Game 5, the Cubs held significant leads in both Games 6 and 7, only to blow both. Games 6 and 7 saw defeats of Prior and Wood in consecutive games for just the second time, at that point, in 32 such instances. In was in the 8th inning of Game 6 at Wrigley Field, with the Cubs leading 3-0, that the infamous "Bartman incident" occurred, changing the course of the game and the series. With one out and a man on second base, spectator Steve Bartman deflected a Luis Castillo foul ball, which left fielder Moises Alou had a chance to catch for the second out, into the stands. Given a reprieve, the Marlins would go on to score 8 runs in the inning, win the game 8-3, and then the pennant the next day on their way to winning the World Series.
Awards and Honors
- Buzz Bissinger: Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA, 2005.
- Washington Post: "Cubs win two, clinch Central Division", Historicnewspapers.com, September 28, 2003