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Those Left Behind: Five Moments That Mattered From 2015 Cubs Who Didn’t Make It

Remember Rich Hill? He made his major-league debut as a starting pitcher for the Cubs in June of 2005, throwing a lone (and shaky: two runs allowed on three hits) inning against the Marlins on June 15th, and then followed that up with 22 2/3 mostly terrible innings the rest of that season, compiling a 9.13 ERA and a 14.8 percent walk rate on the year. And, for some reason, he’s been stuck in my head ever since. I’m fascinated by these anonymous Cubs—men who, for a short moment, captured our attention as they plied their trade for the boys in blue, but then faded into obscurity in the shadow of other, greater, figures.

This season has already seen five such men enter the history books: Phil Coke, Edwin Jackson, Welington Castillo, Arismendy Alcantara, and Mike Olt. Each man earned a spot on the 2015 Cubs’ Opening Day Roster and has since—permanently, in some cases (at least insofar as change in baseball is permanent)—moved on. The purpose of this piece is to celebrate moments in which those men were glorious; these are the moments you remember—like Aramis Ramirez’s 2007 walkoff against the Milwaukee Brewers—except whereas that memory of Ramirez is colored by his awesome legacy in Chicago, the moments here will be accompanied, in the not-too-distant-future, by cries of “That guy was a Cub?” and “Oh! I’d forgotten about him!” Thus, we remember.


Phil Coke: Coke, a hard-throwing lefty who made his bones in the Tigers organization, signed with Chicago on the eve of spring training, 2015, and quickly earned his manager’s trust by putting up pretty good numbers in Arizona to go along with a solid clubhouse presence. On the field, he was meant to shore up a key spot in the bullpen (a role now filled by Travis Wood), but quickly failed to do so in magnificent fashion. Over 10 mostly poor innings for the Cubs, he posted a 6.30 ERA and never looked quite right mechanically. That said, he did do one great thing: On Opening Night itself, with the bases loaded for the Cardinals’ Kolten Wong, and the Redbirds already up 3-0, Coke managed to strike Wong out on a blazing fastball to end the inning, and with it the threat. That’s pretty cool. Thanks, Phil Coke.

Edwin Jackson: I’m going to be a little bit mean here. Edwin Jackson, the first big free-agent signing of the Theo Epstein-Jed Hoyer regime in Chicago, never really lived up to his potential in a Cubs uniform. He was a superb clubhouse presence, to be sure—multiple teammates took to Twitter after his release to vouch for his character and leadership—but the results were never there. This season, he’d been converted to a relief role after his results as a starter were disastrous, but even there he failed to find his spot. He was eventually designated for assignment, and then released, and his crowning moment as a Cub came a few weeks later, when he took the Wrigley mound against the Cubs for the Atlanta Braves:

That’s Miguel Montero and Jorge Soler—Jackson’s former teammates—going back to back off of the German-born reliever to put the Cubs ahead for good. A good moment on the mound for Edwin, to be sure.

Welington Castillo: The man who launched a thousand bad food jokes, Castillo was actually the subject of my first-ever post for this site. Personal marginalia aside, Castillo’s had an interesting year. He was effectively demoted over the offseason, as the Cubs acquired Montero and David Ross to up their emphasis on pitch-framing, and then played out the first part of the season unsure of his status on the club. The answer came on May 19th, when he was traded to Seattle for reliever Yoervis Medina. My favorite Castillo moment is this one, from September 23rd of last year, when he hit a walk-off at Wrigley against the Cardinals. Relive the magic:

Arismendy Alcantara: I love Arismendy Alcantara. I’d love nothing more than for him to earn a spot on the September roster. But that isn’t gonna happen, and there’s only one number you need to look at to know why: 34.4 percent. That’s Alcantara’s strikeout rate with the big club in 2015, and it’s totally unacceptable. If you want another number, there’s this: 25.1 percent. That’s his strikeout rate over 499 plate appearances in Iowa this season. Unlike, say, Javy Baez, who’s shown an ability to make the adjustments necessary to succeed at the big-league level, Mendy has to date shown no such thing. But, he did have some good moments in a Cubs’ uniform. Here’s one of them, from earlier this season against the Reds:

You see what I’m talking about? Unless you’re Matt Trueblood (who seems to have a penchant for walk-off trivia) I bet that you didn’t remember that Alcantara had a walk-off hit for the Cubs this season. And yet he did, and now you won’t forget it.

Mike Olt: Mike Olt! I’ll admit I was overly bullish on Olt when the Cubs acquired him from the Rangers in 2013. I’d been a huge fan since his college days, and had hoped the Cubs might draft him in 2010. They didn’t, and when they bought low from Texas I thought they might have made the deal of the year. It didn’t work out that way, and Olt is now a member of the White Sox organization. Whether it was eye problems, mechanical adjustments, or simple lack of playing time, Olt never really found his footing as a Cub, posting batting averages below the Mendoza line in both of his two seasons with the squad. But his glove was consistently spectacular:


Not everyone can be a star. Not everyone, even, can be remembered. It’s true in baseball, and it’s true in life. That doesn’t mean that moments don’t matter, and that players with just a few lines to deliver on stage can’t say them strongly, and with conviction. I hope this post has given you an opportunity to reflect on a few nice moments from Cubs who are no longer with us—Cubs who, nonetheless, have done their part to make this 2015 season as magical as it has become.

Lead photo courtesy Caylor Arnold—USA Today Sports.

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8 comments on “Those Left Behind: Five Moments That Mattered From 2015 Cubs Who Didn’t Make It”

Love this article! I have a soft spot for marginal players who have big moments. I remember Randall Simon hitting some shocking triple (?) in 2003 in a late-season game that seemed meaningless but ended up being pretty important. (Vague enough for you?)

Rian Watt

I remember that! Glad you liked the article. Was fun to dig around the videos and relive some moments.

Nate Greabe

This is awesome, but Taylor Teagarden!!!

Rian Watt

Next post: ‘Those Really Really Left Behind’!

Ryan Davis

Awesome. I also wanted to share my forgotten player random moment: Jeff Reed walk off double against the Atlanta Braves in the very early portion of 1999. At the time, most thought the Cubs were a contender, and they were coming off the 1998 Wild Card so it felt way more special than it ended up being.

Rian Watt

Ah, very cool. 1999 was (shamefully) before my fandom really kicked in, so I can’t say I remember it. But a cool moment.


He wasn’t a Cub yet, but Neifi Perez’ walk-off homer in game 162 for the Rockies against the Giants to force the one-game playoff in 1998. I always tried to temper my lack of enthusiasm for Neifi as a Cub.

Rian Watt

Man, that retroactively makes Neifi sort of ok in my book.

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