Right Fielder, 1977-79
.270 BA, 43 HR, 175 RBI with Cubs
(Editor's Note: Second in a series identifying the 100 worst Cubs of all-time.)
Bobby Murcer was a five-time All-Star and the best player on the New York Yankees during the early 1970s, but by the time he arrived to the Cubs in 1977, his best days had passed him by.
Bobby Murcer who became the highest-paid player in Cubs history in 1977.
Murcer was acquired by the Cubs from the San Francisco Giants in new general manager Bob Kennedy's first big trade - on Feb. 11, 1977 - along with Steve Ontiveros in exchange for two-time defending National League batting champion Bill Madlock. The trade ended acrimonious contract negotiations between Madlock, who was seeking a lucrative multi-year contract, and the Cubs.
Murcer, shrewdly knowing that the Cubs could not afford not signing him after trading Madlock negotiated a five-year, $1.6 million contract. The deal made Murcer the highest-paid player in franchise history.
Murcer told Cubs fans during spring training that they wouldn't miss Madlock.
"I will hit more home runs, outrun him on the bases, and play better on the field," Murcer said. "Watching the wind blow in Wrigley Field gets the adrenalin flowing."
And Murcer's time with the North Siders started well. The 31-year-old Murcer was a force in the middle of the lineup, hitting .265 with 27 homers and 89 RBI. The overachieving Cubs, led by the emergence of bullpen sensation Bruce Sutter, enjoyed a marvelous first half. They entered play on July 1 with a 47-24 record, atop the National League East with a 7.5-game lead over the second-place Philadelphia Phillies.
But Sutter broke down in July and with him out of commission, the Cubs' fortunes plummeted. The Phillies passed the Cubs on Aug. 6 and the North Siders were 10 games out by Aug. 31. Murcer had his best month amongst the ruins in August, hitting nine homers. But his September was as awful as the team's as he hit just .204 with three homers and six RBI. The Cubs won just nine of 28 in the final month of the season to finish 81-81, 20 games behind the division champion Phillies.
Murcer's September swoon was a harbinger. He slumped early in the 1978 season, but after making an adjustment to his stance, he hit .317 the last three months of the season and finished with a respectable .281. But it was a very soft .281.Murcer completely lost his power stroke, managing just nine home runs and 64 RBI.
The Wrigley Field fans began to regularly ride Murcer in 1978 and the dissatisfaction intensified in 1979. Murcer began to struggle mightily in the field and had difficulty gauging the tricky winds in his home ballpark. Murcer also was perceived as a player who did not always give his best effort and as a malcontent.
Complicating matters was the emergence of rookie right fielder Scot Thompson who seemed to hit every time he got a chance to play. Murcer, who already was being platooned with Mike Vail in right, saw his playing time diminish considerably by the end of May as manager Herman Franks started giving Thompson more playing time.
Murcer, who was popular with his teammates, was elected the team captain, but he seemed uncomfortable with the title. His only duty as captain seemed to be handing out fines for minor infractions in the team's "kangaroo court." On June 26, Murcer waived a no-trade clause in his contract and was sent to the Yankees for a minor league pitcher Paul Semall. Murcer was hitting .258 with seven homers and 22 RBI when the deal was consummated.