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From Joc Pederson’s pearls to Martin Maldonado’s Twitter game, our postseason power rankings of former Chicago Cubs entering the World Series

Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
 2021-10-26
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White Sox reliever Ryan Tepera throws to first base against the Tigers at Guaranteed Rate Field on Oct. 1, 2021. John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune

The night before Game 3 of the 1999 World Series, Atlanta Braves pitcher Greg Maddux was talking with a group of Chicago reporters in a Manhattan hotel bar.

When he got up to leave, Maddux turned to Chicago Tribune baseball writer Jerome Holtzman and said, “See you at work tomorrow.”

It’s easy to forget baseball is a job, and the World Series is the end of a long and strenuous work year. For those fortunate enough to get to the Fall Classic — the Braves and Houston Astros this year — it’s a culmination of nine months of nonstop work, from the start of spring training to the final out of the clinching game.

No one can say a World Series champion got there by accident, and that’s why we watch, even when it’s hard to root for either team.

The Braves-Astros matchup , which begins Tuesday in Houston, is not the juiciest one we’ve seen. The TV ratings will likely bear that out.

But it’s still the World Series — and a chance for former Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker to finally win a title, for the Astros players to redeem themselves after their sign-stealing scandal and for Braves outfielder Joc Pederson to win a second straight ring and seal his spot atop the postseason power rankings of ex-Cubs.

Here’s how those rankings stand heading into the World Series.

1. Joc Pederson, Atlanta Braves

They called it “Joctober” in Los Angeles when Pederson would turn it on in the playoffs with the Dodgers. He didn’t make a lasting impression during a half-season in Chicago, but he’s back to his old tricks since arriving in Atlanta. He hit a game-winning, pinch-hit, three-run home run in the Braves’ Game 3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Division Series, and he has three homers and nine RBIs in 29 postseason at-bats. More importantly, Pederson has set the fashion world on fire by wearing pearls during games. Now pearls are de rigueur at Braves games. Barring a meltdown in the World Series, Pederson basically has clinched the Ex-Cub of the Year award.

2. Kyle Schwarber, Boston Red Sox

The former Cubs left fielder, who was non-tendered and made the NL All-Star team as a Washington National before being dealt to Boston at the trade deadline, seemed destined for the top spot after his grand slam against the Astros in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, his third homer of the postseason. But he wound up hitting .120 in that series and made a crucial error at first base in Game 5. Now he’s off for the winter.

3. Kris Bryant, San Francisco Giants

After going 9-for-54 (.167) with one home run and one RBI in four playoff series for the Cubs between 2017 and 2020, Bryant hit .471 with one homer in the Giants’ five-game NLDS loss to the Dodgers. It was a sad ending to the 107-win Giants’ great season, but Bryant was not to blame for the lack of offense.

4. Jesse Chavez, Atlanta Braves

One of former Cubs President Theo Epstein’s best under-the-radar pickups in July 2018, the 38-year-old Chavez has made five scoreless appearances for the Braves, including an inning as the “opener” in Game 4 of the NLCS against the Dodgers.

5. Tommy La Stella, San Francisco Giants

The former Cubs pinch hitter extraordinaire was 0-for-13 with the Cubs in postseason play from 2015-17. He went 2-for-2 with one run scored in the Giants’ win over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLDS and hit .333 (3-for-9) in the series.

6. Anthony Rizzo, New York Yankees

The first baseman homered in four at-bats in the Yankees’ wild-card loss to the Red Sox.

7. Brooks Raley, Houston Astros

The former Cubs left-hander was a sixth-round draft pick in 2009. He was inconsistent during the first two years of the rebuild in 2012-13, then rebooted his career in the KBO League in South Korea and is back in the majors with the Astros as a middle reliever. He allowed one run in three innings in the ALCS against the Red Sox.

8. Jorge Soler, Atlanta Braves

One of the first core players dealt after the 2016 championship — to the Kansas City Royals for closer Wade Davis — Soler became a star in K.C. but struggled in the NLDS with the Braves before testing positive for COVID-19. He had a double in two at-bats in the NLCS but is capable of having a big World Series.

9. Ryan Tepera, Chicago White Sox

While his remark hinting at cheating tactics by the Astros made headlines, Tepera’s performance in Game 3 of the ALDS helped keep the White Sox season alive for one more day. He posted a 1.93 ERA in three postseason appearances and was the only Sox trade-deadline acquisition who panned out .

10. Martin Maldonado, Houston Astros

The catcher had a cup of coffee with the Cubs before being dealt to the Astros in 2019 for Tony Kemp, and he’s batting .069 (2-for-29) in the postseason. But he has a strong Twitter game and has been solid behind the plate, including nailing Alex Verdugo on a stolen-base attempt in Game 6 of the ALCS.

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