The Biggest Busts in Chicago Baseball History

The recent release of Kosuke Fukudome by the White Sox ended one of the most ignominious tenures by a player in Chicago baseball history. He wowed the Wrigley faithful with a three run game tying home run in the bottom of the ninth on opening day. He was never able to live up the hype he had coming in. Eventually the Cubs would trade him in the middle of the final year of his contract in 2011 to Cleveland for prospects. The White Sox signed him to a one year, $1 million contact. He was below the Mendoza line and on a minor league rehabilitation assignment when the White Sox released him today.

Fukudome is the latest in a long line of Chicago Baseball busts.

Shingo Takatsu Shingo Takatsu came to the White Sox in the 2004 season with the moniker Mr. Zero. He earned his nickname after not allowing any runs in 11 innings in the Japan Series.

He took over as the closer after Billy Koch failed in a season and a half as the White Sox closer. Takatsu had an outstanding first season. He finished his first season in Chicago 6-4 with 19 saves and a 2.31 ERA. Fans were excited by Shingo time. Takatsu would enter US Cellular field to the sounds of a gong.

He lost the closer role in 2005 and was eventually released after being sent to the minors earlier in the season. He finished the 2005 season with eight saves and a 5.97 ERA in 31 appearances. Dustin Hermanson and then rookie Bobby Jenks took over the closer role from Mr. Zero as the White Sox won their first World Series in 88 years.

He finished the 2005 season with the Mets and had a 2.35 ERA in nine appearances. He could not catch on with a major league team and wound up back in Japan after just two seasons in MLB. He failed in tryouts with the Cubs in 2008 and the Giants in 2009.

Billy Koch Koch was acquired by the White Sox in a controversial trade that sent Keith Foulke as the main piece to Oakland. Foulke had 100 saves in six years with the White Sox after coming over from San Francisco in the infamous white flag trade.

It seemed as if Kenny Williams was acquiring one of the dominant closers in baseball at the time. In his four seasons in the majors before he came to the White Sox, Koch had amassed 144 saves.

He could not duplicate that success with the White Sox. He had a 5.66 ERA and only 19 saves in two seasons with the White Sox. He lost his closer’s job to Tom Gordon in 2003 and again to Takatsu in 2004. His career ended at the end of the 2004 season after the White Sox had traded him to Florida.

Jeff Blauser Blauser signed as a free agent with the Cubs in December of 2007. After hitting .308 with 17 home runs and 70 RBI’s in his final season in Atlanta, a lot was expected of Blauser with the Cubs.

Blauser hit just .219 with four home runs and 26 RBIs in his first season in Chicago. Blauser lost his starting shortstop job late in the season when the Cubs acquired Gary Gaetti to play thirdbase. That allowed the Cubs to move third baseman Jose Hernandez to his more natural position of SS.

Blauser had only one at bat in the post season as the Cubs were swept in the best of five first round against Blauser’s former team Atlanta.

He did not fare much better in his second season, 1999. Blauser hit just .240 with nine HRs and 26 RBIs. Blauser was released by the Cubs following the 1999 season.

Mark Prior Mark Prior was arguably the most hyped player in Cubs history. He justified that hype early in his career when he went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA and 245 strikeouts (2nd in the NL) in 2003 as the Cubs won their first postseason series in 97 years. Prior finished third in the CY Young voting. He is more notable for what he did not do that year than his accomplishments.

Prior was unable to hold a 3-0 lead in the 8th inning with the Cubs three outs away from their first NL Pennant in 58 years. He was on the mound in the infamous Steve Bartman game and when Alex Gonzalez booted a sure double play ball.

Injuries followed the next few seasons. After 18 wins in 2003, he only won 18 more in his final three seasons as a Cub. He attempted a comeback in San Diego and currently pitches with the Red Sox AAA team in Pawtucket, RI.

Nomar Garciaparra When the Cubs acquired Garciaparra from the Red Sox in 2004 as part of a four team trade, he was still one of the elite players in baseball. The biggest name the Cubs had to give up was shortstop Alex Gonzalez.

In about a season and a third in Chicago, Garciaparra played in only 105 games hitting 13 home runs and driving in 50. He missed three months of the 2005 season with a groin pull. At the conclusion of the 2005 season, Garciaparra signed to play with the Dodgers.

Todd Hundley Hundley signed a four year $23.5 Million contract in December of 2000. He came to the Cubs after hitting 24 home runs in back to back seasons with the Dodgers. Hundley was unable to translate the popularity of his father Randy as a member of the 1969 Cubs into success for himself. He hit just .199 with 28 homeruns and 66 rbi’s in two seasons. He was traded back to the Dodgers following the 2002 for Eric Karros and Mark Grudzielanek. Karros and Grudzielanek were key players for the 2003 Cubs that lost in the NLCS.

Felix Pie Pie was considered a five tool can’t miss player. He came up in 2007 and played for the Cubs again in 2008. The Cubs won the National League Central in both ‘07 and ‘08 and were considered strong contenders for the NL Pennant.

Pie hit just .223 with three home runs and 30 RBIs in 130 games in his two seasons with the Cubs.

He was part of a three way trade involving the Cubs, Mariners and Orioles following the 2008 season. He played three seasons in Baltimore, but was never able to live up to his lofty expectations.

Scott Ruffcorn Ruffcorn was drafted by the White Sox in the first round out of Baylor in the 1991 Draft. He was expected to become a mainstay in a rotation that included Alex Fernandez and Jack McDowell at the time he was drafted.

He started five games in parts of three seasons between 1993 and 1996. Ruffcorn posted a 9.68 ERA. He was sold to the Phillies that offseason and released by Philadelphia nine months later. Ruffcorn concluded his Major League Career 0-8.

Ty Griffin Griffin was one of the most highly anticipated prospects coming out of Georgia Tech when the Cubs took him with the ninth pick in the first round in 1988. He went one pick after Jim Abbott and one pick ahead of Robin Ventura.

He was rated the 22nd best prospect in all of baseball prior to the 1990 season. He never made it to the Cubs and was traded following the 1991 season. Griffin spend nine seasons in organized baseball and never made it above AA.

Joe Borchard When Borchard was drafted in 2000, he was given a $5.3 millon signing bonus. That was a record at the time. His biggest claim to fame in his major league career was a 504 foot home run he hit off the Phillies Brett Myers.

In parts of four seasons with the White Sox, Borchard hit .191 with 12 home runs and 30 RBIs. He stuck out 91 times in 298 at bats. He was traded to Seattle for Matt Thornton after the 2005 season. Kenny Williams is often criticized. With Thornton still in Chicago six seasons later, that ranks as one of his better moves.

Borchard was out of the Major League after the 2007 season.

Hee Seop Choi Choi was regarded as a can’t miss prospect from South Korea. He was touted for his raw power. His hype was similar to that of current Cubs prospect Anthony Rizzo. He hit 89 HRs in four seasons in the minors before being called up at the end of the 2002 season.

After batting just .218 with eight HRs and 28 RBIs in 2003, Choi was traded to Florida in the Derrick Lee trade. He played just two more seasons in the major leagues with Florida and Dodgers hitting 30 more career home runs before returning to Asia.

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  • In Shingo's case, it was that he had a goofy pitch and then became ineffective when the rest of the league caught on.

    Many of the others are closers. In that Marmol is either "effective wild" or "wild," he might be the next on the list.

    With Pie, one could also add the Patterson brothers.(Corey and Eric). However, they became so obscure that I had to look them up.

    Which brings up the point-Corey became an itinerant journeyman. Only in a few cases do you say what they did afterwards; for instance, was Todd Huntley garbage the rest of his career (not that we care once he was gone).

  • Your points about Corey Patterson are dead on. That's why I did not include him. I thought he had a decent enough career to not be considered a bust. Pie was a complete bust.

  • In reply to Alan Rubenstein:

    If you want to go that route, whatever Milton Bradley was pre-Cubs, he certainly was one Cubs and post-Cubs.

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