On the surface, it seemed like a slam dunk: signing a productive offensive catcher who was the son of a former Cub, and a popular Cub at that. Yes, we’re talking about Todd Hundley, a name that still sends shivers down our spines.
The Cubs signed Hundley to a $23-million deal on December 19, 2000. At age 31, Hundley was coming off a brief but solid season: 90 games, 24 home runs, .284/.375/.579. A three-time all star, Hundley was never known for his prowess behind the plate. However, the Cubs weren’t thinking defense when they inked the former Met and Dodger. The Northsiders needed to improve a lineup that produced only 764 runs the season before (good for 11th in the NL).
Hundley got off to a slow start in April of 2001, batting only .207 with three homers in 66 at bats. Little did we know, that was as good as things would get. His injury-plagued 2001 season ended with numbers that would make Rick Wrona sick to his stomach: .187/.268/.374. The flu-like fun continued in 2002: .211/.301/.421. A few months later, Hundley was sent packing in exchange for 1B Eric Karros (and his rockstar hair) and 2B Mark Grudzielanek, who hit .314 and helped the Cubs win the NL Central in 2003 (let’s not discuss that famous postseason).
A decade later, the Hundley years still haunt Cub fans. Once again, I was convinced that the front office had a game plan. Once again, I ended up feeling like the Fonz on roller skates.