MESA, Ariz. — It’s doubtful that even anyone in Chicago remembers George Foster for the brief stint he had with the White Sox in 1986, his final year in the big leagues.
Foster played for four teams, including the Mets, with whom he spent four solid seasons later in his career. But he was a star — some would say a superstar — in the 1970s with Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine. At the heart of a spectacular Reds lineup, the five-time All-Star and ’77 National League MVP’s thunderous bat loomed large.
But enough about his credentials already. Foster — 68 years old and kicking around the Cactus League signing autographs — is talking smack about our fair Cubbies.
“I’m pulling against them,” he told me. “I don’t want them to break our record.”
The Reds of ’75 and ’76 are the last N.L. team to repeat as World Series champions, and it’s no wonder they were able to pull that off. What a lineup it was: Pete Rose, Ken Griffey, Joe Morgan, Foster, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Cesar Geronimo, Dave Concepcion. Morgan, Bench and Perez are Hall of Famers. For a good while, Foster seemed on his way.
Rose should be there, too, but we can talk about that another time. (Please, simmer down.)
“Our team had speed, power, speed,” Foster said. “It was a very balanced lineup. You had speed at the top, then you had power in the middle, and then you had speed at the bottom. But a lot of our guys had both. Joe Morgan. Pete Rose. Ken Griffey. Great players.
“But my measurement is which guys have Hall of Fame potential. We had a lot. We had more of those guys than the Cubs. Kris Bryant, I like him. He hits for average, power, drives in runs. He has Hall of Fame potential. I don’t know about those other guys.”
Seriously? Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Javy Baez …
“Plus, they don’t have a leadoff hitter after [Dexter] Fowler left,” he said. “How are you going to not have a leadoff hitter?”
No need to get mad at Foster, Cubs fans. He was very friendly and just having fun with the conversation. Although, come to think of it, he did rip the pitching staff, too …
“Just get past [Jake] Arrieta,” he said, “and we got them. They may have better pitching than we did, actually, but Arrieta is the only one of their pitchers I’d worry about. Get past Arrieta, and they don’t have anybody else who can beat us.”
Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.