When our beloved Chicago Bulls were making one of their 70 win runs a few years ago, their motto was "it dont mean a thing without the ring". The same could pretty much be said about the 98 Cheeky Monkeys. Sure they set a Summer League record with 100 wins, and played at close to a .750 winning percentage for the last 60 games, but all that was remembered at the end was the disappointing loss in the playoffs.
The season actually started off very inconspicuously. They lost five of their first six games, and didnt hit .500 until 11-11, at which point they took the division lead, and held it the rest of the way. If the league voted on a first half MVP, it may have belonged to Ray Lankford, who was at or near the top of many offensive categories. Jeromy Burnitz also put together a solid first half, as did pitcher Rick Reed (aka Alan Hunt). All three were subsequently traded in a deal that will long be remembered in Summer League lore. Ken Griffey Jr. was the major player received in this deal, and he was the major player in the Cheeky Monkeys second half run.
Griffey played 63 games, and had 26 HRs and 62 RBIs, and was the person that turned this team from good to great. Barry Bonds also put up very impressive numbers (as per usual), including 13 3Bs, 35 HRs, 140 runs, 118 walks, and 51 SBs. Mark Grace turned in that Summer League rarity, as he hit .307, and played a solid firstbase. Bill Speiers hit 46 2Bs in a limited role at secondbase. Carlos Delgado, one of the steals of the draft, also hit 46 2Bs. Brad Radke led the pitching staff with a 17-7, 3.20 mark, including a no-hitter. Fifth starter Chris Holt was 14-6, 3.74, and Alan Benes was 16-6, 3.97. Reliever Jeff Shaw pitched in 75 games, and anchored the bullpen with a 3.13 ERA, and had 15 saves.
This was a very offensive team that also put in a great pitching season. Offensively they led the league in OBP (.336), slugging (.451), runs per game (5.1), and extra base hits (632). They also hit six grand slams as a team. On the mound, they surprisingly led in ERA (3.46), ERA for starters (3.64), lowest walks per 9 (3.1), and lowest inherited runner scoring percentage (26.2%).
Post-trade this team was dominating on offense, with no real holes top-to-bottom in the lineup. The starting rotation was not great, but also was solid throughout, and the same could be said for the bullpen. Altogether the 100 wins came on a total team effort, but alas so did the playoff loss. If there was a single game highlight for the year, it was the late inning comeback against Joe's Peace Frogs. It was game #55, and we were playing slightly below potential, at 30-25. We were down 9-0 in the bottom of the eighth, and got 7 runs to make it a game. Joe countered with 2 of his own in the top of the ninth, but we got the 5 we needed, capped by Mike Kelly's 3-run pinch homer off Jose Mesa with two outs. Typical of this team, they never layed down to die, and won with a true team effort.