Cubs keep Ron Santo close to their heart

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Cubs keep Ron Santo close to their heart

Thursday, March 10, 2011
Posted 12:19 p.m. Updated 5:21 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. As the manager at Triple-A Iowa, Mike Quade would turn to WGN Radio once his game was finished. Like Cubs fans everywhere else, he immediately knew what was going on by the tone of Ron Santos voice.

It wasnt manufactured for the booth, Quade said. (Id) listen to three words out of Ronnies mouth, three groans, and I wasnt sure how bad we were losing, but I knew it wasnt good. And if he and Pat (Hughes) were having fun, then we were in good shape.

They all have stories here about the towering figure that walked around on prosthetic legs and maintained a childlike enthusiasm for the Cubs that was in Quades words exceptional and sincere.

The Cubs began a season-long tribute with Thursdays Ron Santo Day at HoHoKam Park. There was a No. 10 painted behind home plate. The Cubs also wore No. 10 hats during their workout. That matched the patches on their sleeves for their All-Star third baseman and long-time broadcaster, who died last December from bladder cancer.

We hurt for our dad, Jeff Santo said. Theres mixed emotions. Its a great day, seeing that his number and his life will live on for many generations. Its an honor to us, but it also gets overwhelming, too, because we miss him so much.

Ron would have turned 71 last month, and at this time of year he would get sick of sitting on the couch watching movies.

Every spring it brought a smile, Jeff recalled, because he was ready to come to the park and (see his) second family. That smile and that optimism (he) brought is kind of gone now.

Jeff chronicled his fathers amazing life in the 2004 documentary This Old Cub. He plans to film an update this year, adding footage from the funeral and the statue dedication outside Wrigley Field on Aug. 10.

Now Keith Moreland has to replace a legend in the radio booth. Jeff endorsed the choice, saying that Moreland was his favorite player on the 1984 team: He played with the same kind of heart as my father.

That spirit might one day be recognized by the Hall of Fame, though the family long ago built their own Cooperstown at Wrigley Field, with a retired number and soon a statue. In a sense the 2011 Cubs season is dedicated to Ronald Edward Santo.

My dad would be content just knowing (this is) happening, Jeff said. This means everything.

Quade vs. Ozzie

As a Chicago guy, Quade gets it Santo, the entire WGN catalog and the rivalry with the White Sox. As a kid, hed watch Santo and Bozos Circus.

Ringmaster Ned and Bucket No. 6, right? Quade said. Are you kidding me? Absolutely. We got tickets I never (went, but) I think my little brother (got) to go. Somebody in this family finally ended up going.

Quades friends from Prospect High School are still divided Cubs-Sox. On Friday hell bring his team to Camelback Ranch and use the designated hitter, what he described as a little bit of gamesmanship.

Lou Piniella and Ozzie Guillen enjoyed going back and forth, and even did commercials together, but the 51st manager in Cubs history is probably going to stay out of it.

Well let Ozzie try to steal all the headlines, Quade said. Hes something and I do get a kick out of him, but I dont know hed have to really come after me (to) get much out of me.

All is Wells

Randy Wells was in a good mood after Thursdays 2-1 win over the Cleveland Indians and a workshop on dealing with the media held in the Cubs clubhouse that morning. Wells, who enjoys sparring with reporters and making Major League references, has now thrown nine scoreless innings this spring.

Do you think you have the inside track to one of the two open spots in the rotation?

I have no idea, Wells said. Thats not up to me. I learned that in the (session), too. Stay away from vulnerable questions.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Theories on why Cubs haven’t played up to their defensive potential yet

Theories on why Cubs haven’t played up to their defensive potential yet

“That’s what we’re supposed to look like,” Joe Maddon said Monday night after a 6-4 loss where the San Francisco Giants scored the first six runs and Wrigley Field got loudest for the David Ross “Dancing with the Stars” look-in on the big video board, at least until a late flurry from the Cubs.

But for a manager always looking for the silver linings, Maddon could replay Addison Russell’s diving stop to his right and strong throw from deep in the hole at shortstop to take a hit away from Christian Arroyo. Or Albert Almora’s spectacular flying catch near the warning track in center field. Or Anthony Rizzo stealing another hit from Brandon Belt with a diving backhanded play near the first-base line.

The highlight reel became a reminder of how the Cubs won 103 games and the World Series last year – and made you wonder why the 2017 team hasn’t played the same consistently excellent defense with largely the same group of personnel.

“Concentration?” Jason Heyward said, quickly dismissing the theory a defensive decline could boil down to focus or effort. “No shot. No shot. It is what it is when it comes to people asking questions about last year having effects, this and that. But this is a new season.

“The standard is still high. What’s our excuse? We played later than anybody? That may buy you some time, but then what?

“The goals stay the same. We just got to find new ways to do it when you have a different team.”

FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver’s statistical website, framed the question this way after the Cubs allowed the lowest batting average on balls in play ever last season, an analysis that goes all the way back to 1871: “Have the Cubs Forgotten How to Field?”

Even if the Cubs don’t set records and make history, they should still be better than 23rd in the majors in defensive efficiency, with 37 errors through 43 games. The Cubs have already allowed 28 unearned runs after giving up 45 all last season.

“We just got to stay on it and keep focusing and not let the miscues go to our head,” Ben Zobrist said. “We just have to keep working hard and staying focused in the field. A lot of that’s the rhythm of the game. I blame a lot of that on the early parts of the season and the weather and a lot of difficult things that we’ve been going through.

“If we’re not hitting the ball well, too, we’re a young team still, and you can carry that into the field. You don’t want to let that happen, but it’s part of the game. You got to learn to move beyond miscues and just focus on the next play.”

Heyward, a four-time Gold Glove winner, missed two weeks with a sprained right finger and has already started nine times in center field (after doing that 21 times all last season). Zobrist has morphed back into a super-utility guy, starting 16 games at second base and 15 in two different outfield spots.

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Maddon has tried to drill the idea of making the routine play into Javier Baez’s head, so that the uber-talented second baseman can allow his natural athleticism and instincts to take over during those dazzling moments.

The Cubs are basically hoping Kyle Schwarber keeps the ball in front of him in left and setting the bar at: Don’t crash into your center fielder. Like Schwarber and Almora, catcher Willson Contreras hasn’t played a full season in The Show yet, and the Cubs are now hoping rookie Ian Happ can become a Zobrist-type defender all over the field.

“I’m seeing our guys playing in a lot of different places,” Heyward said. “It’s not just been penciling in every day who’s going to center field or right field or left field. We did shake things up some last year, but we did it kind of later in the season. We had guys settle in, playing every day. This year, I feel like we’re having guys in different spots.

“It’s May whatever, (but) it seems like we haven’t really had a chance to settle in yet. Not that we’re procrastinating by any means, but it’s just been a lot of moving pieces.”

The Giants won World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 with a formula that incorporated lights-out pitching, airtight defense and just enough clutch hitting. The Cubs are now a 22-21 team trying to figure it out again.

“Defense comes and goes, just like pitching,” said Kris Bryant, the reigning National League MVP, in part, because of his defensive versatility. “I feel like if you look at last year, it’s kind of hard to compare, just because it was so good. We spoiled everybody last year. Now we’re a complete letdown this year.”

Bryant paused and said: “Just kidding. Different years, things regress, things progress, and that’s just how it goes sometimes.”

For Joe Maddon, Cubs winning World Series came down to Giant comeback in SF and avoiding Johnny Cueto in elimination game

For Joe Maddon, Cubs winning World Series came down to Giant comeback in SF and avoiding Johnny Cueto in elimination game

Jon Lester vs. Johnny Cueto at Wrigley Field – the playoff matchup the Cubs dreaded in an elimination game – will happen more than seven months later under far different circumstances.

The Cubs have a 2016 championship banner flying next to the iconic center-field scoreboard – the ultimate response to any questions about their slow start to this season. The San Francisco Giants can’t have Madison Bumgarner saunter out of the bullpen when he’s recovering from a dirt-bike accident, another reason why an odd-year team is much closer to last place than first in an improved National League West.

The Giants don’t have the same aura, because the Cubs staged an epic comeback to end a best-of-five division series last October, scoring four runs again five different relievers in the ninth inning at AT&T Park.

“I’m telling you, man, Game 4 pretty much won the World Series,” Joe Maddon said. “I did not want to see Mr. Cueto pitching back here again. I’ll get to see him (Tuesday night), but that’s OK, compared to whatever that day would’ve been.”

Maddon has admitted this already, but it is still telling from a manager who always tries to stay in the moment and ignore the negativity. It says something about a Giant franchise that had won 10 straight postseason elimination games and World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 – and a fan base that used to expect things to go wrong in Wrigleyville after more than a century of losing.

“That whole Game 4 in San Francisco, I did focus on that a lot,” Maddon said. “Just trying to understand Game 5 back at home – how this is going to play out – and do whatever we possibly can to win that game there that night in San Francisco.

“That was the game for me – out of the entire postseason. To have to play the Giants where they were battle-tested – Game 5, back here with (Cueto) pitching – I did not like that at all. I thought that pretty much the postseason hinged on that one game in San Francisco.”

Even though the Cubs still had to survive a 21-inning scoreless streak against the Los Angeles Dodgers before winning their first NL pennant in 71 years. And come back from a 3-1 deficit in the World Series and beat the Cleveland Indians on the road in a 10-inning Game 7 for the ages.

[RELATED: Cubs can't complete another miracle comeback against Giants bullpen]

“That’s what good teams do,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “They’re a very talented club, very solid all around. You don’t win the World Series unless you are.

“Look back at our success, how many times were we looking at elimination? No, you’re never surprised in the postseason. Anything those teams do, it’s because they’re there for a reason. They’re very good.”

Lester beat Cueto in a 1-0 instant classic when Javier Baez lifted a 3-2 quick pitch into the basket beneath the video ribbon in the left-field bleachers. Cueto kept the Cubs so off-balance in Game 1 that Baez actually walked up to home plate in the eighth inning thinking bunt.

The Giants reacted to that Game 4 meltdown by giving All-Star closer Mark Melancon a four-year, $62 million contract at the winter meetings, trying to fix a bullpen that led the majors with 30 blown saves last season.

“It was close,” Bochy said. “Three outs from taking it to Game 5 with a pretty good pitcher going. We can speculate all we want. There’s no point in that. It didn’t happen.

“But, sure, you look back. That’s how tight that series was. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hold on. Give them credit – great job coming back. We’re a team that plays very well under pressure, and we did there. Just couldn’t hold on to that ninth inning.”