Cubs make Hall of Fame case for Santo

603754.png

Cubs make Hall of Fame case for Santo

Ron Santos legacy is three-dimensional, but Cubs people still feel its incomplete.

They missed seeing him on a golf cart, holding court in spring training. They wondered what he would have sounded like on the air last season watching this team. They still enjoy telling Santo stories, some of which can actually appear in print.

The Hall of Fame remains the missing piece.

One year after his death, Santo is one of 10 Golden Era candidates being discussed this weekend in Dallas. To be enshrined in Cooperstown, Santo needs 12 votes from the 16-man committee. The final decisions will be revealed Monday morning at the winter meetings.

Quietly, the Cubs have been lobbying for Santo, reaching out to the Hall of Famers, executives and journalists who make up the panel. There is some optimism because Billy Williams will be one of the voters in the room.

Williams and Santo were great friends and teammates, going all the way back to Double-A ball in San Antonio, where Cubs instructor Rogers Hornsby gave them the stamp of approval. Their statues now face each other outside Wrigley Field.

Ron belongs in the Hall of Fame, chairman Tom Ricketts said. Were doing what we can to get that message out to people that have the power to make that decision and were hopeful that theyll see it that way.

The Golden Era candidates were defined by making a major impact between 1947 and 1972. The other candidates for the class of 2012 are Minnie Minoso, Luis Tiant, Tony Oliva, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Allie Reynolds and Ken Boyer, along with executives Buzzie Bavasi and Charlie Finley.

The Cubs position Santo as one of the best of his era. During his 15-year playing career (1960-1974), only three other players also reached 2,000 hits, 300 homers and 1,300 RBIs: Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson and Williams. In that time, his 1,331 RBI rank fifth. The entire top 10 except for Santo is in the Hall of Fame.

The Cubs point out that Santo is one of two third basemen to have more than 300 homers and five Gold Gloves. Mike Schmidt is the other, and he got into Cooperstown his first year on the ballot, with almost 97 percent of the vote.

The Cubs also say that Santos contributions go beyond the field. He connected with fans as the voice of summer for 21 seasons on WGN Radio. He also helped raise more than 60 million for juvenile diabetes research.

Santo never got to experience the playoffs or author a signature World Series moment that would have helped his cause. He also never received more than 44 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America during his 15 years on the Hall of Fame ballot.

Santos Hall of Fame teammates Williams, Ernie Banks and Fergie Jenkins believe he belongs there. He didnt want people to know he played through diabetes, a condition that led to his legs being amputated later in life.

He was the backbone of the Chicago Cubs, Jenkins said last summer. Day in and day out, No. 10 was going to be on that field.

Even though they came from different generations, todays players respected Santo. They saw him on the planes and buses and in the clubhouse. They appreciated how he gritted through the travel and never complained or made excuses.

Santo and the people around him have been through this before. Theyve gotten their hopes up only to be disappointed. The Cubs are hoping this is it, even if it would be a year too late.

Cubs: The next steps for Kyle Schwarber

Cubs: The next steps for Kyle Schwarber

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Kyle Schwarber might have been the most dangerous hitter in a World Series lineup that featured the National League MVP plus four more All-Stars. After spending more than six months recovering from major knee surgery. Against Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and a dominant Cleveland Indians bullpen.

“He’s not going to play winter ball,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said with a perfect deadpan delivery. “We felt like he proved he can hit major-league pitching.”

The Cubs spent Monday at the winter meetings inside the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, continuing their search for pitching on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. The Cubs are so stacked with hitters that manager Joe Maddon could write out a 2017 Opening Day lineup tomorrow and Theo Epstein’s front office would still have Jorge Soler left over as trade bait.

Schwarber could hit second for the defending World Series champs, and his presence would mean more than any player the Cubs could sign as a free agent. The Cubs expect him to be at full strength by spring training, though it’s unclear how much work, if any, he’ll get as a catcher.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

“That’s the hurdle we haven’t really gone over yet,” Hoyer said. “Can he do it? There’s no question he’s going to want to do it. I think he can do it. I think that we have to have discussions about how heavy a workload we put on him in that regard.

“One of the things we talked about even last year before he got hurt was (how) he’s doing full catching drills, running around the outfield, doing stuff hitting. That’s a lot to put on a guy, sort of like playing two ways in football.”

Schwarber, an all-Ohio linebacker in high school, has a run-through-a-brick-wall mentality and doesn’t like to hear about what he can’t do. He wrecked his left knee in an outfield collision in early April and needed a procedure that reconstructed his ACL and repaired his LCL.

It took only two warm-up games in the Arizona Fall League before Schwarber made his dramatic return as the designated hitter at Progressive Field, batting .412 (7-for-17) with a .971 OPS during the World Series. 

The Cubs appear to be set with Willson Contreras and Miguel Montero behind the plate, but Schwarber is the type of baseball gym rat who enjoys breaking down video, giving input for scouting reports and being involved in every pitch.  

“We have to talk through all that stuff,” Hoyer said. “We know what his position’s going to be, so we have to figure out what our position’s going to be. I know he’s going to want to catch.

“But he knows he’s coming in as a left fielder next year. And we have to decide how much of the catching drills (he does).”

Kenley Jansen? Wade Davis? Cubs keeping an open mind for the ninth inning

Kenley Jansen? Wade Davis? Cubs keeping an open mind for the ninth inning

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – The San Francisco Giants had been three outs away from forcing an elimination game that Johnny Cueto would have started at Wrigley Field – and five different relievers couldn’t protect a three-run lead against a Cubs team that made a stunning comeback.

That October crash reverberated throughout the winter meetings as a $10 billion industry gathered outside Washington, D.C. The Giants bought peace of mind for the ninth inning on Monday and finalized a four-year, $62 million deal with Mark Melancon. For the moment, that will be the biggest contract ever for a closer, at least until Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman shatter that record.

The Cubs have been in contact with Jansen’s camp, sources said, monitoring his market to see if there might be a match as the World Series champs try to upgrade the bullpen this week at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.

Theo Epstein’s front office doesn’t necessarily have a singular focus – believe the reports linking the Cubs to Kansas City Royals closer Wade Davis – or the appetite to win a Jansen bidding war that will include the Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami Marlins and perhaps the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals.

But after telling everyone that they did two offseasons in one last winter – and spending almost $290 million on free agents – this is where the Cubs could make a splash.

“It’s safe to say we’re kicking the tires on any pitching that’s available,” general manager Jed Hoyer said during his briefing with the Chicago media. “We’re not spending a lot of time on bats. We’re spending a lot of times on arms. Anyone that’s available, we’re going to sort of be in on and talking about.”

Cubs manager Joe Maddon watched Jansen’s cutter up close and gave this endorsement during the National League Championship Series: “He’s like a 100-pound heavier version of Mariano Rivera.”

Jansen, a homegrown Dodger, converted from catcher and developed into an elite closer, saving 189 games while putting up a 2.20 career ERA and 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

Jansen just turned 29 and already showed a willingness to pitch outside the ninth inning and go for more than three outs, something that didn’t come easily for Chapman in an October where former Yankee teammate Andrew Miller became an American League Championship Series MVP for the Cleveland Indians.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

“The postseason was reliever-centric,” Hoyer said. “Bullpens have always been really valuable, but I think the way they were used and talked about – really, not even this postseason, but the last two or three postseasons – people are definitely putting a lot of financial importance on having a good bullpen.”

Kansas City’s blueprint for winning back-to-back pennants and the 2015 World Series featured Davis, who posted a 0.94 ERA during that championship season. But Davis dealt with a strained right forearm this year and will make $10 million in his final season before free agency, at a time when the Royals can begin to see their window to contend closing.

The Cubs haven’t made Chapman a priority – and Epstein’s group has been philosophically opposed to the idea of investing big money in a closer – but they also know they probably don’t get that parade down Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue without that blockbuster deal with the Yankees.

“We see the value of it,” Hoyer said. “Look, we traded a great young prospect in Gleyber Torres to get Chapman, because we felt like that was an area that we were a little bit short. We felt like in order to win the World Series, we had to have that kind of guy at the end of the game. It proved to be right.

“In order to get those really difficult final outs in the postseason, having an elite guy is certainly a huge advantage.”

So if the White Sox become the Chicago team that makes most of the headlines here – and in-house options like Hector Rondon, Carl Edwards Jr. and Pedro Strop disappoint – the Cubs can always reassess at the trade deadline.

“We’ll bolster our bullpen,” Hoyer said. “Whether you do that by adding just a number of good relievers – or whether we do it by adding a guy that’s sort of a known closer – I’m not sure. But we’ll definitely add to our bullpen.”