Larkin, Santo and the calm before the Cooperstown storm

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Larkin, Santo and the calm before the Cooperstown storm

The Hall of Fame vote is supposed to be all about the past, but its perfect for right now. Its another thing to fill the 247 news cycle. All the crossfire arguments are there for Twitter and talk radio. You have to have a take.

Barry Larkin will share the stage with Ron Santos family. Each player was identified by, and loyal to, one team. Theyll have a place in Cooperstown, N.Y., forever. Consider that non-controversy the calm before the storm.

Mondays election results showed overwhelming support for Larkin, who received 86.4 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America. The longtime Cincinnati Reds shortstop will be inducted on July 22, the same day the Cubs will be celebrating Santos life.

The volume will be turned up for the class of 2013, which includes Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling and Craig Biggio. By 2014, Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine will be eligible for the first time.

This will be an endless debate, and it will be interesting to see what information comes out between now and then. Look for more voting explanations based on rumors and innuendo, plus more people begging for clarification on the character clause.

Bonds has a legal team appealing his obstruction of justice conviction. Voters wont forget how Clemens starred in the Mitchell Report, or Sosas performance in front of Congress. Schilling and Thomas were two of the most outspoken critics from the steroid era.

Everyone on the ballot is under suspicion on some level because of the period in which they played. This round was another clear rejection of Mark McGwire (19.5 percent) and Rafael Palmeiro (12.6 percent).

Combined those two players linked to performance-enhancing drugs have been on the ballot eight times and have never received more than 24 percent of the vote, nowhere near the 75 percent needed for induction.

Momentum seems to be building for big-game pitcher Jack Morris, who got 66.7 percent of the 573 votes cast (nine were left blank) and still has his 14th and 15th chances left to get into the Hall. The same goes for Jeff Bagwell, who rose from 41.7 percent to 56 percent during his second year on the ballot.

If you have an opinion, its so much easier now to find a platform and shout it out. The explosion of information on the Internet and the growing awareness and understanding of sabermetrics has shifted the way people look at the game.

Perceptions changed about Larkin. In his third year of eligibility, he finished with a vote total that represented a 24.3-percent gain from the 2011 ballot, the largest jump in one year to gain election in more than 60 years.

Larkin, 47, grew up in Cincinnati and was drafted twice by the Reds. In between he played at the University of Michigan where legendary coach Bo Schembechler wanted him on the football team and in the 1984 Olympics.

Larkin lasted 19 seasons with the Reds, helping Lou Piniella and The Nasty Boys win a World Series title in 1990. His resume includes 12 All-Star selections, nine Silver Sluggers, three Gold Gloves and the 1995 National League MVP award.

This summers Hall of Fame ceremony will also honor two media award winners television analyst Tim McCarver and Toronto Sun writer Bob Elliott along with Santo.

Santo was voted in by a veterans committee last month and his legacy will be front and center at this weekends Cubs Convention. WGN Radios Pat Hughes will host a panel expected to include Santos widow Vicki, son Ron Jr. and former teammates Glenn Beckert, Randy Hundley and Billy Williams.

The family didnt want to use the word bittersweet, even though Santos Hall of Fame call came one year after his death. Thats because future generations will be able to go and see the plaque and remember the man.

Larkin was asked the other day what it would mean, but couldnt quite answer the question. Theyre about to find out.

Baseball immortality, Larkin said on the MLB Network. To be recognized as one of the best of all-time (made me think about my) young kids. Theyre out there doing their thing. But 20, 30, 40, 100 years from now, when theyre old and gone, their grandkids (and kids will) always be able to say, Yeah, that guy right there (was) one of the best in the game.

Jason Heyward surprised Cubs fans didn’t boo Rajai Davis more

Jason Heyward surprised Cubs fans didn’t boo Rajai Davis more

MESA, Ariz. – The Cactus League crowds are different than the ones packed into Wrigley Field. It was only a meaningless split-squad game on a Saturday afternoon in the Arizona sunshine. Finally winning the World Series must have somewhat dulled the edge.

But Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward still thought Rajai Davis would hear it from the sellout crowd of 14,929 at Sloan Park, the what-could-have-been anxiety bubbling up when seeing the Oakland A's leadoff guy who nearly changed the course of baseball history.

"I was surprised he didn't get booed more, but that's just how our fans are," Heyward said. "They're fun like that. They have fun with the game. They acknowledge it. That's pretty cool for Cubs fans to boo you. If anybody boos you from last year, that's kind of an honor, I would say. To be on that side of things, it means you did something great."

As Alfonso Soriano liked to say, they don't boo nobodies. With one big swing, Davis almost unleashed a miserable winter for the Cubs and ended the Cleveland Indians' 68-year drought.

Manager Joe Maddon kept pushing closer Aroldis Chapman, who fired 97 pitches in Games 5, 6, and 7 combined. Davis timed seven straight fastballs in the eighth inning – the last one at 97.1 mph – and drove a Game 7-tying two-run homer just inside the foul pole and onto the left-field patio. In a now-famous rain-delay speech, Heyward gathered his teammates in a Progressive Field weight room as the Cubs regained their composure.

"They booed him, but only the first at-bat," Heyward said. "The second at-bat and the third, I was like: ‘Eh, they kind of just let him off the hook.' They let him be."

The fans who stuck around until the end got to hear "Go Cubs Go" after a 4-3 win. Davis parlayed that big moment into a one-year, $6 million contract with the A's. The Cubs will see the Indians again on Sunday afternoon in Mesa.

"As players, we're all onto the season and enjoying this ride and a new journey," said Heyward, who went 0-for-3 with an RBI as he worked on his new swing. "All the teams that we played in the playoffs are obviously out here in spring training, so it's just really fun and it's good for the makeup of your team when you compete that way.

"You're thrown right back into the fire when you talk about the competition and remembering things that happened in the postseason. But we don't dwell on it too much."

Cubs envisioning ‘hybrid' roles for Mike Montgomery and Brett Anderson

Cubs envisioning ‘hybrid' roles for Mike Montgomery and Brett Anderson

MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs believe Mike Montgomery will be so much more than just the answer to a trivia question or a cameo appearance in the highlight film.

The symmetry became impossible to miss on Saturday at Sloan Park, where the Cubs put the World Series trophy on display behind home plate and set off fireworks at 1:06 p.m. Three minutes later, the guy who threw the last pitch of 2016 threw the first pitch 2017 pitch in Mesa.

That it came against Rajai Davis added to the moment. Scattered boos greeted Davis when the Oakland A's leadoff guy walked toward the batter's box, a reminder of how he almost turned a dream season into a nightmare when he slammed Aroldis Chapman's 97.1 mph fastball onto Progressive Field's left-field patio just inside the foul pole for a Game 7-tying two-run homer for the Cleveland Indians.

A year that began with Montgomery thinking he might be playing in Japan ended in that mosh pit. A lefty who had been viewed as a low-leverage swingman for the Seattle Mariners notched the final out of the World Series for a franchise that hadn't won one since 1908.

"Be ready for anything," Montgomery said when asked about the "hybrid" job description manager Joe Maddon laid out for him and Brett Anderson, the other lefty in the mix for the fifth-starter job.

"The big thing with both of them (is) neither one has really been stretched out anywhere close to 200 innings over the last couple years," Maddon said before a 4-3 split-squad win over Oakland. "So we're thinking it's almost like a hybrid moment. Maybe fold one back into the bullpen while the other one starts. And vice versa. Or just jump a sixth guy in there now and then to keep the other guys from being overworked too early.

"It's in theory right now. We haven't actually laid it down on paper. We feel pretty fortunate. If everybody stays healthy, you got six guys that you like right there. It's hard for anybody to say that. That's the point. These guys have not been really satisfactorily stretched out over the last couple years.

"How do we keep them both active and helping us? That's going to be our challenge early and through the beginning part of the season."

Anderson (29) is older and more experienced and working on a one-year, $3.5 million deal that could max out at $10 million if he rips off the injury-prone label and makes 29 starts. Montgomery (27) is the more raw talent (23 career big-league starts) the Cubs now control through the 2021 season.

"There's a lot of different possibilities that they could go with," Montgomery said. "For me, it's just continuing to build up my arm strength and getting my timing down, my mechanics down and that way I'm ready to go and do whatever it is that they need me to."

Pitching in front of 14,929 and an All-Star infield, Montgomery walked Davis and Matt Joyce and notched two strikeouts in a scoreless first inning. Montgomery felt the adrenaline rush, but nothing in Arizona can compare to the 10th inning of a Game 7.

"The sky's the limit," Maddon said. "He's like a 10-plus game winner on an annual basis as a starter. I think he definitely has that within his abilities. I've told him that (winning) 10 to 15 games is within his abilities, no doubt. That comes with fastball command and then knowing what to do with his breaking pitches. He's got really high-quality stuff.

"I'd like to think that moment will increase his confidence. But then again, it's a new year. And you have to go out there and pitch."