Word on the Street: Cubs radio search wide open

Word on the Street: Cubs radio search wide open

Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010

Cubs search for Santo's replacement is wide open

Cubs radio play-by-play man Pat Hughes just signed a five-year contract extension, now he'll be a part of the hiring process to find a new analyst, a process that could take nearly a month.

"We wanted to do this as respectfully as we could," WGN-AM 720 sports director Dave Eanet said.

"It's not something we wanted to plunge right into. But we're not too far from spring training and there is a vacant seat in the booth. Having said that, we know we're not going to replace Ron Santo."

Several ex-Cubs-turned-analysts could get the job, a list that includes: former first baseman Mark Grace, starting pitcher Rick Sutcliffe, relief pitcher Dan Plesac, first baseman Eric Karros, closer Mitch Williams and hitting coach Gary Matthews. (chicagotribune.com)

Are your Bears, Blackhawks Christmas gifts real?

Police arrested a suburban man with more than 1 million worth of counterfeited sports clothing and equipment ready to distribute. Thousands of sweatshirts, T-shirts, jerseys and hats with with counterfeit logos of the Bears and Blackhawks were seized.

Joseph Kim, 27, of Riverwoods is charged with possession of more than 2,000 items worth more than 650,000 in merchandise. Kim operated a three-story warehouse where eight embroidery machines and more than 10,000 items of clothing existed. (abclocal.go.com)

Patrick Kane watching world juniors

The hockey world junior championships are in Buffalo, New York and Blackhawks star Patrick Kane is paying attention. Part of Kane wishes he was playing in the tournament, but he says that he's happy, the support for hockey in Buffalo has really grown.

Of course, much of hockey's rise in popularity in Buffalo has to do with the success of Kane. (torontosun.com)

Ex-Bear Orton upset with Broncos

Shortly after signing a contract extension in Denver, quarterback Kyle Orton has been replaced by Tim Tebow. Orton believes he's healthy enough to play but has been told the rookie out of Florida will get the nod.

"I'd love to play it out," Orton said. "It wasn't my decision. There was nothing I could do. ... The way it was presented to me was he'll be the starter the rest of the season and that's just how it goes.

"You never want to give up your job, you know?" Orton said. "We've worked hard as a unit for a number of months, and you'd like to be able to finish that out with your guys. It's disappointing not to be able to do that." (denverpost.com)

NLCS: Cubs sticking with resurgent lineup for Game 5

NLCS: Cubs sticking with resurgent lineup for Game 5

LOS ANGELES - Joe Maddon preaches keeping things simple, especially this time of year.

The Cubs finally broke out on offense in Game 4, so why change anything up for Game 5?

Of course, the starting battery will change, with Jon Lester taking the mound and his personal catcher David Ross behind the plate for what could be the final time together with Ross still slated to retire after the season.

After a one-game stint in the cleanup spot, Anthony Rizzo moved back to the three-hole and wound up with three hits - including his first postseason homer.

Addison Russell also had a breakout performance (three hits and a homer) in the eight spot, but moves up one spot in the order with "Grandpa Rossy" taking over the eight hole.

Willson Contreras is 6-for-15 (.400 AVG) this postseason, but sits in favor of Ross at catcher and Jason Heyward in the outfield with right-hander Kenta Maeda on the mound for the Dodgers.

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

Here's the way the Cubs will line up behind Lester:

1. Dexter Fowler - CF
2. Kris Bryant - 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo - 1B
4. Ben Zobrist - LF
5. Javy Baez - 2B
6. Jason Heyward - RF
7. Addison Russell - SS
8. David Ross - C
9. Jon Lester - P

The Dodgers are still insisting they're sending Maeda to the mound and not starting Clayton Kershaw on short rest.

The lefty-heavy Dodgers inserted their right-handed lineup against southpaw Jon Lester:

1. Kike Hernandez - 2B
2. Justin Turner - 3B
3. Corey Seager - SS
4. Carlos Ruiz - C
5. Howie Kendrick - LF
6. Adrian Gonzalez - 1B
7. Yasiel Puig - RF
8. Joc Pederson - CF
9. Kenta Maeda - P

These are the same guys (just in a different order) the Dodgers threw out in Game 1 when Lester gave up one run in six innings.

Game 6 will be Saturday evening at Wrigley Field and a marquee pitching matchup of Kershaw vs. Kyle Hendricks.

With one bunt, Ben Zobrist helps swing NLCS in Cubs' direction

With one bunt, Ben Zobrist helps swing NLCS in Cubs' direction

LOS ANGELES – Forget cleanup hitter. Think of Ben Zobrist as a great point guard, someone who understands how the pieces fit together, sees all the angles, creates for his teammates and remains calm under pressure.

After watching the Los Angeles Dodgers hold the Cubs scoreless for 21 consecutive innings – and take control of this National League Championship Series – Zobrist realized he needed to do something different.

Zobrist had been thinking about this for days, but finally sensed the opportunity on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium. Julio Urias – the 20-year-old lefty who’s evoked comparisons to Fernando Valenzuela – hadn’t allowed a hit through three innings. The Dodgers had focused on throwing first-pitch strikes and attacking Zobrist early with off-speed stuff in the zone.

“You just try to find the right time,” Zobrist said. “I felt like at that point it was definitely necessary to at least try. And if it doesn’t work out – or you foul it off – then next pitch I’m probably swinging.”

Zobrist bunted the Urias curveball he saw coming, placing it perfectly along the third-base line for the leadoff hit that put the Cubs in transition. Javier Baez and Willson Contreras hit back-to-back singles, scoring Zobrist for the first run and forcing one of four errors the Dodgers committed. Jason Heyward hit a ball to the right side of the infield to score Baez. And Addison Russell broke out of his slump by drilling a 94-mph Urias fastball over the right-center field wall for a two-run homer.

Just like that, all the fourth-inning pressure in Game 4 broke the Dodgers as the Cubs stormed back for a 10-2 victory that tied up a best-of-seven series. 

“All the little things,” Zobrist said. “You’re not going to hit a bunch of three-run homers every game. You really have to find a way to play small ball, especially in the postseason when we’re facing good pitching and they’ve been tough on us.

“That just kind of got everything going. Offensively, everybody contributed. It just kind of felt like the floodgates opened.”

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

This is what Zobrist did with the Kansas City Royals last season, earning a World Series ring and signing a four-year, $56 million contract to help the Cubs win eight more games than the 2015 team that never led at any point against the New York Mets in the NLCS.

The Cubs wanted a veteran switch-hitter in the middle of their lineup to set an example for their younger players, a winner who would maintain the same pitch-by-pitch focus and daily approach, no matter what else might be going on around this team.    

“That’s kind of what you have to do to stay sane,” Zobrist said. “If you do different things when things are not going well, (then) you’re going to drive yourself crazy in this game.

“We try to keep the routine the same. We try to stay positive with each other and believe that it’s going to happen. We know that our offense is too good to keep down for a long time.

“Hopefully, tonight was a big indication of what is to come the next few games.”

While the best team in baseball during the regular season had to find its identity in October – see that first-round comeback against the San Francisco Giants – Zobrist already had enough self-awareness to know this: “I’ve said this before, I’m not a cleanup hitter. I’m just batting fourth.”