Wrigley's new looks begin with Santo statue

Wrigley's new looks begin with Santo statue

Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011
10:18 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Cubs executives measure their building against the great cathedrals of sports Fenway Park, Lambeau Field, the Rose Bowl.

For Ron Santo, it was the religion that he believed kept him alive all those years as his body began to fail. And the spontaneous shrines that appeared on the gates of Wrigley Field when Santo died last month will take a permanent form.

To honor his memory, players will wear No. 10 uniform patches this season. And a Santo statue will be unveiled outside Wrigley Field on Aug. 10, chairman Tom Ricketts announced Saturday at the Cubs Convention.

Santo shirts could be spotted all around the Hilton Chicago this weekend. It will be weird for those fans to look up and see someone else in the broadcast booth, or turn on their radio and not hear that familiar voice.

The transition wont be easy, but the Cubs and WGN Radio are getting deeper into their search process for the next analyst.

Team president Crane Kenney interviewed one candidate on Saturday, and indicated that the names being mentioned as possible replacements are accurate. Keith Moreland, Dave Otto and Doug Glanville are thought to be in the mix. The expectation is that Santos replacement will be named before spring training.

The future at Clark and Addison

Santo connected with listeners because he had such strong feelings for a place that hadnt changed much since his playing days.

Any idea about Wrigley Field seems to be met with resistance from some corner of the fan base or community. When one fan complained about recorded pop music replacing the organ before each at-bat, Ricketts said that a player came to ownership with the suggestion early last season, as a way to shake the team out of a slump.

Inevitably Wrigley Field will become more modern. AT&T is partnering with the Cubs and investing 5 million to make the stadium a wireless hotspot.

The concept of a video board so long as it doesnt disturb the center-field landscape is gaining traction. Sixty percent of fans surveyed by the Cubs liked that idea, though theres still no obvious place to put it.

The Cubs have grand designs for a renovated Wrigley Field, but they are still figuring out how to pay for it.

Vice president of community affairs Mike Lufrano who once worked as a special assistant in the White House continues to talk with officials on the city, county and state levels about different financing techniques.

Looking back on his first year-plus of ownership, Ricketts identified one glaring mistake how his group rolled out a proposal to renovate the stadium with the help of state-issued bonds last November.

Ricketts said we lost control of the dialogue a little bit, but Kenney reminded everyone that it took 18 months to two years for the Cubs to lobby for another public-private partnership and a new facility in Mesa, Ariz.
Finding a balance

Until those improvements are made, Ricketts doesnt think the Cubs will get an All-Star Game. Team executives continue to point toward the Red Sox, who they say arent subject to an amusement tax, and have put up 67 advertisements inside Fenway Park.

Signage is one way to continue growing incremental revenue. The Cubs also remain open to hosting more concerts though no non-baseball events have been finalized yet for 2011 and even college football despite the bad press one end zone generated.

It did not go unnoticed in the Cubs executive offices that Farmers Insurance will reportedly be paying around 400 million (20 million annually) for naming rights at the proposed NFL stadium in Los Angeles.

The marquee, the scoreboard and the ivy are historical landmarks protected by the city. Building a statue for a beloved figure such as Santo is an easy call. There are other tough choices to make around Wrigley Field.

Can we think outside the box? And how much do you want to sacrifice progress for tradition? Kenney asked. Another way of looking at that question is: So youre going to walk away from 400 million because you dont want to sell the naming rights? Where does that money come from? It comes from football games, concerts, everything creative we come up with.

Should you just give up on that and build a new stadium somewhere? (No), were going to try to fight it out where we are and were going to protect the traditions that mean so much to all of us.

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

Jake Arrieta getting close and message to Cubs is clear: ‘We can’t expect outside help to get us out of this rut’

Jake Arrieta getting close and message to Cubs is clear: ‘We can’t expect outside help to get us out of this rut’

MIAMI – Kyle Schwarber’s offensive spiral had gone on for so long and gotten so deep that the shock value of sending a potential franchise player to Triple-A quickly wore off once the news broke on Twitter.

The Cubs sent their message directly to Schwarber. Even if the bosses wanted to, the Cubs couldn’t put the rest of the clubhouse on edge by demoting a .171 hitter with 260-plus plate appearances in late June. 

The Cubs are in survival mode, not a position to play mind tricks, beginning an 11-games-in-11-days road trip with World Series MVP Ben Zobrist (sore left wrist), Gold Glove outfielder Jason Heyward (cut left hand) and Cy Young Award finalist Kyle Hendricks (right hand tendinitis) all on the disabled list.   

The Cubs didn’t rebook Schwarber to Iowa so he can be converted into a pitcher. An aging, stressed rotation remains a much bigger concern than the boom-and-bust periods with a young offense. 

All these circumstances made a vintage Jake Arrieta performance during Thursday night’s 11-1 win at Marlins Park so important. Whether or not the Cubs make a blockbuster trade for a pitcher, there are still five-plus weeks left until buyers and sellers will feel the urgency of a deadline.   

“If something presents itself that makes sense, we’ll certainly jump on it,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “But to us, the answers are in that clubhouse. We can’t expect outside help to get us out of this rut. The answers are in there, and we believe in those guys. 

“Will we be active? No question. But that’s not going to happen for a while and there’s a lot of games to be played between now and July 31.”

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On a night where he felt “low energy,” rocked a new buzz cut and covered his right thumb with Dermabond to treat a cut/blister issue that can be traced back to spring training, Arrieta needed only 82 pitches to get through seven innings, completely shutting down a strong Miami lineup except for a Marcell Ozuna home run.

Arrieta’s inconsistencies (7-5, 4.36 ERA) have mirrored a 37-35 team, but he didn’t hesitate when asked where he is at now in a season that has so far not lived up to his Cy Young/All-Star expectations.  

“I’m close,” Arrieta said. “I’m really close.”

The Cubs are still the defending champs. Kris Bryant unleashed an MVP swing when he launched a three-run homer into the left-center field patio deck. Blocking out a messy personal situation, All-Star shortstop Addison Russell almost hit for the cycle (no triple) the day after getting questions about his divorce and a Major League Baseball investigation. This year’s Schwarber – rookie Ian Happ – also went 4-for-5 and gave the team another jolt.  

“It’s tough to see Schwarber go down,” Arrieta said. “We know that he’s going to be one of our mainstays in the lineup eventually. He’s hit a rough patch and it happens to the best of us. 

“I’ve been there. I talked to him yesterday a little bit about just keeping his head down and going to work and getting his at-bats and trying to find that comfort level. He’ll be back soon. He’s a tremendous hitter who’s going through some struggles and he’s going to right the ship. There’s no doubt about that. He’s too good of a hitter.

“A night like tonight where we pitch well and we score 11 runs, it looks easy. But it’s about consistency and trying to build off of a night like tonight. We’ve got the guys necessary to do so. We’re very capable of doing that.”

Especially if Arrieta gets hot again and shows how he can lift an entire team. 

“To get Jake pitching that kind of quality game again is going to be a big boon to us,” manager Joe Maddon said.

Did Cubs start the tailspin by making Kyle Schwarber their leadoff guy?

Did Cubs start the tailspin by making Kyle Schwarber their leadoff guy?

MIAMI – Everything aligned for the Cubs to make Kyle Schwarber their leadoff hitter. Joe Maddon’s gut instincts told him to do it – so the manager asked the Geek Department to run the numbers – and the projections backed him up. A front office raised on Bill James principles endorsed the idea after Dexter Fowler took an offer he couldn’t refuse – five years and $82.5 million – from the St. Louis Cardinals.
   
It all looked good on paper and sounded reasonable in theory. But by the time the Cubs made the Schwarber-to-Iowa move official before Thursday’s game at Marlins Park, the slugger once compared to Babe Ruth in a pre-draft scouting report had devolved into the qualified hitter with the lowest batting average in the majors (.171) and an .OPS 75 points below the league average.  

If Schwarber had been batting, say, sixth since Opening Day, would the Cubs be in a different spot right now?   

“Obviously, I can’t answer that,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “It’s an impossible question to answer. We put him in a leadoff position and he struggled. We obviously moved him out of that position (and) that didn’t work either. I know that’s what people are going to point to, because that’s a variable in his career. 

“Obviously, hitting him leadoff in 2017 didn’t work. Whether or not it caused the tailspin, I have no way to answer that question.”   

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The Cubs also deserve credit for: drafting Schwarber when the industry viewed him as a reach with the No. 4 overall pick in 2014; fast-tracking his development to the point where he could help the 2015 team win 97 games and two playoff rounds; and overseeing a rehab process that allowed him to be a World Series designated hitter less than seven months after reconstructive surgery on his left knee.    
 
The Cubs will have their hitting instructors give Schwarber subtle suggestions, focusing on how he starts his swing and where he finishes, trying to reestablish his balance and confidence during this Triple-A timeout.
    
But deep down, this is a 24-year-old player who never experienced a full season in the big leagues before and wanted so bad to be a huge part of The Cubs Way.

“I do think a lot of the problems are mental,” Hoyer said. “These struggles have kind of beaten him up a little bit. Like anyone would, he’s lost a little bit of his swagger, and I think he needs to get that back. But I think when you look at what a great fastball hitter he’s been – how good he was in ’15, how good he was last year in the World Series – the fact that he hasn’t been pounding fastballs this year is a mechanical/physical issue that we’ll be looking to tweak. 

“This is a guy that has always murdered fastballs and he’s not there right now.”