Cubs

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.

Are Cubs feeling drained? The clubhouse is divided

Are Cubs feeling drained? The clubhouse is divided

For the second straight week, Kyle Schwarber halted his postgame media scrum to get something off his chest.

Standing at his locker — the same spot he stood exactly a week prior — the Cubs slugger got about as forceful as he's ever been with the cameras rolling.

Are the Cubs drained right now?

"Never. Nope. Not at all," Schwarber said. "I'll shut you down right there — we're not running out of gas at all."

Really? 

You gotta admire Schwarber's grit. He's got that linebacker/football mentality still locked and loaded in mid-October after a brutal first three games of the NLCS.

But...come on. The Cubs aren't drained? They're not tired or weary or mentally fatigued?

Schwarber says no, but it doesn't look that way on the field. They look like the high point of the season was that epic Game 5 in D.C. It was one of the craziest baseball games ever played, very reminsicent of Game 7 in last year's World Series.

Only one thing: Game 7 was the ultimate last game. They left it all on the field and that was cool because there was no more season left. Last week's wacky contest wasn't the final game of the season. It was just the final game of the FIRST series of the postseason.

So if the Cubs aren't feeling any weariness — emotional, physical, mental or otherwise — they must be superhuman.

Yet Anthony Rizzo — the face of the franchise — backed Schwarber's sentiment.

"I'm 28 years old right now," Rizzo said. "I could run laps around this place right now. I've got a great job for a living to play baseball.

"We have a beautiful life playing baseball. You gotta keep that in perspective. So if you wanna try to get mentally tired, realize what we're doing."

Rizzo talked that talk, but his performance on the field has hit a wall. After his "Respect Me!" moment in Game 3 of the NLDS, Rizzo went hitless in his next 16 at-bats before a harmless single Tuesday night. He then struck out in his final trip to the plate.

Bryzzo's other half — Kris Bryant — actually took the opposite stance of his teammates.

"Yeah, [that Washington series] was pretty draining, I think," Bryant admitted. "Some good games there that I think were pretty taxing for our bullpen and pitchers, too. 

"Kinda expect that around this time of year. The games mean a lot."

It's not surprising to hear those words from Bryant. In fact, it wouldn't even be mildly shocking to hear every player in the clubhouse share the same point of view.

The Cubs played all the way past Halloween last fall, then hit the town, having epic celebrations, going on TV shows, having streets named after them, etc. 

Then, before you know it, there's Cubs Convention again. And shortly after that, pitchers and catchers report. 

From there, the "title defense" season began, featuring a lackluster first half and a second half that took a tremendous amount of energy just to stave off the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central and get into the postseason.

Oh yeah, and then that series with the Nationals where the Cubs squeaked out a trio of victories by the slimest of margins.

These Cubs have never really had anything resembling a break. 

However, they're now just one game away from getting that rest they so badly need (and deserve).

Ben Zobrist breaks down how Dodgers pitching has made Cubs offense disappear

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USA TODAY

Ben Zobrist breaks down how Dodgers pitching has made Cubs offense disappear

Ben Zobrist didn’t look for any deeper meaning in Kyle Schwarber’s first-inning homer off Yu Darvish on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, or hope that one swing could change the entire momentum of this National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Zobrist knows what it takes to win in October, the Cubs identifying him as the missing piece to their lineup after he helped transform the 2015 Kansas City Royals into a championship team, and then getting a World Series MVP return on their $56 million investment.

That “Schwarbomb” turned out to be fool’s gold, the only run the Cubs would score in front of a quiet, low-energy crowd of 41,871, the defending champs one more loss away from golfing/hunting/fishing/signing autographs at memorabilia shows.

“That was great to get a homer, but I’d rather see some hits strung together,” Zobrist said after a sloppy 6-1 loss, standing at his locker for almost 10 minutes, answering questions in the underground clubhouse. “I’d like to see a couple doubles together, a few singles, three or four hits in an inning. We just haven’t done that.

“That’s what makes rallies. They’ve stayed away from those kinds of innings. That’s why they’re ahead right now.”

Darvish – Jake Arrieta’s replacement in the 2018 rotation? – canceled out the two singles he allowed in the first inning by getting two of his seven strikeouts and answering some of the questions about how he would respond to all the pressure in October.

Darvish – a trade-deadline acquisition that had echoes of Theo Epstein’s “If not now, when?” explanation for last year’s Aroldis Chapman trade – walked one of the 25 batters he faced and pitched into the seventh inning before handing the game over to a lights-out bullpen.

“There’s nothing that we didn’t see beforehand on video,” Zobrist said. “It’s just a matter of we need him to make more mistakes, and we got to take advantage of those mistakes when he makes them.

“When he got to 3-2 counts, he wasn’t throwing a heater. He was throwing the cutter, and it’s a tough pitch to hit. You have to sit on it, and even then it’s got good movement to it. He kept us off-balance.”

Forward-thinking manager Dave Roberts is at the controls of a Los Angeles bullpen that can match up against right- and left-handed hitters, target locations, unleash upper-90s velocity, execute the elevated fastball that messes with eye levels and lean on All-Star closer Kenley Jansen for multiple innings.

The Dodger relievers essentially put together a no-hitter that lasted nine-plus innings across Games 1, 2 and 3. Together, they have pitched 10.2 scoreless innings, facing 36 batters and allowing two hits and a walk and hitting Anthony Rizzo with a pitch.

“They kept the ball on the edges and kept us off-balance,” Zobrist said. “They’re not throwing the pitch in the middle of the plate when we need them to. They’re keeping it on the edges and those are hard (to hit). When you got guys with good stuff on the mound, you need them to make some mistakes for you, or at least start walking some guys.

“When they’ve gotten in those situations with a three-ball count, they’re still making the pitch when they need to. They’re not walking many guys – and we are.

“That’s why they’re up 3-nothing.”

Zobrist (4-for-23 this postseason) is now more of a part-time player/defensive replacement, no longer the switch-hitting force who dropped the bunt at Dodger Stadium that helped end the 21-inning scoreless streak during last year’s NLCS.

Zobrist insisted the Cubs are still all there mentally, not checked out after a grueling first round against the Washington Nationals and a brutal walk-off loss in Game 2 at Dodger Stadium. He owns two World Series rings and one has the Cubs logo and this inscription: “We Never Quit.”

“We keep it loose all the time,” Zobrist said. “We know what’s at stake. And we don’t shy away from it. We look forward to the challenge ahead. It would be a great story for us to be able to come back in this series and win this series.

“We make adjustments, we take advantage of mistakes and we come out with a victory tomorrow. That’s what we have to do.”