Cubs

Cubs make Hall of Fame case for Santo

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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.

The craziest stats from Cubs 2017 postseason run

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AP

The craziest stats from Cubs 2017 postseason run

The Cubs go home for the winter with a bad taste in their mouths for the 108th time in the last 109 years.

But such is the nature of professional sports, where only one team and its fanbase gets to experience euphoria on the final day of the season.

The Cubs didn't play as well as they would've liked in the 2017 postseason, something they readily admit.

But the numbers behind the October run are pretty astounding.

Here are some of the most eye-popping stats from this fall, courtesy of NBC Sports Chicago stat guru Chris Kamka:

—The Cubs had the second-lowest batting average (.156) of any team in a best-of-7 League Championship Series.

The only team lower is the Houston Astros through five games, hitting .147 entering play Friday night against the New York Yankees.

The next lowest batting averages in a best-of-7 LCS:

.157 - 2012 Yankees
.164 - 2015 Cubs
.168 - 2016 Indians

—The Cubs also had the lowest batting average in a single postseason in baseball history among teams who have played at least eight postseason games.

And it's not a particularly close margin:

.168 - 2017 Cubs
.188 - 2012 Yankees
.198 - 1974 A's (won World Series with no LDS)
.204 - 2015 Cubs
.207 - 1973 A's (won World Series with no LDS)

—2017 was an interesting year when it came to home runs for the Cubs.

In the regular season, the Cubs were 77-37 (.675 winning percentage) when hitting at least one homer and just 15-33 (.313 winning percentage) when not homering.

But in the postseason, that script was completely flipped.

The Cubs were only 1-5 (.167) in October when homering and 3-1 when going homerless.

—The offensive issues go far beyond just homers for the Cubs.

They scored nine runs in that epic Game 5 of the NLDS but scored just eight runs as a whole in the NLCS. 

What's even crazier — all nine runs in Game 5 came without benefit of a homer. Every NLCS run the Cubs plated was off a longball as they went 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

And then there's this:

—The difference in offensive execution in the NLCS can be summed up just by looking at the strikeout-to-walk ratio of each team.

The Cubs struck out 53 times in the five games compared to only five walks.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, struck out just 41 times with a whopping 28 walks. 

—A huge reason for the Cubs' downfall was the disappearance of Bryzzo in the NLCS.

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo combined for a .135/.179/.216 slash line with one walk and one hit by pitch. Their only run and RBI combined came on Bryant's homer in Game 5 Thursday when the Cubs were already down 9-0.

—Here's how each spot in the Cubs order fared in the postseason:

1. 4-for-36 (.111 AVG)
2. 7-for-38 (.184)
3. 7-for-38 (.184)
4. 5-for-33 (.152)
5. 10-for-37 (.270)
6. 7-for-33 (.212)
7. 5-for-30 (.167)
8. 0-for-31 (.000)
9. 6-for-28 (.214)

Total: 51-for-304 (.168)

—In the Cubs' defense, they were going up against an elite starting staff led by Clayton Kershaw (whom they faced twice) and a bullpen that ranks among the best in baseball history.

The Dodgers had the second-best bullpen WHIP in an LCS in baseball history, coming in at 0.294 in 17 innings pitched.

The only team better? The 2005 White Sox bullpen, though they only had to get two outs in that ALCS.

The 2016 Blue Jays bullpen came close, posting a 0.553 WHIP in 12.2 innings against the Indians last fall.

Dusty Baker takes the fall for Nationals meltdown against Cubs

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USA TODAY

Dusty Baker takes the fall for Nationals meltdown against Cubs

The Washington Nationals must have been sitting at home, watching the National League Championship Series and wondering: How did we lose to this team?

The Cubs poured so much physical effort, mental focus and emotional energy into those five playoff games against the Nationals that they didn’t have much left in the tank for the bigger, better Los Angeles Dodgers team that dominated the defending World Series champs in every phase and captured the NL pennant on Thursday night at Wrigley Field.

By midday Friday, the Nationals announced that manager Dusty Baker will not return for the 2018 season, while the contracts for the big-league coaching staff have also expired, leaving a franchise with chain-of-command issues in damage-control mode.

This is a bitter disappointment for Baker, who needs a World Series ring as a manager to put the final bullet point on a Hall of Fame resume and still grumbles about how things ended in 2006 after four up-and-down years managing the Cubs.

Baker, 68, a former Marine, All-Star player and all-around Renaissance man with a great feel for dealing with people and managing the clubhouse, apparently couldn’t overcome last week’s elimination-game meltdown at Nationals Park, where the Cubs hung on for a 9-8 victory and forced Washington into its fourth first-round playoff exit since 2012.

Baker’s in-game decision-making was already under the microscope and his teams have now lost 10 straight postseason close-out games, a major-league record, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

The Nationals also needlessly subjected Stephen Strasburg to withering criticism when Baker said the $175 million pitcher was feeling under the weather — maybe because of Chicago mold and hotel air-conditioning units — and being saved for Game 5. Only to flip-flop and watch Strasburg throw seven scoreless innings in a dominant Game 4 performance at Wrigley Field.

That unforced error and yet another manager search is not a good look for the Nationals, who made the announcement through the Lerner family ownership group after general manager Mike Rizzo repeatedly signaled that he expected to reach a new agreement with Baker after winning 192 games combined in two years and back-to-back division titles.

Since the franchise relocated from Montreal and abandoned the Expos logo in 2005, the Nationals have employed seven different managers and will be starting all over again in 2018, when Bryce Harper will be in his last season before becoming a free agent and probably wondering if Washington can finally get its act together.