Cubs

Cubs, WGN pick Moreland to replace Santo

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Cubs, WGN pick Moreland to replace Santo

Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011
Posted 11:41 a.m. Updated 10:18 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. The next voice of summer knows it will be strange to hear someone else calling the action from the press box high atop Wrigley Field.

Nobodys going to replace Ron Santo, Keith Moreland said. All I can do is keep the seat warm.

The Cubs and WGN Radio announced Wednesday that Moreland will follow the legendary broadcaster, who died in December and left a city and generations of fans in mourning.

The team will wear No. 10 uniform patches this season. A collage of Santo photos will be the 2011 media guide cover. In August, his statue will be unveiled outside the stadium.

There is no comparing Moreland to a franchise icon, but hes well-prepared for this high-profile job. Moreland played six seasons for the Cubs (1982-87) and has extensive experience as an analyst at the University of Texas, where hes worked football and baseball games for 25 seasons combined.

Im just going to be me I can probably butcher the English language with the best of them, Moreland said. I do understand the game. I feel very confident (talking strategy). My (style) might be a little bit more analysis than you did with Ron, but Im also a guy that likes to have fun.

The 56-year-old Moreland receives a three-year deal to team with Pat Hughes, who balanced out Santo and gave a touching eulogy at his funeral.

Chemistry is something that needs to be nurtured, Hughes said. Im going to try to tap into (Morelands) knowledge. No matter how long youve been around the game, (there) are certain things that a guy who never played in the big leagues just cannot know as well as an ex-player what its like to try to hit a 95 mph fastball.

Like Moreland, Dave Otto had filled in for Santo over the years and emerged as another finalist for the job. WGN sports director Dave Eanet praised Ottos work, but said he does not have a specific role lined up for this season.

Texas and ESPN are set to launch a new 24-hour television network in September. Moreland, who earned his degree in Austin, said he will not be involved: I am 100 percent totally committed to the Chicago Cubs and WGN Radio.

Santo meant so much to all kinds of people, for the way he played the game, his 21 seasons on the radio airwaves and the millions of dollars he raised for diabetes research.

Moreland completely understands Santos legacy. His reception could depend on whether or not the Cubs are turning Wrigleyville into a huge block party again, or slogging through another disappointing season.

I hope we have a good Cubs team to cover, Hughes said. That would make all the difference in the world, because the audience always thinks youre doing a better job when you have a winning team. They are happy with the information you are delivering every day.

Pujols watch

If Hughes and Moreland need to fill air time, or get through a rain delay, they can talk about Albert Pujols. Right or wrong, everyone else in baseball will be linking the Cubs with the games best player.

It came into sharper focus as Wednesdays deadline to negotiate a contract extension imposed by Pujols expired without the 31-year-old slugger and the St. Louis Cardinals reaching an agreement.

Roughly nine months before Pujols could potentially become a 300 million free agent, manager Mike Quade didnt want to be drawn into the conversation.

Thats their deal, Quade said. I cant be preoccupied. You hear: Is that going to affect this or that? Look, theyre going to be a good team. He isnt going anywhere. Thats for damn sure right now. Hes going to be somebody we have to get out and somebody we have to beat. I dont care what happens contract-wise with him.

Im looking forward to seeing Carlos Pena knock the daylights out of the ball. Thats all that really matters to me right now.

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

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

Carmen DeFalco (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Bernfield join Kap on the panel. Anthony Rizzo returns to the Cubs after an emotional weekend home while Tom Ricketts expects another World Series parade. Plus Hall of Famer Andre Dawson joins Kap to talk about his Cubs reunion and how the current crop unsigned free agents compares to his experiences with collusion.