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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.

Inside the bullpen: What Cubs' Craig Kimbrel is working on behind the scenes

Inside the bullpen: What Cubs' Craig Kimbrel is working on behind the scenes

Craig Kimbrel’s brief appearance in the Cubs’ 5-4 victory over the Royals on Tuesday offered a glimpse into what he’s working on in bullpen sessions behind the scenes.

“I've been working a lot,” the seven-time All-Star closer said Wednesday. “I felt like last night I did some things a little better, but when it comes down to it, you still have to execute a certain pitch at a certain location at certain times. And I wasn’t able to do that.”

Tuesday was the least troubling of Kimbrel’s three outings this season, which isn’t much of a vote of confidence after four walks in his first and back-to-back home runs in his second. On Tuesday, Kimbrel recorded one strikeout and put two runners in scoring position before Cubs manager David Ross replaced him with Kyle Ryan. Both runners scored.

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Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said the focus for Kimbrel, as he works through mechanical issues, is consistency.

“I think that's the key to pitching in general,” Hottovy said, “consistency in mechanics, consistency in delivery, consistency in where your release points are. All those things add up to better stuff, better velo, better spin, but also better command.”

Hottovy has identified inconsistency in Kimbrel’s arm path and release point. Kimbrel’s control issues stem from that. Those control issues have shown up in different ways for his two pitches.

First, the fastball: Hottovy used two different at-bats in Kimbrel’s appearance Tuesday night as an example.

Against Royals pinch hitter Franchy Cordero, Kimbrel located a 97-mph fastball at the top of the zone for a swing-and-miss strike three. Against Adalberto Mondesi, that same pitch crept into the middle of the zone, and Mondesi scorched a line drive off the right field wall.

“What you see from Craig, the stuff is still trending in the right direction,” Hottovy said. “The breaking ball was better yesterday. The fastball life is coming back. But in the end, in this game, we're facing professional hitters.”

Professional Hitters who can make a pitcher pay for a mistake.

That becomes especially easy when teams can gear up for one pitch and ignore the rest.

“You have to get them to honor it,” Hottovy said of Kimbrel’s curve ball, “and to get them to honor it, you have to consistently be able to throw that pitch in the strike zone, and then be able to attack (with the) fastball.”

Kimbrel has faced three different teams: The Reds, Pirates and Royals. None of them have swung at his curve ball.

“I think at times it's one of two things,” Kimbrel said, “Either I'm showing it too early or it's not starting as a strike, or they've already had that game plan to eliminate the curve ball.”

In the Reds’ case, it was the latter. Cincinnati rookie Tyler Stephenson told reporters as much after the game. He laid off three curve balls in his at-bat against Kimbrel. Stephenson walked.

According to Hottovy, Kimbrel is working on slowing down his lower body – “staying taller, sitting more on his back side” – to consistently give his arm time to get to the right release point.

 “I'm still going out there trying to compete,” Kimbrel said. “I'm not going out there and saying, 'I think I'm going to get beat today, I don't want to be out here.' By no means am I anywhere close to that. I think if anything, it’s just more frustration towards myself (for) putting myself in I'm spot I'm in, … having to ask guys to get up and throw more, based on my performance.”

 

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Cubs, Reds to make up rainout with 7-inning doubleheader Aug. 29

Cubs, Reds to make up rainout with 7-inning doubleheader Aug. 29

The Cubs will get a taste of Major League Baseball's new doubleheader format later this month.

On Aug. 29, the Cubs and Reds will make up their July 30 rainout as part of a seven-inning doubleheader.

MLB recently changed its doubleheader format for 2020 only in wake of numerous postponements across the league due to the Marlins COVID-19 outbreak. All doubleheaders going forward this season are seven innings each, the idea being to reduce the wear and tear on pitchers' arms.

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Pitchers have been going down at alarming rates early in this 60-game season after baseball's long shutdown and quick ramp-up in Summer Camp.

The Cardinals also have seven games to make up due to their recent outbreak.

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