Cubs

Larkin, Santo and the calm before the Cooperstown storm

605270.png

Larkin, Santo and the calm before the Cooperstown storm

The Hall of Fame vote is supposed to be all about the past, but its perfect for right now. Its another thing to fill the 247 news cycle. All the crossfire arguments are there for Twitter and talk radio. You have to have a take.

Barry Larkin will share the stage with Ron Santos family. Each player was identified by, and loyal to, one team. Theyll have a place in Cooperstown, N.Y., forever. Consider that non-controversy the calm before the storm.

Mondays election results showed overwhelming support for Larkin, who received 86.4 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America. The longtime Cincinnati Reds shortstop will be inducted on July 22, the same day the Cubs will be celebrating Santos life.

The volume will be turned up for the class of 2013, which includes Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling and Craig Biggio. By 2014, Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine will be eligible for the first time.

This will be an endless debate, and it will be interesting to see what information comes out between now and then. Look for more voting explanations based on rumors and innuendo, plus more people begging for clarification on the character clause.

Bonds has a legal team appealing his obstruction of justice conviction. Voters wont forget how Clemens starred in the Mitchell Report, or Sosas performance in front of Congress. Schilling and Thomas were two of the most outspoken critics from the steroid era.

Everyone on the ballot is under suspicion on some level because of the period in which they played. This round was another clear rejection of Mark McGwire (19.5 percent) and Rafael Palmeiro (12.6 percent).

Combined those two players linked to performance-enhancing drugs have been on the ballot eight times and have never received more than 24 percent of the vote, nowhere near the 75 percent needed for induction.

Momentum seems to be building for big-game pitcher Jack Morris, who got 66.7 percent of the 573 votes cast (nine were left blank) and still has his 14th and 15th chances left to get into the Hall. The same goes for Jeff Bagwell, who rose from 41.7 percent to 56 percent during his second year on the ballot.

If you have an opinion, its so much easier now to find a platform and shout it out. The explosion of information on the Internet and the growing awareness and understanding of sabermetrics has shifted the way people look at the game.

Perceptions changed about Larkin. In his third year of eligibility, he finished with a vote total that represented a 24.3-percent gain from the 2011 ballot, the largest jump in one year to gain election in more than 60 years.

Larkin, 47, grew up in Cincinnati and was drafted twice by the Reds. In between he played at the University of Michigan where legendary coach Bo Schembechler wanted him on the football team and in the 1984 Olympics.

Larkin lasted 19 seasons with the Reds, helping Lou Piniella and The Nasty Boys win a World Series title in 1990. His resume includes 12 All-Star selections, nine Silver Sluggers, three Gold Gloves and the 1995 National League MVP award.

This summers Hall of Fame ceremony will also honor two media award winners television analyst Tim McCarver and Toronto Sun writer Bob Elliott along with Santo.

Santo was voted in by a veterans committee last month and his legacy will be front and center at this weekends Cubs Convention. WGN Radios Pat Hughes will host a panel expected to include Santos widow Vicki, son Ron Jr. and former teammates Glenn Beckert, Randy Hundley and Billy Williams.

The family didnt want to use the word bittersweet, even though Santos Hall of Fame call came one year after his death. Thats because future generations will be able to go and see the plaque and remember the man.

Larkin was asked the other day what it would mean, but couldnt quite answer the question. Theyre about to find out.

Baseball immortality, Larkin said on the MLB Network. To be recognized as one of the best of all-time (made me think about my) young kids. Theyre out there doing their thing. But 20, 30, 40, 100 years from now, when theyre old and gone, their grandkids (and kids will) always be able to say, Yeah, that guy right there (was) one of the best in the game.

Nationals 'love' Kris Bryant but potential holdup could stymie trade talks

Nationals 'love' Kris Bryant but potential holdup could stymie trade talks

With Anthony Rendon officially joining the Angels, the Nationals have a vacancy at third base.

Washington has options to replace Rendon; Josh Donaldson is still available in free agency, and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant could potentially be had via trade.

The Nationals have reportedly inquired with the Cubs about Bryant, and while they “love” the 27-year-old, their focus is on Donaldson, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. The Cubs would likely seek center fielder Victor Robles in a deal, a holdup on Washington's end, Heyman said.

From the Cubs perspective, it would make all the sense in the world to ask for Robles. He’s 22 years old, plays excellent defense (22 DRS in 2019, No. 1 in MLB by center fielders) and is only scratching the surface as a big-leaguer. Robles is projected to be a star, but Bryant already is one. If the Nationals want Bryant badly enough, they’ll have to sacrifice talent in a deal.

On the other hand, it’s easy to understand why Washington would be unwilling to trade Robles, who's under team control through 2024. Bryant will hit free agency after 2021, but if he wins his ongoing grievance case, he'll hit the open market after next season.

Nonetheless, if the Nationals do engage in Bryant trade talks, you can bet the Cubs will at least ask for Robles in return. A trade could be worked out without him, but for a Cubs team searching for better center field production, you've got to wonder who could be more enticing than Robles.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams Cubs games easily on your device.

Willson Contreras and his boundless energy join Cubs All-Decade Team

Willson Contreras and his boundless energy join Cubs All-Decade Team

With the 2010s coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is unveiling its Cubs All-Decade Team, highlighting the players who made the biggest impacts on the organization from 2010-19.

It didn’t take long for Willson Contreras to introduce himself to Major League Baseball. On the first pitch he saw as a big-leaguer, the Cubs catcher cranked a two-run home run to center field — on Sunday Night Baseball, nonetheless.

That moment was a sign of things to come for Contreras, who has since established himself as one of the best catchers in baseball. The 27-year-old holds a career .267/.350/.470 line with a 117 wRC+ and 67 home runs in four seasons. He’s started back-to-back All-Star Games, the first Cubs catcher to do so since Gabby Hartnett (1937-38).

Contreras offers so much to the Cubs besides his bat. His cannon of an arm and athleticism behind the plate are integral to the Cubs controlling opposing run games. His pitch framing is a work in progress, and admittedly, he could improve in this area by throwing behind runners less, ensuring he gets strikes called.

However, back-picking is part of Contreras’ value. He may lose some strike calls by not sticking a frame, but there've been plenty of occasions where Contreras' arm has provided the Cubs with a spark. His boundless energy is unmeasurable, but its importance to the Cubs — who feed off of it — cannot be overstated.

There are areas where Contreras can improve, and that's a scary thought. But he's already is one of the best backstops in baseball and has earned the starting catcher spot on our Cubs All-Decade Team.

Also considered: Welington Castillo, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Geovany Soto