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.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 18th homer of June and 31st of the season came off the Tigers in the Cubs' brief 2-game Interleague series in Detroit. 

Sosa connected in the first inning off Tigers starter Seth Greisinger, going back-to-back with Mickey Morandini. 

The Cubs wound up getting out to a 5-0 start in the game but still lost 7-6 on a Gabe Alvarez single in the bottom of the 11th.

The aforementioned Morandini homer was only the 3rd of the season for the Cubs second baseman. He finished with 8 homers on the year and 224 total bases on 172 hits in what was a very good offensive season. Yet it paled in comparison to Sosa, who had nearly 200 more total bases (416) and a slugging percentage nearly 200 points above Morandini's (.647 to .471), a testament to how truly incredible Sosa's season was.

Fun fact: Tony Clark was the Tigers' cleanup hitter that day. Clark is now the head of the MLB Players Union.

Fun fact No. 2: Paul Bako was the Detroit catcher in the game. He later became the Cubs backup catcher in 2003 and 2004, when he posted a .611 OPS in 119 games over the two years.

Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound

maddonmadman.jpg
USA TODAY

Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound

The Cubs continued their recent struggles, suffering their third straight loss to the Cincinnati Reds. 

But the game was not without its fair share of drama. The matchup was a back-and-forth affair, up until the Reds blew the game wide-open in the bottom of the third inning. This included a grand slam by Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, the first home run of his career.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon turned to the bullpen following Cincinnati's third inning explosion, and things did not get much better from there.

With the Cubs down six runs in the bottom of the eight inning, Maddon brought in catcher Chris Gimenez to pitch. 

This was not new territory for Gimenez, who despite being a catcher, now has 10 MLB pitching appearances to his name. 

Down six runs, Gimenez didn't have a lot to lose. But Reds first basemen Joey Votto hammered a fastball in the zone for his eighth homer of the year.

Gimenez had a career ERA of 8.00 before Saturday's appearance, and he certainly didn't do much to help lower that figure.

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers: "Including one today, Cubs relievers have allowed 41.1 percent of inherited runners to score in June, sixth most in the NL." 

A tired bullpen is certainly cause for concern for the Cubs, who are locked into a battle in the NL Central with the Brewers and Cardinals. Maddon was surely hoping to keep his bullpen arms fresh with the move, seeing as the game was already out of reach. 

So yes, the game did end in a 11-2 win for the Reds. But with a grand-slam by a pitcher—on his first career HR no less—and four-seam fastballs from a catcher, Cubs baseball always keep things interesting.