Cubs

Ron Santo takes his place in Hall of Fame

578222.png

Ron Santo takes his place in Hall of Fame

Updated: 8:15 p.m.

DALLAS There wasnt any middle ground with Ron Santo. It was either joy or agony.

This was the missing piece for Santo and his family and friends. This is where the Cubs believe he belongs, even if the timing was bittersweet.

You wont get any argument from teammates who admired his toughness, or the fans who loved listening to him on the radio, or the kids who benefited from the 60 million he helped raise for juvenile diabetes research.

One year after his death, Santo was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Golden Era veterans committee. He received 15 out of 16 votes from the panel, an overwhelming consensus after so many years of frustration.

The choice was revealed on Monday at the winter meetings, inside a Hilton Anatole ballroom. Back in Arizona, Santos widow Vicki could imagine him on the couch pumping his fist.

We dared to dream this because it was so important to Ron and such a long time coming, Vicki said. Im just a believer in what was meant to be. Unfortunately, it didnt happen during his lifetime. But this is going to continue his legacy.

Santos retired No. 10 flies at Wrigley Field, and he was resigned to that being his Hall of Fame. This time he needed 12 votes for induction Jim Kaat (10), Gil Hodges (nine) and Minnie Minoso (nine) were among the nine who were denied.

Billy Williams a great friend and teammate since Double-A ball in San Antonio, where they drew the eye of Rogers Hornsby in 1959 emerged as a leading voice on the committee. Their statues face each other outside Wrigley Field. Now Santos place in Cooperstown is also secure.

I think he would click his heels, Williams said. I know that he would rejoice. He was the kind of guy (who) was real high and real low. (Hed) really rejoice on the good things, (but) when he didnt do so well, hed get too down on himself (and) beat himself (up) in the clubhouse.

But I think after the news (today hed) say, Jesus Christ, I waited a long time, but now I made it. Im just going to enjoy it. Hed probably have a glass of red wine.

A nine-time All-Star, Santo could match almost anyone from his era. During his 15-year playing career (1960-1974), only Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson and Williams also reached 2,000 hits, 300 homers and 1,300 RBI.

It was long overdue and thats why its bittersweet, said Andre Dawson, who was on the ballot nine times before getting into Cooperstown. Ronnie and I just always talked about the Hall of Fame and the battles that he would have, how his perspective on life had changed and how through all of this he was still able to be so humble.

Besides Santo, Mike Schmidt is the only other third baseman to have more than 300 homers and five Gold Gloves. Yet the Baseball Writers Association of America was never really impressed, giving him between 3.9 and 43.1 percent of the vote during his 15 years on the ballot.

Ive been pulling for him for a long time, said Brooks Robinson, another Hall of Fame third baseman. I really couldnt quite figure it out why he hadnt gotten in through the writers.

I asked a few guys on our committee and youd always hear things about how (the Cubs) never won, which might be a part of it. Clicking his heels might be a part of it and you have three guys off his team in the Hall of Fame and they werent putting anyone else in.

Who knows? He certainly has the statistics to stack up against anyone in the Hall of Fame.

In the final analysis, Williams said Santos off-the-field contributions influenced the committee. Santo promoted the game for 21 seasons on WGN, Cubs fans laughing and groaning along with him on the radio. He also became a tireless fundraiser and inspiration for those with diabetes.

Sometimes were measured by what we do off the field, Williams said. This is what Im most proud of (beyond) all those numbers he put up on the board: He never did complain. (He) went out and played the game as it should be played.

Linda Brown, Santos daughter, didnt want to use the word bittersweet, because now his grandchildren will have a place to visit, to see what he meant to so many people.

Santo didnt stop when his legs were amputated years ago. He died at the age of 70 on Dec. 3, 2010, in an Arizona hospital from complications with bladder cancer. There is some symbolism in how the final chapter was written.

The class of 2012 will be inducted on July 22, and theyll be telling their favorite Santo stories all over again.

It was always his dream, Vicki said. To even have it come after his passing, it just shows you cant give up. And thats what Ron was all about.

Hot Stove: AJ Pollock could be the player to fill the Cubs needs

aj_pollock_usa_today.png
USA TODAY

Hot Stove: AJ Pollock could be the player to fill the Cubs needs

Six players turned down qualifying offers in baseball, and they are quality names in LHP Patrick Corbin, C Yasmani Grandal, OF Bryce Harper, LHP Dallas Keuchel, reliever Craig Kimbrel and OF A.J. Pollock. It’s the last name that piqued the interest of Cubs Insider Tony Andracki, who told me on our Hot Stove show on Facebook Live Tuesday at 12:30, that while all eyes are on Harper, Pollock is a player who could fit the Cubs’ needs. 

“The interesting name is A.J. Pollock, depending what the market is for him, because he’s a guy that when he’s able to stay healthy, and he hasn’t really been healthy for about five years now, but when he’s able to stay healthy, he’s a dynamic player who would really shake up that offense, and he’s also a leadoff hitter,” Andracki said. “The Cubs need a stable leadoff hitter and he’s a guy they could look at.”

Hot Stove

Time for your weekly dose of HOT STOVE! 1. The White Sox are shopping Avi Garcia...to make room for Bryce Harper? 2. BIGGEST Takeaways from the GM Meetings. 3. Will we be celebrating an Eloy 'Rookie of the Year Award' after next season?

Posted by NBC Sports Chicago on Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Pollock has played in only 469 games over the last five seasons. He played 113 in 2018, and batted .257 with 21 home runs and 65 RBI, and broke his thumb in May. His all-star season was in 2015, when he played in 157 games, hit .315, had 20 home runs and 76 RBI. Pollock turns 31 on December 5. 

If the Cubs were to sign Pollock in the current circumstances, they would have to give up their pick after Competitive Balance Round B in the June 2019 First-year player draft, and $500,000 of their international bonus pool money. Under the previous collective bargaining agreement, a team signing a player who turned down a qualifying offer would have to give up a supplemental first-round draft pick. 

State of the Cubs: Starting rotation

State of the Cubs: Starting rotation

As the Cubs maneuver through a pivotal offseason, we will break down the current state of the team each week by sectioning it off into position groups. Here is the first installment on the starting rotation.

Hot Stove season is heating up, but don't expect the Cubs to be linked to a bunch of starting pitchers.

That's because the rotation is really the only position group that is close to a finished product at the moment. 

When Theo Epstein's front office decided to pick up Cole Hamels' $20 million option for 2019, they also sent a message about how they feel about this rotation moving forward. Drew Smyly was dealt to the Texas Rangers to shed his $7 million salary for 2019 and create room for Hamels, who became a clear fit for this rotation with his contributions both on and off the field down the stretch last year.

In the minds of a large part of the fanbase, Hamels may have etched his spot in the 2019 rotation when he scoffed at the idea that the Brewers were even a rival of the Cubs

Still, the Cubs weren't expecting to shell out so much money to this rotation in the short-term, as Hamels, Jon Lester and Yu Darvish are all set to make more than $20 million next season. The team also picked up Jose Quintana's $10.5 million option and Kyle Hendricks is slated to make about $8 million in arbitration in 2019.

Throw in the $12.5 million the Cubs are paying Tyler Chatwood despite a lack of a clear role for the embattled right-hander and it's easy to see why the organization is not looking to spend a bunch more money to add depth beyond the Top 5 guys.

"The areas we're looking to address are our position group and the bullpen," Epstein said at the GM Meetings last week. "We're looking at a little starting depth here and there when we can, but right now, I think our rotation is a strength."

Here's how the 2019 rotation looks at the moment:

Depth chart

1. Jon Lester
2. Kyle Hendricks
3. Cole Hamels
4. Yu Darvish
5. Jose Quintana
6. Mike Montgomery
7. Tyler Chatwood

Assuming the Top 5 guys make it through spring training healthy, that will likely be how the Cubs line up their rotation in order. Hendricks and Darvish would ensure the Cubs aren't throwing out back-to-back-to-back lefties often like they were in the final couple months of 2018.

On paper, this looks like it could be one of the best rotations in baseball, but clearly we've said that before — even as recently as February after Darvish signed — and it hasn't played out that way.

But Darvish's first year in Chicago was a total disaster, bogged down by injury (triceps and elbow) and ineffectiveness (4.95 ERA, 1.43 WHIP). He will head into 2019 as maybe the biggest X-factor on the roster — a guy capable of pitching like an ace but he has fallen on rough times since the start of the 2017 World Series. The Cubs still have more than $100 million committed to Darvish over the next five years, so getting him right ranks way up there in terms of importance for a team aiming to take home another ring.

Hendricks got off to a slow start, but he continues to show that he has emerged as a co-ace of this pitching staff thanks to an 8-3 record, 2.84 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 88.2 innings after the All-Star Break. 

Quintana had an up-and-down 2018, but dealt with some shoulder issues around the All-Star Break and posted a 2.92 ERA with 48 Ks in 49.1 innings over the last month-and-a-half of the season. He's under team control for the next two years at only $22 million (if his 2020 option is picked up by the Cubs), which is a relative steal for a team with serious money issues in the short-term.

Lester and Hamels will both be pitching in their age-35 seasons, but they've proven they still have what it takes to get outs — Lester with some lesser stuff than in years past and Hamels has a wide array of pitches he can utilize to keep hitters off balance while still touching 95 mph on the gun.

Montgomery represents quality depth for this team if injury strikes and wound up making 19 starts last year — posting a 3.69 ERA in the rotation.

Chatwood is the ultimate wild-card in that he's still under 30 (he turns 29 next month) and has never had control issues anywhere near his 2018 struggles, so it's reasonable to expect he still has the potential to turn things around. But will it be too little, too late? Can the Cubs find a trade partner for Chatwood if they're willing to eat some of the remaining $25.5 million on his contract? 

What's next?

Epstein and Jed Hoyer constantly talk about the need to go 9-10 arms deep in the rotation because they know a lack of quality starting pitching is the quickest way to flush a season down the toilet. 

Beyond those seven options above, the Cubs still have some rotation depth waiting in the wings.

Alec Mills impressed in his late-season audition with the clubs, flashing strikeout stuff and turning heads with his composure and versatility to pitch both out of the bullpen and in the rotation (which is good because he's out of options). 

The Cubs are really high on top prospect Adbert Alzolay and they believe he can be a major part of their future rotations, but he's still only 23 and coming off an injury-riddled season. He figures to have major restrictions on his workload next year even if he shows enough development to make it to the majors at some point in 2019.

Duane Underwood Jr. made his MLB debut in a solid 4-inning showing in LA in 2018 and it seems like he's been around forever, but is still only 24 after spending the last seven years in the Cubs system. 

Jen-Ho Tseng has been a spot starter over the past couple seasons and 23-year-old Trevor Clifton figures to be added to the big-league roster this winter now that he's Rule-5 eligible. But those guys are probably only emergency options in the short term.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Cubs take a few fliers on veterans on minor-league deals — similar to how the Brewers signed Wade Miley in February and watched the southpaw emerge as a major piece of their rotation.

The bottom line

The rotation was supposed to be the strength of the Cubs in 2018 and after four months of nothing but flashes of greatness, they finally hit their stride in the final third of the season once Hamels joined the rotation. Now there's the potential to be even better from Day 1, especially if Darvish can actually return to the pitcher he was before the start of the 2017 World Series. 

It has to be a comforting feeling to Epstein and Co. to know they pretty much are set with their rotation for next season even before Thanksgiving hits, allowing the front office to turn their attention to more pressing needs like the bullpen and trying to fix an underperforming lineup.