Sandberg moves on from Cubs, gets to work in Philly


Sandberg moves on from Cubs, gets to work in Philly

Monday, Dec. 6, 2010
11:25 AM Updated 2:24 PM

By Patrick Mooney

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. Ron Santo couldnt remember Ryne Sandbergs name, even if the second baseman was the most popular Cubs player of his generation. So Santo called him big boy, and over the years it became their greeting to each other.

Santo and Sandberg both grew up in the Seattle area, and came of age as Cubs. For years they were both fixtures at Wrigley Field. It saddened Sandberg last week when he learned that Santo died at the age of 70 from complications with bladder cancer.

It will be hard to replace Ron Santo I dont think you can, Sandberg said Monday at the winter meetings. He wasnt your typical radio announcer, but everyone knew what he meant and how he felt, even if he didnt get all the facts right, all the names right.

(Everybody) knew how emotional he was about the game. That came across loud and clear on the radio.

If Sandberg feels estranged from the Cubs after being passed over for the job that ultimately went to Mike Quade, he didnt let it show. Sandberg, like Santo, will always be a Cubs legend, but now hes writing a new chapter to his story.

Sandbergs focused on managing the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Triple-A club of the Philadelphia Phillies, the organization that first drafted him and later traded him and Larry Bowa to Chicago for Ivan DeJesus.

It kind of erases some of the people that Ive ran into the last 30 years, Sandberg said, Phillies fans (who) say: Youre the one that got away and all that.

There are Cubs fans who no doubt feel the same way, though Sandberg insists hes happy. He will take pride in all the prospects who loved playing for him at Class-A Peoria, Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa.

We were a tight group, Sandberg said. For some of those players, we were tight for four years, so it will be great to see those guys go up there and contribute. Thats really gratifying. I hope some of them will get a shot next year and do well.

Sandberg was at the Swan and Dolphin resort on Monday representing the Hall of Fame, as part of the committee that elected executive Pat Gillick to Cooperstown. Santo will not be eligible for induction again until 2012, though the ballot hasnt been compiled yet and wont be revealed until next year.

Even with the outpouring of emotion for Santo, the committee wont be swayed easily. Gillick a former general manager in Toronto, Baltimore, Seattle and Philadelphia and the architect of three World Series champions was the only one chosen from a group that included George Steinbrenner and union leader Marvin Miller.

Sandberg could have spent the rest of his life signing autographs, but isnt satisfied with his legacy only being as a player. With the Phillies, he said hes not planning to wear the No. 23 the Cubs retired five years ago. Perhaps thats a sign hes breaking free from the past. This is a chance to build out his resume.

Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel will be 67 next season, but Sandberg certainly knows that he isnt promised anything. He remains open-minded about his future in managing, and the possibilities of another big-league job.

I havent really had a timetable, Sandberg said. I like what Im doing. I like where Im at.

Patrick Mooney is's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs fill multiple needs with Daniel Descalso signing

Cubs fill multiple needs with Daniel Descalso signing

The Cubs have crossed multiple items off their winter checklist.

After The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported the deal Tuesday morning, the club confirmed the two-year, $5 million pact with veteran Daniel Descalso, including an option for a third year. He will make $1.5 million in 2019, $2.5 million in 2020 and there is a $3.5 million option in 2021 or the Cubs are on the hook for a $1 million buyout.

Descalso fills a lot of needs for the Cubs this offseason as a veteran known as a quality leader in the clubhouse/dugout, middle infield depth and another left-handed bat.

The 32-year-old is coming off a career season with the Arizona Diamondbacks in which he set new highs in homers (13), RBI (57), walks (64), OPS (.789), OPS+ (106), on-base percentage (.353), slugging percentage (.436) and runs scored (54).

He also played all over the diamond, recording time at second base (52 games), third base (37 games), first base (11 games), DH (7 games) and left field (5 games). He even pitched in two games, so he could be an option for manager Joe Maddon if the Cubs need some position players for mop-up duty again in 2019. Descalso has played a lot of shortstop in his career, as well, but he's recorded just 2 innings at the position since the start of the 2017 season so it's more likely the Cubs are interested in him as primarily a second/third baseman with the ability to move around more in the Ben Zobrist utility role if the need arises.

Descalso began his career with the St. Louis Cardinals, coming up through their system as a third-round draft pick in 2007 and spending 5 seasons with the Cubs' divisional rivals. He then moved on to the Colorado Rockies for 2015-16 before the two-year stint with the D-Backs.

With his journey around the NL, Descalso has made the postseason five different times, notching 48 games on baseball's biggest stage in October and posting a .226/.286/.387 slash line (.671 OPS) in those contests.

Descalso is an affordable option for the Cubs, who have said over and over again this winter they are operating on a tight budget. The multi-year commitment can help him grow and develop into a leadership role in the Cubs clubhouse with more security and stability than a one-year deal provides.

Descalso effectively takes Tommy La Stella's place on the Cubs roster as a more versatile infield option and provides some more pop/leadership though with a lower batting average than La Stella. 

The Cubs needed some infield depth heading into 2019, especially with Addison Russell out for at least the first month of the season on suspension and his status unknown beyond that point. Descalso can split time at second base with Zobrist, allowing the Cubs to follow the same rest forumla that helped the 2016 World Series MVP have a resurgent season last year (.305 AVG, .817 OPS).

The signing allows Maddon plenty of quality options on a given day, letting him choose a lineup from Descalso, Zobrist, Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and David Bote.

The Cubs have an interest in a more stable lineup/playing time equation in 2019, but it's never a bad thing to have more versatiity and depth on the roster.

Descalso may also be a fit for the Cubs at leadoff when he plays given he has posted a healthy walk rate the last three years includng a sparkling 15.1 percent in 2018. The veteran had success in that role last year (.357.412/.857 slash line) but in only 17 plate appearances and over his career, Descalso is hitting just .168 with a .266 OBP and .584 OPS in 24 starts in the leadoff spot.

The Cubs still figure to add another bullpen arm or two this winter and should add more shortstop depth behind Javy Baez.

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Don't count on David Ross as Cubs bench coach in 2019


Don't count on David Ross as Cubs bench coach in 2019

Here's the bad news for Cubs fans: David Ross almost assuredly won't be the Cubs bench coach in 2019.

Here's the good news for Cubs fans looking to get their Grandpa Rossy fix: They can still catch him on ESPN throughout the baseball season.

ESPN announced a multi-year extension with Ross Tuesday morning to retain the popular former catcher as an MLB analyst calling the weeknight games and showing up on Baseball Tonight and SportsCenter, among other shows.

The contract extension probably eliminates the Cubs' chances of luring Ross into a role as Joe Maddon's new bench coach in 2019. But the biggest factor for Ross has always been the time away from family, as jumping back into the dugout in a coaching capacity is extremely time-consuming and would take a huge committment from Ross to be away from his role as a dad and husband.

The Cubs still retain Ross as a special assistant in Theo Epstein's front office and Epstein admitted last month the team is pushing for Ross to be around the team more in 2019, as his presence has a profound effect on all the young players that still look up to him.

"I think his mere presence is helpful," Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said last week. "Those guys trust him. The timing of David Ross being on this team was perfect in that those guys were 21 and 22, so he had such an influence on those guys. I still think they look up to him, so when he's around, they'll gravitate towards him and talk to him. We couldn't hire anyone from the outside that could have that kind of influence. I think it's more about that. 

"There's probably some natural reaction when he's around where it feels like it did in '15 and '16 a little bit. But yeah, having him around is really valuable and I think he will have a big impact."

Ross' extension with ESPN doesn't completely rule out any chance of him coaching — or managing — for the length of the deal (which was not released), as people jump from the TV booth to the field often for managerial/coaching gigs across all American sports. But the extension certainly creates another wrinkle in the situation.