Cubs

Wrigley's new looks begin with Santo statue

Wrigley's new looks begin with Santo statue

Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011
10:18 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Cubs executives measure their building against the great cathedrals of sports Fenway Park, Lambeau Field, the Rose Bowl.

For Ron Santo, it was the religion that he believed kept him alive all those years as his body began to fail. And the spontaneous shrines that appeared on the gates of Wrigley Field when Santo died last month will take a permanent form.

To honor his memory, players will wear No. 10 uniform patches this season. And a Santo statue will be unveiled outside Wrigley Field on Aug. 10, chairman Tom Ricketts announced Saturday at the Cubs Convention.

Santo shirts could be spotted all around the Hilton Chicago this weekend. It will be weird for those fans to look up and see someone else in the broadcast booth, or turn on their radio and not hear that familiar voice.

The transition wont be easy, but the Cubs and WGN Radio are getting deeper into their search process for the next analyst.

Team president Crane Kenney interviewed one candidate on Saturday, and indicated that the names being mentioned as possible replacements are accurate. Keith Moreland, Dave Otto and Doug Glanville are thought to be in the mix. The expectation is that Santos replacement will be named before spring training.

The future at Clark and Addison

Santo connected with listeners because he had such strong feelings for a place that hadnt changed much since his playing days.

Any idea about Wrigley Field seems to be met with resistance from some corner of the fan base or community. When one fan complained about recorded pop music replacing the organ before each at-bat, Ricketts said that a player came to ownership with the suggestion early last season, as a way to shake the team out of a slump.

Inevitably Wrigley Field will become more modern. AT&T is partnering with the Cubs and investing 5 million to make the stadium a wireless hotspot.

The concept of a video board so long as it doesnt disturb the center-field landscape is gaining traction. Sixty percent of fans surveyed by the Cubs liked that idea, though theres still no obvious place to put it.

The Cubs have grand designs for a renovated Wrigley Field, but they are still figuring out how to pay for it.

Vice president of community affairs Mike Lufrano who once worked as a special assistant in the White House continues to talk with officials on the city, county and state levels about different financing techniques.

Looking back on his first year-plus of ownership, Ricketts identified one glaring mistake how his group rolled out a proposal to renovate the stadium with the help of state-issued bonds last November.

Ricketts said we lost control of the dialogue a little bit, but Kenney reminded everyone that it took 18 months to two years for the Cubs to lobby for another public-private partnership and a new facility in Mesa, Ariz.
Finding a balance

Until those improvements are made, Ricketts doesnt think the Cubs will get an All-Star Game. Team executives continue to point toward the Red Sox, who they say arent subject to an amusement tax, and have put up 67 advertisements inside Fenway Park.

Signage is one way to continue growing incremental revenue. The Cubs also remain open to hosting more concerts though no non-baseball events have been finalized yet for 2011 and even college football despite the bad press one end zone generated.

It did not go unnoticed in the Cubs executive offices that Farmers Insurance will reportedly be paying around 400 million (20 million annually) for naming rights at the proposed NFL stadium in Los Angeles.

The marquee, the scoreboard and the ivy are historical landmarks protected by the city. Building a statue for a beloved figure such as Santo is an easy call. There are other tough choices to make around Wrigley Field.

Can we think outside the box? And how much do you want to sacrifice progress for tradition? Kenney asked. Another way of looking at that question is: So youre going to walk away from 400 million because you dont want to sell the naming rights? Where does that money come from? It comes from football games, concerts, everything creative we come up with.

Should you just give up on that and build a new stadium somewhere? (No), were going to try to fight it out where we are and were going to protect the traditions that mean so much to all of us.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cole Hamels is out to prove the naysayers wrong, whether that's with the Cubs or elsewhere

Cole Hamels is out to prove the naysayers wrong, whether that's with the Cubs or elsewhere

How you evaluate Cole Hamels’ 2019 performance depends on which half of the season you look at.

Hamels was the Cubs’ most reliable starting pitcher through June, putting his name firmly in the conversation to make the All-Star Game. Through his first 17 starts, he held a 2.98 ERA, with 97 strikeouts and 35 walks in 99 2/3 innings.

That 17th start – June 28 against the Reds – represented a turning point for the left-hander, however. After throwing one warmup pitch ahead of the second inning, Hamels took a beeline for the Cubs’ dugout, exiting the game with a left oblique strain.

Hamels quickly detecting the strain was key, as he avoided a more significant injury and only missed one month as a result. However, he never got back to his pre-injury level after returning. In 10 starts, he posted a 5.79 ERA, walking 21 batters in 42 innings as opponents slashed .315/.397/.506 against him.

Which of the two pitchers does Hamels more closely resemble at this point? That’s what teams will have to evaluate this offseason, when the soon-to-be 36-year-old lefty hits free agency for the first time in his career.

On top of his oblique strain, Hamels also missed a start in September with left shoulder fatigue. By the time he returned, the Cubs were eliminated from postseason contention, but he wanted one last chance to show what he’s capable of before free agency.

“I don’t want to put that in the back of teams’ heads of how I finished,” Hamels said the day before his final start of the season. “I think I’m capable of what I was able to do in the first half - that’s who I am - and I can still get those good results for hopefully [the Cubs], if they consider that.

“But also, for other teams to know that I’m not the type of player that’s on the regression. This is what we’re gonna expect. It’s more so what I was able to do in the first half - the type of player that I am and the results that I can get out on the field.”

He certainly backed those words up, shutting down the Cardinals – who hadn’t clinched the NL Central yet – in the second-to-last game of the regular season. Hamels pitched four innings, allowing no runs on just two hits.

Hamels looked stellar in that game, but it doesn’t change the fact that returning from an extended injury absence isn’t easy on pitchers. They need time to regain command of their pitches, plus any amount of arm strength lost during their time on the shelf.

Hamels made two rehab starts at Triple-A before rejoining the Cubs on Aug. 3. He was determined not to return too quickly, as he did so with the Rangers in 2017 after straining his right oblique. That wound up negatively affecting him the rest of the season.

Still, maybe one or two more rehab starts this time around would’ve served him well, though he felt that he could compete at the majors without his best stuff. Plus, it’s not like he was guaranteed to find his groove again by pitching in more minor league games.

Results are all that matter in the big leagues, however, and they show that while the Cubs starting rotation was okay, it wasn’t the difference maker capable of leading the team to October, as anticipated. Cubs starters finished the season with a 4.18 ERA, 10th in MLB and sixth in the National League.

Hamels’ post-injury woes played into those numbers, and he’s determined to bounce back in 2020 to prove his second half performance was a fluke. His first half showed that he still can pitch at a high-level, but he may not be in the Cubs’ plans for next season, regardless.

"There was some injury and regression (especially after injury) that led us to be closer to the pack certainly than we had envisioned,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said of the team’s rotation at his end-of-season press conference. “It’s an accomplished and experienced group, but with experience means that we could stand to add some younger talent, refresh the group as well.

“We certainly need to add depth and we need to add some youth and a little bit of a different look to the staff, as well, going forward.”

Those comments seem to indicate that Hamels won’t be back next season. The Cubs have Adbert Alzolay, Tyler Chatwood and Alec Mills as internal rotation options for 2020 and could look outside the organization for more. Hamels also made $20 million in 2019, so freeing up his salary would help the Cubs address other roster needs.

The Cubs could do a lot worse than having a healthy Cole Hamels in their rotation, though. He’s enjoyed a resurgence since the Cubs acquired him and has had plenty of success against the NL Central and at Wrigley Field overall during his career:

vs. Brewers: 20 starts, 8-5, 3.53 ERA
vs. Cardinals: 17 starts, 5-6, 2.21 ERA
vs. Pirates: 13 starts, 5-4 record, 2.52 ERA
vs. Reds: 20 starts, 11-2 record. 2.30 ERA
at Wrigley Field: 25 starts, 7-4 record, 2.20 ERA

Granted, a large portion of those starts came earlier in his career. But with how competitive the NL Central was in 2019 and will be in 2020, the results can’t be ignored.

“Obviously I do very well at Wrigley, so I hope that’s a consideration - I love to be able to pitch there,” Hamels said about the Cubs possibly re-signing him. “For some reason, it’s just the energy and I’ve mentioned it before, it’s baseball to me. And that’s what I really feed off of and that’s hopefully what they think about.”

But if the Cubs decide to part ways with Hamels, he’ll have his fair share of suitors. The Brewers and Reds each could benefit from adding starting pitching this offseason, and Hamels would bring a ton of experience to two squads that will be competing for postseason spots in 2020.

“Otherwise, I know the other teams in the division are gonna think about it,” Hamels said with a laugh. “If you have to come to Wrigley three different times [as an opponent], I don’t pitch bad there.

“I just want to win. I think that’s it. When you get the taste of it early and then you don’t have it for a while, that’s what you’re striving for. To play this game and in front of sellouts and the energy and the expectation of winning, it’s why I enjoy the game.

“That’s what I want to be able to continue to do for the few years I have left.”

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Javy Baez is now the face of baseball

Javy Baez is now the face of baseball

Javy Baez is one step closer to becoming the unquestioned face of Major League Baseball.

For the next year, El Mago will be the cover boy for video-game-playing baseball fans, as Baez announced on his Twitter Monday morning he is gracing the cover of MLB The Show 2020:

On the eve of Game 1 of the World Series, Playstation released a video depicting why they chose Baez as the new face of the game:

Last year's cover featured Bryce Harper, announced before he even signed with the Phillies. 

Baez also joins the likes of Aaron Judge, Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones, Barry Bonds and David Ortiz as cover athletes for the PS4 game.

The 26-year-old Baez has become one of the most recognizable figures in the game, playing with a flair and swag that includes mind-bending baserunning maneuvers and impossible defensive plays. 

Case in point:

Baez missed the final month of the 2019 season with a fractured thumb, but still put up 29 homers and 85 RBI while ranking second on the team in WAR. In 2018, he finished second in NL MVP voting while leading the league in RBI (111) and topping the Cubs in most offensive categories. 

Theo Epstein said he never deems any player as "untouchable," but Baez is about as close as it gets for this Cubs team right now. He made the switch to shortstop full time this year and wound up with elite defensive numbers to go along with his fearsome offense and an attitude and mindset the rest of the Cubs hope to emulate.

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