Ron Santo 1940-2010

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Awful news: Chicago Cubs great Ron Santo has died at age 70. Santo had been battling bladder cancer, lapsed into a coma on Wednesday and died yesterday.

Ron Santo was one of the most productive and consistent players of the 1960s and early 70s.  Because of the low overall offensive profile of the era, however, it might be easy to overlook just how great he really was.  His career line was .277/.362/.424.  His adjusted OPS, however — which takes era into account — was 125, which places him in similar territory to Yogi Berra, Charlie Gehringer, Kirby Puckett and many other Hall of Fame talents.  As is often the case for third basemen, however, Santo’s contributions have been under appreciated.  But he was under appreciated even among third basemen. Indeed, in 1964 two third basemen won MVP awards: Brooks Robinson and Ken Boyer.  Santo had better seasons than either of them. His value is illustrated by the fact that, for thirty years, the Cubs third base position was defined largely by the fact that they could never get anyone there who could hold a candle him.

Santo was a nine-time All-Star. He hit for power, ranking near the top in home runs all-time among third basemen. He hit for average. He took a ton of walks. He had a nice glove too, winning five Gold Gloves. He was never honored with election to the Hall of Fame, but that’s the Hall of Fame’s fault, not Santo’s.  For what it’s worth he has been considered either the best or among the best players not to be elected to the Hall of Fame for many years. For Santo’s part, he said that the Cubs retiring his number 10 was a greater honor. And given his place in Cubs’ history, I agree with that.

Santo suffered from diabetes during his playing career and for the remainder of his life. He had both legs amputated below the knee as a result, yet remained active working for the Cubs as a broadcaster, booster and ambassador.  He was always upbeat and positive. The Cubs and baseball as a whole were lucky to have his like as a player and as a friend.

Rest in Peace, Ron.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.