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.
Yadier Molina underwent surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right thumb shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated from the NLDS by the Cubs, and then he needed a followup procedure two months later.
It’s been an offseason of rest and rehab for the seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover, though he’s about ready to ramp up the intensity of workouts with the beginning of spring training approaching …
Brayan Pena was signed to a two-year, $5 million free agent contract this winter to provide more reliable depth behind the plate. He’ll be the Cardinals’ starter at catcher come Opening Day if Yadi isn’t quite ready.
Molina started a whopping 131 games behind the plate in 2015.
You’ve heard the stories by now. Jose Fernandez does not get along with Marlins management and is doubtful to sign a long-term contract with the team.
There’s still time for those relationships to be repaired — Fernandez can’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season — but we also have a monetary issue at play.
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes Sunday that the Marlins are “under the impression” Fernandez and his representatives want $30 million per year on a long-term deal, a figure the Marlins “have no plans to meet.”
If the Marlins won’t pay, Fernandez and his reps will seek that number when the ace right-hander reaches free agency. That could be the same offseason Bryce Harper tries for $500 million.
A friend of Fernandez told Jackson that the 23-year-old native of Cuba was upset about some of the trades the Marlins made last summer and the removal of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. You probably heard talk of Miami shopping Fernandez this winter, but the asking price was predictably sky-high.
Fernandez has been limited to 19 starts over the last two years because of Tommy John surgery and a biceps injury, but he boasts a stellar 2.40 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 10.5 K/9 in 289 career major league frames. He will make $2.8 million in 2016 and carries two more years of arbitration eligibility.
If he can put together a run of 30-start, 200-inning seasons, Fernandez will get that $30 million per year and probably much more.
Paul Hoynes at the Cleveland Plain Dealer has an in-depth look at how the Indians will manage their outfield during the early part of the 2016 season, in the absence of star Michael Brantley.
Brantley underwent labrum surgery on his right shoulder this past November and has not picked up a bat all winter. “In the off-season people know I love to hit,” Brantley acknowledged to Hoynes late last week. ”I hit a lot. It’s just been a change in my timetable.”
Hoynes says the projected date for Brantley’s 2016 debut is “hazy,” guessing that it might happen around late April or early May if everything continues to go smoothly. Shoulders can be tricky, for hitters and pitchers.
Rajai Davis, Abraham Almonte, and Lonnie Chisenhall figure to make up Cleveland’s primary starting outfield while Brantley is finishing his rehabilitation. Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler could also be in the mix. It’s a lacking group, tasked with replacing one of the most productive players in baseball.
Brantley, 28, has slashed .319/.382/.494 over the last two seasons, tallying 35 home runs, 90 doubles, 181 RBI, and 38 stolen bases in 293 games.
Could the talented Tribe be in for another slow start?
Shouldn’t this club be spending more money?
Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic put on a tremendous show in Saturday night’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest up in Toronto, Canada. The stars were out to see it at the Air Canada Centre, and Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista had one of the very best views in the house. Check out this video he posted to Instagram of LaVine’s final dunk, a between-the-legs jam from just inside the free throw line …
That is Toronto’s very own Drake going wild in the pink jacket. Gordon probably had the best individual dunk of the night, though, if we’re being really real …
Back to your regularly scheduled baseball programming. Pitchers and catchers report Friday.