Tag: Cubs

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Hall of Fame or not, Ron Santo ranks among the all-time great third basemen


When someone successful and beloved dies there’s a natural tendency to perhaps overstate their greatness and at first glance it may seem as though people are doing that today in touting Ron Santo’s qualifications for the Hall of Fame after the longtime Cubs third baseman and announcer passed away yesterday.

However, in Santo’s case amplifying his greatness is completely justified and unfortunately serves as a reminder that the Hall of Fame voters have erred in leaving him out of Cooperstown for so long.

There are fewer third basemen in the Hall of Fame than any other position. There are several plausible explanations for that fact, but chief among them is that no one seems quite sure how to evaluate their performance.

Offensively they’re often lumped in with first basemen and corner outfielders, which short changes third basemen because they play a far more difficult and less offense-driven position. Yet at the same time third basemen rarely receive the type of defensive accolades reserved for middle infielders, center fielders, and catchers. They are usually caught in the middle, which underrates them on both sides of the ball.

Santo’s career has seemingly been viewed that way. His hitting stats can’t quite compete with contemporary slugging first basemen and corner outfielders like Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson, Willie Stargell, and Willie McCovey, yet among third basemen in the 1960s and 1970s only Eddie Mathews topped Santo’s production. And while Hall of Fame cases for players at up-the-middle positions are often based largely on defensive reputations, Santo’s five Gold Glove awards are treated almost like an afterthought.

Meanwhile, in the 1960s and 1970s only 10 players accumulated more Wins Above Replacement (WAR) than Santo: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Joe Morgan, Carl Yastrzemski, Frank Robinson, Pete Rose, Roberto Clemente, Brooks Robinson, Johnny Bench, Reggie Jackson. That’s nine Hall of Famers and the all-time hit king, and two more Hall of Famers (Rod Carew and Willie McCovey) are right behind Santo in the rankings.

Among all the players in baseball history to start at least half their games at third base, Santo ranks seventh all time in Wins Above Replacement behind Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Wade Boggs, George Brett, Chipper Jones, and Brooks Robinson. That’s five Hall of Famers and one future Hall of Famer, yet as the No. 7 guy Santo failed to garner even 50 percent of the votes in 15 years on the ballot and died as a non-Hall of Famer four decades after retiring.

Unfortunate as that is, don’t let it keep you from knowing that Ron Santo has always been deserving of a spot in Cooperstown as a nine-time All-Star, one of the best all-around players of the 1960s and 1970s, and one of the 10 greatest third basemen of all time.

Cubs and Jeff Baker avoid arbitration with one-year deal

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Jeff Baker and the Cubs have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal prior to tonight’s contract-tendering deadline.

Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com reports that the deal is worth $1.175 million, which is a 20 percent raise from the $975,000 he earned while hitting .272/.326/.413 in a part-time role this season.

Baker has logged 333, 248, and 224 plate appearances in the past three seasons and figures to spend 2011 in a reserve role again. He started a total of 48 games this year, seeing most of his action at third base and second base.

Lance Berkman drawing interest from A’s and Cubs

Berkman Yanks

Lance Berkman struggled for the Yankees after coming over in a July 31 trade and finished the season with an OPS below .800 for the first time in his career, but it sounds like the 34-year-old first baseman is getting plenty of interest as a free agent.

Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com calls the A’s “his most fervent suitor” and Carrie Muskat of MLB.com writes that “the Cubs are in pursuit of a first baseman this offseason and one option could be Berkman.”

Berkman has said previously that he’d like to remain a first baseman, but Daric Barton’s presence means he’d been primarily a designated hitter in Oakland. With the Cubs he could play first base and return to the National League, but it’s unclear exactly how interested they are in Berkman.

Even in a career-worst season Berkman got on base at a strong .368 clip and if his power returns somewhat a year removed from knee surgery he could be a nice one-year pickup.

Phillies hire Ryne Sandberg to manage at Triple-A

Ryne Sandberg

Three decades after regrettably trading a 21-year-old Ryne Sandberg to the Cubs the Phillies have hired the Hall of Famer to manage their Triple-A team.

Sandberg managed at Triple-A for the Cubs this season, but left the organization after finishing runner-up to Mike Quade in the team’s manager search and talked about wanting to land a big-league job instead of remaining in the minors any longer.

So, either Sandberg had a change of heart or the big-league coaching opportunities weren’t very plentiful.

Whatever the case, he’s back with the organization that drafted him way back in 1978 and Cubs fans are left wondering why Sandberg couldn’t have just stayed in Iowa if he was willing to continue managing at Triple-A.

Adding another layer of intrigue to the Cubs-to-Phillies move is that the man Sandberg was traded for, Ivan DeJesus, is now the third base coach on Quade’s staff in Chicago.

With trade rumors swirling, Kosuke Fukudome buys a $1.3 million condo in Chicago

Kosuke Fukudome
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This could mean absolutely nothing or it could mean that he’s not paying much attention to the trade rumors swirling this week, but Kosuke Fukudome just bought a three-bedroom condo in Chicago for $1.32 million.

Dennis Rodkin of ChicagoMag.com reports that Fukudome and his wife had been renting a place since signing with the Cubs in 2007, so the decision to own is definitely curious right now.

Earlier this week Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune wrote that the Cubs may have to trade Fukudome and the $13.5 million remaining on his contract in order to pursue any of their top free-agent targets. Later his Tribune colleague Phil Rogers wrote that the Cubs were “kicking around” a trade that would send Fukudome to the Red Sox for Daisuke Matsuzaka, but that rumor was pretty thoroughly squashed before long.

Whatever the case, it seems obvious that the Cubs are interested in parting with Fukudome at the same time he’s apparently interested in settling down in Chicago. Of course, it’s also possible that spending $1.3 million doesn’t mean much of anything for a guy with a $48 million contract.