Posted on: March 6, 2012 7:06 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 11:00 am
MESA, Ariz. -- Ears perked up, perhaps, by new manager Dale Sveum discussing him as a potential cleanup man the other day, beleaguered Cubs veteran Alfonso Soriano sure looked the part Tuesday.
Granted, it was March 6. Yes, the Colorado Rockies essentially are holding tryouts for their rotation and Guillermo Moscoso and Zach Putnam won't remind anyone of Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson anytime soon. And true, making hasty spring training judgments is more dangerous than crossing the desert with no water.
On the flip side, when you've had your ears pinned back with boos while disappointing as much as Soriano has over the past couple of seasons ... maybe a little confidence boost can go a long way.
Batting fourth against the Rockies on Tuesday, Soriano absolutely crushed a Moscoso pitch in the second inning, drilling it off of the scoreboard behind the left-field seats. Then, after doubling against Alex White -- another Rockies' starting pitcher wannabe -- he ripped another homer, this one in the fifth against Putnam. He finished with three RBIs.
"Second game, and I'm starting to feel good with my swing and with my timing," Soriano said. "That made me feel good."
Normally, Soriano said, it takes him somewhere between 20 and 25 at-bats before he begins feeling good in the spring. So you might say he's already in mid-spring form.
"My goal is to have a lot of at-bats and feel comfortable at the plate," Soriano, who batted .244 with 26 homers and 88 RBI last season, said of the spring. "I want to show my teammates and show the Cubs that I'm here to play the game. It doesn't matter if I lead off, I'm here to do my job."
Soriano, a leadoff man in the past, lost that gig in 2009 under Lou Piniella. Slogging along at the plate for too long, Soriano mostly hit seventh (221 plate appearances) last year, with some sixth (186) and fifth (94) mixed in.
Aggressively shopped over the winter by new president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, and booed at the Cubs Convention over the winter, Soriano said he doesn't care where he hits in the lineup.
"Not really," he said. "I'm just preparing my mind. It doesn't matter to me if I lead off or hit fourth or fifth."
Wherever Sveum thinks he can best help the club, the affable Soriano said, he's happy to hit there.
Sveum has said he'd like to give rookie first baseman Bryan LaHair the opportunity to hit in the cleanup spot in the order. But right out of the gate, that would appear to be pushing it for a rookie. If Soriano can have a good spring and own the cleanup spot, that will take some of the heat off of LaHair as well as give the Cubs a boost.
Plus, the only way the Cubs likely will be able to trade him is if he gets off to a hot start, and a contender impressed with his April, May and June comes calling. Soriano has three years and $54 million remaining on his contract. The under-new-management Cubs have been so desperate to move him that sources say they will eat a significant portion of the contract if they can deal him.
This spring, though, Soriano, 36, will keep his blinders on and prepare for 2012.
He wants to get as many spring at-bats as he can.
"The more I take, the more I feel comfortable at home plate," he said. "If I can get 50, 60, 100 ... my goal is to be ready for opening day."
Last spring, he checked in with 64 at-bats.
This spring, if many more of them go as they did Tuesday, maybe Soriano can write a happy ending yet.
Sunblock day? Nice and hot, in the 80s, with a bright, warm sun and a cloudless, blue sky. Perfect spring training weather. And great convertible day.
Likes: Cool old huge photo of Ron Santo on the door greeting those entering the press box at the Cubs' HoHoKam Park. Very striking, and a great tribute. ... Looking forward to watching Yu Darvish's Cactus League debut Wednesday. ... Every time I visit Scottsdale Stadium, it's reinforced that it's the best thing going. ... Reminiscing about former major leaguers and legendary scouts Pat Dobson and Ted Uehlander with Giants general manager Brian Sabean. Each of those men, special assistants to Sabean before passing away, was a terrific baseball character, and it brightened your day to run into them. I miss seeing Dobber and Ted around the spring training trails. ... The fried calamari at the Italian Grotto in Scottsdale.
Dislikes: Freddy Sanchez, Giants' second baseman -- will he ever again be healthy enough to be the player many thought he would become? Discuss.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Hold tight to your anger
"And don't fall to your fears"
-- Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball
Posted on: December 16, 2011 6:50 pm
Ho, ho, ho, and all we're missing is the 'w'! How ... how am I ever going to get to my Christmas cards when I'm so far behind on Love Letters? Let's go, Rudolph:
FROM: Shashi R.
Re.: Let's Ease Up on MLB negativity based upon Braun, Pujols stories
Thanks for your piece on cutting out the negativity regarding baseball. When it comes to PEDs and professional sport, the entire public discussion has been a joke for years. Of course MLB players used and use PEDs, but for some reason fans, Congress, and, yes, the media have given the NBA and NFL a ridiculous pass for precisely the same behavior. For every 20 stories or comments regarding MLB and PEDs, maybe we see one story regarding the NFL. I'll never understand the hypocrisy. Either it's cheating or it's not, irrespective of the sport involved.
True dat. My feeling is, people have higher expectations for baseball because it means more to them. The old,"to whom much is given, much is expected." And I will say, that's not a bad thing either.
FROM: Charles S.
Hey a--hole, calling someone Mr. [Pujols] is s sign of respect and also because your colleague does not know Pujols personally and therefore should not call him by his first name. That's call being polite you jerk-off. Your colleague is not Pujol's best friend. Who the f-- are you to be castigating anyone for addressing someone like that. Didn't your parents teach you anything. Idiot.
Obviously, we need to tighten our firewall so Neanderthals like you can't get past it. You're going to lecture me about respect while using language like this? I fear for our country -- low-lifes like you bring our national IQ down with the monkeys. Go crawl back under the rock from where you arrived.
FROM: Mike M.
Re.: Pujols' arrival in Anaheim perhaps a call from higher up
I love your work, but this one was way off base. Of course he left St. Louis for the money. It was solely about the money. That's common sense, Scott. He got offered 30 million dollars more than what the Cardinals offered, that's why he left. He didn't go there because God wanted him to. Please don't write dumb articles again. You're usually pretty good, but you're better than this one.
Come on now. What I wrote was, there were other reasons aside from money why Pujols left St. Louis. And after the 99.9 pecent that covers the finances of the deal, there are. Trust me.
Re: Pujols' move leaves St. Louis in shock, Anaheim in awe
"It was a performance that, on one stunning and astounding December day, instantly turned bittersweet for anyone rooting for the Cardinals." Good column, but you're accusing Cardinals fans of something that isn't true. Did yesterday's signing change the score of Game 3 and alter the final result of the World Series? I think Cards fans still recall that Game 3 and the rest of this series with good memories.
I'll give you that. But isn't it going to be bittersweet from the standpoint that as years pass and Cards fans revisit that game and World Series, it always will be accompanied by the sting of the way Pujols left?
FROM: John D.
Grow up. We in St. Louis are not in shock. We have had a year to get used to the idea that Albert may be gone. Our franchise is far bigger and greater than any one player, even one who, had he stayed like Stan and Bob Gibson could have achieved true baseball immortality. In the end Albert will be associated with California, also known as the land of fruits and nuts. No offense. I have a feeling our little franchise here in St. Lou will do just fine! Let me know if you think otherwise, else I'll assume you agree and are just another coastal hack writer like so many others.
Inferiority complex? I never for a minute said or implied that your "little franchise ... in St. Lou" would not be fine. Last I checked, the Cardinals rank only second to the Yankees in World Series titles. I love that there's so much history that you only needed to refer to "Stan" -- no last name required. Everybody knows. Let me know if you think otherwise.
FROM: Jonathan G.
I assume you have received your ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame. I hope you will consider Jeff Bagwell, Barry Larkin, Don Mattingly, Tim Raines, and Alan Trammell for enshrinement this year. I also hope my note finds you well and you have a Happy Holiday season.
Ballot is sitting right here on my desk. Each of those names will be strongly considered. I'll write about my Hall of Fame choices probably the week between Christmas and New Year.
Re.: Finally voted to Hall of Fame, Santo a lesson on never giving up
Beautifully written column about a beautiful man. You really did Ron Santo justice with this piece. To echo your comments about a man's greatest legacy lying in his ability to continue to teach from the grave, perhaps what Santo has taught us, or perhaps more accurately reminded us of, are those rare moments in life when all bitterness, jealousy, hate, and recrimination fall from our hearts and we accept everything as it is and as it will be, and our empathy for others, even the seemingly worst among us, runs thick and deep. A man who lives with passion and heart is never forgotten. Santo was surely one of those. My sympathies and joy to his family and the great city of Chicago.
Beautifully said, Court. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
Posted on: December 3, 2010 2:10 pm
Few people get into the hearts of baseball fans the way broadcasters do. I wrote a Thanksgiving column about this, and primarily about the passing of legends Dave Niehaus (Seattle), Harry Kalas (Philadelphia) and Ernie Harwell (Detroit), and about the heart scare with Bob Uecker (Milwaukee), and the reaction follows.
Before we get to that, though, Cubs play-by-play man Pat Hughes, as a labor of love, has spent his past five offseasons producing CD audio tributes to several legendary broadcasters. The latest CD features Niehaus. Others available feature Uecker, Kalas, Marty Brennaman, Jack Buck, Harry Caray, Bob Prince and Red Barber. They're great items, and if you're interested, you can get more information here.
Great article, especially this time not only for the giving of thanks, but [for writing this while next season] is still a ways away. I am 33 and have been a Phillies fan for most of those years. Harry, as we call him around here in south-central PA, still holds the most memorable call in my many years as an avid sports fan: Mike Schmidt's 500th home run. When he passed away last spring, I, as many others were, was devastated. It was like losing a close, long-time friend. I have spent more time listening to Harry than I've spent listening to many of the friends and relatives I know personally. I still love to hear Vin Scully call a game, as well as Jon Miller on the radio, and Marty Brenneman. Some of the newer guys have promise, but Scully's voice flat-out IS summer. Thanks again for the pleasant cold-November-day read.
One more great thing about these broadcasters that come into our lives: Unlike certain relatives, they don't show up uninvited for the holidays!
Thank you for that great story on the voices of summer. I moved to Seattle in 1993 and I will always remember Edgar's double and Griffey scoring from first to beat the Yankees in the 1995 Divisional Series. It was the year after the strike, and Dave's call is the reason I love baseball again.
The great ones can do that for us, can't they?
Great article! XM radio is the best thing to happen to baseball and the MLB app is great with the ability to hear both radio feeds.
Love XM. What a perk it is to be able to sit on my back patio on a Saturday in the summer, Cheez-Its within reach, clicking around the satellite radio dial listening to broadcasts from each city.
I think you are right on with your column about the great baseball announcers. I became a big fan in the summer of 1962 listening to Harry Caray, Vin Scully and Ernie Harwell. I lived in Rapid City, SD. After dark I could pick up the various stations that carried MLB games. Sometimes it was not very clear but I could hear enough to know what was going on. My great grandfather & I would listen to Vin Scully on KFI out of Los Angeles. Happy Thanksgiving.
South Dakota, Michigan (where I'm from) ... one great thing about the Midwest is the flatlands allow strong radio signals to carry unimpeded for hundreds of miles. I could listen to the Tigers, Reds, Indians, White Sox, Cubs. ...
As a fellow broadcaster and Michigander, I was blessed as well to grow up listening to the National Treasure that was Ernie Harwell. I was lucky enough to do a 20-minute interview with him on my radio show a couple years ago and felt like I had lived some of the moments that Ernie described to me from an era that I was not even alive during. He just helped make you feel part of something special, and through the sharing of his experiences throughout his amazing career, I kept thinking to myself just how lucky we are to have had Ernie be a part of our lives and us a part of his. I think CBS is very lucky to have you writing for them and I would love to stay in touch and have you on my show in the future. Keep up the great work!
Very kind. Thanks.
Posted on: December 3, 2010 12:59 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2010 1:02 pm
People will dwell on the Hall of Fame snub, which was shameful and wrong and remained an open wound until his dying day.
Which, sadly, came overnight Thursday when that Great Cub in the Sky waved Ron Santo home one final time.
Me? What I'm going to recall, even more than Santo's 2,254 career hits, five Gold Gloves and clicking heels, is the sunshine and the broadcast booth and the long lines of fans.
You should have seen Santo at work in spring training in Mesa, Ariz.
Well, not really at work, because, technically, that would have meant broadcasting that day's Cactus League game with his graceful and talented radio partner, Pat Hughes.
No, you should have seen the scene before the game, the lines of people in front of the broadcast booth, looking for an autograph, a photo with Santo, a handshake. They came armed with Sharpies, digital cameras and stories to tell the legend about the time when they went to Wrigley Field with their daddy back in 1965 and. ...
And the incredibly accommodating Santo had a smile for all.
Rarely have I seen a man with such devoted, unabashed love for a ballclub than Santo, who carried a torch for the Cubs that never dimmed.
But what set him apart was, the only thing he maybe loved as much as or more than the Cubs was people.
If you were lucky enough to witness him in public even once -- especially at spring training -- you couldn't help but smile. Rarely does life produce a man so genuine, so magnetic and so humble.
If you ever watched This Old Cub, a documentary made with the loving and talented touch of his son Jeff, who co-produced the film, and saw the things Santo had to go through simply to get himself ready for each new day, this sunny optimism was even more incredible. Stricken decades ago by diabetes, Santo long ago had both legs amputated below the knees.
On his bad days, Santo, a nine-time All-Star, was a fount of inspiration.
On his good? My goodness.
What a shame that he never made the Hall while he was alive, but that's another argument for another day. Yes, his career hit total was low. No, he never led his team to the postseason. But his glove strengthened his case immeasurably. Obviously. Hall voters never did size him up correctly.
Besides, if the Hall is nothing but a numbers game, then why don't we simply compile a series of qualifying statistics and let the computers spit out the final verdict on who gets in?
Yes. Another argument for another day.
Today is about celebrating one of the greatest Cubs who ever lived.
It is about toasting those anguished groans clearly heard behind Hughes' play-by-play when another Cub ran into an out, about raising a glass to the man who would climb right back up after every fall and ooze more optimism.
This will be our inning. This will be our day.
Ron Santo is not yet in Cooperstown. But he is well settled in the hearts of so many thousands of people in Chicago and throughout the land.
What a place that is to be. And what a blessing it must have been to soak in the heartfelt love of so many.
Posted on: December 8, 2008 1:33 pm
LAS VEGAS -- The Hall of Fame Veterans' Committee pitched another shutout in reviewing candidates who played in the post-World War II era, failing to cast the requisite number of votes for, among others, Ron Santo, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, Gil Hodges and Joe Torre.
One man screened by the committee reviewing players whose careers started before 1943, however, made the cut: Former Yankees and Cleveland infielder Joe Gordon becomes the first member of the Hall's Class of 2008. Election results were announced Monday morning at baseball's winter meetings.
The power-hitting Gordon, who played second base between 1938 and 1950 except for two seasons lost to World War II (1944 and 1945), batted .268 lifetime with 253 home runs. He was the 1942 AL MVP and a nine-time All-Star. He played on six World Series teams, five of whom won the championship.
As for Santo, whose near-misses over the years have been agonizing, he received 39 votes (60.9 percent) from the 64 living Hall of Fames, each of whom cast their ballots. A total of 75 percent is needed to induction into the Hall.
The current Hall of Famers are proving to be a tough crowd, pitching shutout after shutout in Veterans' Committee elections. However, it isn't as if they're not voting or casting blank ballots: All 64 living Hall of Famers voted and, according to Hall President Jeff Idelson, they cast an average of 3.33 votes per ballot. They were allowed to vote for between zero and four players.
Asked whether the current Hall of Famers simply don't consider anybody else worthy, Joe Morgan, vice-chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, said he doesn't think that's the case.
"There are new people on the ballot each year, new people added," Morgan said. "Sometimes, maybe, they might take away from votes cast somewhere else. I can't speak for everyone but, speaking personally, I feel some guys out there belong in the Hall of Fame. I think all of the players do.
"The problem is, we can't find 75 percent who agree that one guy is a Hall of Famer, or that guy is a Hall of Famer."
Posted on: March 22, 2008 6:52 pm
MESA, Ariz. -- It's settled -- at least, as settled as a Lou Piniella lineup ever is.
Newcomer Kosuke Fukudome will bat fifth, Piniella proclaimed on Saturday after several days of tinkering with and pondering his lineup. Shortstop Ryan Theriot will be the Cubs' leadoff man, former leadoff man Alfonso Soriano will bat second, followed by first baseman Derrek Lee, third baseman Aramis Ramirez, Fukudome, second baseman Mark DeRosa, catcher Geovany Sota and center fielder Felix Pie.
"Right now, the way we're situated, Fukudome offers the best protection to Ramirez," Piniella says. "I know the two-hole is probably more suitable for the young man, but right now, the way we're put together, I feel Ramirez has more protection with Fukudome behind him.
"I talked to my coaches, and they feel the same way. So we're going to start this way."
Piniella juggled his lineup all season last summer but would prefer not to do that this year. Having a better handle on things entering his second season in Chicago and with better players in place -- the emergence of Theriot, the addition of Fukudome -- he should be able to accomplish that. Though he is notoriously impatient.
"We're going to be more prone to a set lineup," Piniella says. "I said we'd play around during spring training, see some things. The problem is, if something's not working, I get paid to find solutions. Then you've got to tinker some.
"But I'd prefer to stay as constant as possible."
Saturday was a gorgeous day at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, with a packed house for a spring game between the Cubs and White Sox. I spent some time in the Cubs' radio booth talking with Ron Santo about 45 minutes before game time, and it was quite a sight. You can walk up to the press box windows from the stands at HoHoKam, and a steady stream of autograph seekers lined up to get Santo's signature.
In 10 minutes I saw him sign baseballs, tickets, programs, a large white sneaker with a Cubs' logo, a baseball key chain, caps and many other items. One woman simply handed him a cell phone and asked him to say hello to her mother. Actually, it was more like she told Santo to say hello. It would have been incredibly awkward had he declined, but he didn't miss a beat.
"Hello, Rose," he said. "I wanted to say hello to you."
The only thing I saw Santo decline was a girl who asked him to sign her arm. He was gracious, but essentially said he doesn't sign body parts. I'm not kidding -- it was like Mick Jagger or Keith Richards or something. People love their Cubs.
"People have asked us to leave outgoing messages on their answering machines," says Pat Hughes, Santo's partner in the booth. "All in a day's work."
Likes: Ron Santo is just the sweetest man. He and broadcast partner Pat Hughes are terrific people, pleasures to be around. ... A couple of Cubs folks keeping watch over manager Lou Piniella as he met with the media Saturday on the field, perched precariously close to the steps of the Cubs dugout. Piniella is a notorious rocker as he talks, sometimes disarming people by leaning back and then taking a couple of steps backwards. Fortunately, no tumbles into the dugout Saturday. ... That game-winner by the Western Kentucky kid against Drake on Friday was the shot of the NCAA tournament, huh? What a great, great play. And I felt terrible for the poor Drake kids. ... When it comes to takeout pizza, give me Papa John's. Had that and worked in the room Friday night watching the NCAA games, and that's as fine a night as there is. ... My friend Ollie called to check in the other day after the Bull Pennings blog about Felix Pie's twisted testicle and reminded me that he did not have to have surgery, it healed on its own. ... Happy Easter.
Dislikes: Getting close to the time when I've got to turn in that Pontiac Solstice convertible I've been driving around here in Arizona. Fun, fun car.
Sunblock day? Heck yes. Temperatures into the upper 80s, where they're supposed to remain on Easter and the rest of this week.
Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:
"There's a cut upon my brow
-- Nick Lowe, Lately I've Let Things Slide