Mailbag: Why was Santo snubbed?
Beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers Cubs fans' questions
MESA, Ariz. -- Ron Santo's snub by the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee, Matt Murton's playing time, Opening Day, and Sports Illustrated jinxes were among the hot topics this past week among Cubs fans.
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I'm wondering why Ron Santo is still not in the Hall of Fame. The man has better numbers than more than 50 percent of the third basemen in there already. He was an inspiration to me and all my teammates when I was growing up. Mr. Santo should have made it his first year eligible. I just want to let Ron know I think he's great and he will always be in the Hall of Fame to me.
-- Randy J., Rockford, Ill.
I can't give you a reason why. To all the critics of the Veterans Committee, remember, this is made up of all living Hall of Fame members, which includes Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Ryne Sandberg. According to Williams, they had more discussions about the candidates on conference calls this year than in years past. Next week, the Hall of Fame officials will discuss the Veterans Committee format, and decide whether to make any changes. I do like the idea of being elected by your peers, and think perhaps they need to limit the names on the ballot.
How much playing time do you think Matt Murton will get this season? I have heard Lou Piniella talk a lot about the other outfielders, but he has not mentioned where Murton will fit in. They should do everything they can to get the redhead in the lineup, I think in the second spot.
-- Andrew Z., Chicago
Piniella has talked about wanting to keep guys fresh and use everyone, and Murton is high on his list. The redhead could even be a regular in the No. 2 spot in the order. He can hit to the opposite field, is a fastball hitter, and is patient -- a perfect fit there. Cliff Floyd, who is expected to share time in left with Murton, won't see any Cactus League action until Saturday at the earliest. He needs time to let his foot heal from surgery last October. Floyd can get extra at-bats in the Minor League camp to catch up, but the Cubs want to keep his running to a minimum in the beginning to avoid aggravating his foot. I don't foresee a straight platoon, either. Murton hit .301 against lefties, and .295 against right-handers. Piniella has even talked about inserting Jacque Jones into the No. 2 spot and bat Floyd fifth if both are in the lineup.
I'm curious about the Opening Day schedule. It seems the Cubs have opened the past few years at the Reds. Is there any reason for this? It also seems like it's been awhile since the Cubs have opened at home at Wrigley. As a Cubs fan, I miss being able to attend an actual season opener at the Friendly Confines.
-- Travis E., Muscatine, Iowa
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There's no rhyme or reason for a Cubs-Reds game as the season opener. The last time the Cubs opened at home was 2001. Counting the 2007 season, the Cubs will have opened against the Reds four times in the last six years.
Neal Cotts started out as a starter with the Sox, but moved to relief when they didn't have room for him. Will the Cubs move him to starter or keep him in relief? I like him as a starter.
-- Will O., Northfield, Ill.
There are two vacancies on the pitching staff. The Cubs need to determine the fifth starter and they need a long man in the bullpen. Cotts could fill either role, but first he has to pitch in games the way he did in practice. Piniella was not happy with the lefty's first outing this spring. I think he might fit better in the 'pen.
Four spots in the rotation seem to be taken with Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis and Rich Hill. What happens when Wade Miller and Mark Prior are both ready and able to take the ball every fifth day? Does someone get traded? It would be a huge mistake not to continue developing the talent of Rich Hill.
-- Tom G., Huntley, Ill.
Wish I had a crystal ball to tell you how this will sort itself out, but I don't. In years past, someone has gotten hurt. What a nice change to have too many starters instead of too few.
I believe the last All-Star Game at Wrigley Field was in 1990. How long before we can see another All-Star Game at Wrigley?
-- Jeff B., Joliet, Ill.
I have not heard any official word, but maybe -- maybe -- Major League Baseball will consider Wrigley Field for the 2014 game to celebrate the ballpark's 100th birthday.
I live in a town 45 minutes from Daytona, Fla. How can I know when Jeff Samardzija makes his Minor League debut? I'm really looking forward to seeing him pitch.
-- Eric H., Oviedo, Fla.
Check www.daytonacubs.com or www.minorleaguebaseball.com. They should post when Samardzija makes his first start.
At the end of last season, I mentioned my concerns about the Cubs training staff. What, with the constant stream of injuries the team has been dealt with over seemingly mundane circumstances, have they done with the training staff to see that we aren't plagued with another injury-ruined season?
-- Chris M., Rock Island, Ill.
Cubs athletic trainer Mark O'Neal and strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss racked up plenty of frequent flyer miles this offseason, traveling all over the U.S. and going to the Dominican Republic and Venezuela to check on players. And they didn't visit once, but sometimes made multiple visits. Each player was given a program to follow, and O'Neal and Buss monitored them. If there are any problems this season, it won't be because of a lack of effort on their part.
I liked Jacque Jones' contributions later in the season last year, but I have to agree with the consensus reality that his throwing is erratic. What plans does the revamped coaching staff have to improve his throwing accuracy?
-- Tom K., Petaluma, Calif.
Jones had problems with his shoulder, specifically his labrum, and spent the offseason strengthening it. So far this spring, he's looked good throwing.
I forgot the e-mail address for Derrek Lee's 1st Touch Foundation to help his daughter. I really want one of those red wristbands, and so does my wife. If you could send it to me, I would be very happy.
-- Joe H., Chicago
Go to www.1stTouch.org for the bracelets, which can be purchased for a donation of $5. For more information on Project 3000 and Leber's Congenital Amaurosis, go to www.project3000.org.
(Who) let Sweet Lou and Alfonso Soriano take a picture for the SI cover? Anyone remember what happened the year Kerry Wood was on the cover and it was the "Cubs' year?" How concerned are you about the SI curse? You know we don't have the greatest history with curses. Why invite another?
-- Matt G., New Haven, Ind.
The Boston Red Sox were on the Sports Illustrated cover at least five times in 2004, and it didn't faze them. I don't believe in curses.
While driving through Missouri last summer, my family passed a town called Rich Hill, Mo., south of Kansas City. Is Rich aware there's a town named after him?
-- Andrew E., Burlington, Iowa
Yes he is aware, but he's never been there.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.