Happy New Year, Cubs Fans!

2011 was a fun year to be a Cubs fan. And by fun, I mean interesting. And by interesting, I mean – noteworthy at the very least.

A season taken away from us in the first weeks of the season in losing our number four and five starters in the rotation.

A season that displayed exactly how important depth is on a major league baseball team and how even more important arguably it is to have in your farm system.

A year of historic significance in returning to Fenway Park, Castro’s 200 hit season, Santo’s vote tabulation for the Hall and the introduction of boy wonder, Theo Epstein along with the departure of Hendry and Quade.

I’ll remember the struggles the club had in finding suitable replacements for Wells and Cashner, the amazing season Castro put together, the once again uber-reliable innings eating calendar Dempster put together and that horrifying shot to the eye Marlon Byrd took at Fenway Park.

I’ll remember my trips to Wrigley, meeting with members of the front office staff and what they did for my son last off-season.

I’ll remember my trip to Cooperstown, my first with my wife and 10 month old son. It was amazing to revisit the Hall, look at all of the exhibits and plaques after years and years making it all new again. It was fun to introduce my son to the game by showing him the greatest to ever play the game and talk to other fans in the game in fun conversations giving them the opportunity to convince my son that he should not become a Cubs fan (good luck with that). You can see the video here:

I’ll remember singing the stretch in a couple of rain-threatened series at Wrigley, one game of which in fact was rained out, yet I made the trip back to Chicago to catch the make up game (any excuse to get to Wrigley is a good one). I’ll remember meeting with Vine Line and beginning my time writing for them along with the contributions I made to MLB.com, Baseball Digest and the other sports writing I put out there in 2011 and look forward to doing so in 2012.

Looking ahead to the new year, I can’t wait to see what Theo Epstein and his merry men can manage to pull off with our boys on the North Side. Will he end up writing a similar thank you note to Cubs fans referring back to multiple championships in his time with the club, starting with the rumors that flew around after being spotted at a Starbucks? I hope so.

I hope Garza is still a Cub and that Epstein and Company find a way to better the team without having to deal him. Our rotation needs some stability and Garza, had he received a few breaks, could have come out of 2011 with one of the most impressive records in the National League. I understand why other teams would want him and how he is a valuable piece of bait that could potentially bring back significant pieces of the future – I just hope he is still around and that the front office finds another way.

I look forward to seeing Castro put up another season of impressive numbers and make an argument for a starting spot at the All-Star Game. I remain curious regarding how we’ll manage on the corners and how DeJesus will fit in with the club come Opening Day and I remain hopeful that a few more moves this winter will be the ones that bring in a no-name player that surprises us all and perhaps one headliner that can be a cornerstone for years to come.

Regarding the future, yet in more of a short-term fashion, I hope to have an exciting announcement to bring you in the next few days – so please keep visiting Prose and Ivy this week for what will hopefully be a very big announcement I will be VERY excited to share with you!

Happy New Year to every single one of you and thank you for making 2011 a sweet fourth year for me here at Prose and Ivy. Happy New Year, have a great 2012! Go Cubs Go!

Santo is in. Great decision, horrible timing.

One of the greatest Cubs to put on the uniform earned his way into the Baseball Hall of Fame in the ’60s however it wasn’t until essentially 50 years later and one year past his dying day that the decision would be made to actually induct him as a member of the elite. An induction that is well deserved yet bittersweet in that Ron Santo will not be able to give his own induction speech next July 22nd in Cooperstown.

The Golden Era Committee voted Santo into the Hall this past weekend, yet Santo is no longer here to enjoy it. He felt his numbers held up and even though the BBWAA voters didn’t agree, his peers and those who know the game best – from the inside – knew that Santo was worthy of their vote as no one knows what makes someone worthy of the Hall as former player. Those who look from the outside – from the stands, from the press box, from the owner’s office, from the office desk and from the newspaper stands – can only gauge so much as to what a lifetime in baseball and a career spanning 15 years worth of stats actually say about a player’s worth in making the club only the best in the game get to be a part of.

Walk the halls at Cooperstown and you will only find ten third basemen representing the greatest at the position. Wade Boggs, George Brett, Mike Schmidt, George Kell, Eddie Mathews, Brooks Robinson, Freddie Lindstrom, Home Run Baker, Pie Traynor and Jimmy Collins signify what it is to be a Hall of Famer at the hot corner. Come July, Santo’s name and plaque will be added to the list and his journey home will be complete. Home is where you are accepted and feel you belong and the Hall was that for Santo. In his personal life, of course he had the love and support of his family through thick and thin, battling sickness and enjoying bright times when he was at his health’s peak. However, when it came to baseball, the Cubs and the Hall made up the home that Santo felt he belonged to. The Cubs have retired his number and added a statue of Santo outside of Wrigley Field. He is a Cub and always will be thought of as a Cub through and through. From the hot corner to the airwaves, Santo woke up a Cub, went to work a Cub and went to sleep a Cub. The Cubs embraced Santo just as fans did and the organization treated Santo with the same welcome arms that he deserved wanted and gave back to the organization.

The Hall was another story.

Santo never got closer than 43% of the BBWAA vote in his 15 years on the ballot. 75% is needed to be elected in by the writers.

Santo’s career highlights over the years:

14 of 15 major league seasons as a player were with the Cubs.

.277 BA, 342 HR, 1,331 RBI

9-time All-Star

5-time Gold Glove winner

Led the National League in assists from 1962-1968

Top 5 finisher in MVP voting in 1967 and 1969

Cubs radio broadcaster for 21 years

Raised an estimated $40million for juvenile diabetes research in his lifetime

While it is sad that Santo won’t get to address the world at the podium on the lawn in Cooperstown while receiving the much deserved applause his career and the way he handled himself during that time frame while battling disease and working with medication that worked nowhere near as well as it does nowadays and often without people even understanding that he was battling it at the time, earned him – for me, I can appreciate the fact that it is the Golden Era committe that has accepted him in and welcomed him home.

I respect baseball writers for their knowledge of the game and their right to voice their opinion on such things as who is Hall-worthy. However, even the greatest group of baseball writers who are surrounded by the game day in and day out can get it wrong at times. Santo was one of the ones the BBWAA got wrong. To be around the game and surrounded by the game every day is one thing. To be a part of that game is another story.

The Golden Era committee is made up of some of the greatest to make the game what it is today. They know what makes an average player, a good player, a great player and a Hall of Fame worthy player.

It may have come a year too late, but finally a group with a say got it right. The Golden Era committee knows best and are appropriately the ones to do the right thing and welcome Santo at home. Congratulations, Ron. Looking forward to being there for your day in July. Go Cubs Go!