“Can I say this now safely without sounding like a heartless oaf?” wonders the Post-Tribune.com’s Mike Hutton, and sadly, the answer is “no”, given that he’s trashing the broadcasting chops of the late Ron Santo.  Of the former Cubs 3B’s commentary on WGN, Hutton credits Santo with being a lovely ambassador for the game and the disabled, but remembers “a barely competent baseball announcer.”

I’m looking forward to whoever takes his spot in the booth because it can’t possibly be any less teeth-grinding than listening to Santo butcher a name, forget the count or add absolutely no substance to the nuance of a game-time situation, which is something I expect of a baseball announcer.

Most fans loved (at least if you believe what you’ve read and heard lately) the interplay between Santo and Pat Hughes, a classic play-by-play man who has the perfect pitch and rhythm for the job and who had the right personality to turn Santo’s charming goofs into a running bit.

They loved Santo because he was a hardcore Cubs fan at heart. He suffered miserably when they lost and perked up noticeably when they were winning. I was fine with that. I don’t need overbearing criticism and objectivity from the guys in the booth, though it is welcome in certain situations.

My problem is that I only want to be entertained half the time. The other half I want to be informed or, if not that, captivated.

There was none of that with Santo. There were just goofy moments with Hughes and lots of blue blood getting spilled over the airways during bad times, and emotional outbursts during good times.

Sad but true: If I found myself in the car wanting to listen to a Cubs broadcast, I frequently turned my satellite radio to the opposing team’s feed. The truth is, Hughes, as much as Santo, made him into a larger-than-life radio guy when I’m not quite sure he deserved it. Hughes is so good, such a professional, that it made you forget sometimes how bad Santo actually was.