This is a difficult subject and there's really no "right time" to bring it up, so I thought I'd bring it up now.
Ron Santo was an icon in Cubs history, beloved by all. His rapport with Pat Hughes on every broadcast was unique -- there may not have been a pairing quite like it in all of broadcast history. I feel for Pat, because he has not just lost a broadcast partner, he has lost a dear friend.
No one can replace Ron Santo on WGN's radio broadcasts. That's absolutely clear. Someone, however, will sit in that chair and broadcast games along with Pat, and the Cubs and WGN need to be very sensitive about who occupies that chair, because of the way Ron Santo filled our summer afternoons and evenings for two decades.
Let me be clear about one thing -- that person should absolutely, positively, emphatically not be Judd Sirott. Sirott is simply not suited for baseball -- his voice and cadence are all wrong, and he doesn't know enough about the game to be a color commentator or analyst. It's bad enough that he has done an inning of play-by-play for the last two years.
But then, who? Here's an article from the Gary Post-Tribune in which the writer asks not to be called a "heartless oaf" for suggesting that a "real analyst" be hired. Now, I was someone who wished I could get more analysis from Ron Santo, but that's not who he was. The Cubs and WGN got a diehard Cubs fan in the booth for 21 seasons and just about everyone loved that.
There's simply no one else like that around. Of people who filled in for Ron from time to time: Dave Otto, Keith Moreland and Randy Hundley, none of them fills either the "diehard fan" bill or the "in-depth analyst" bill. Hundley perhaps came closest to the former, but I don't think he'd want the job full-time, and besides, Randy turns 69 next June -- I suspect the Cubs would like someone who could settle in for a long time with Pat.
There aren't a lot of obvious choices, either. There are some TV analysts who have Cubs connections -- Rick Sutcliffe and Mark Grace come to mind -- but Sutcliffe likely would rather keep his part-time ESPN gig and Grace is... well, to be charitable, he's just not a good broadcaster.
Would it be possible for WGN to lure Eric Karros away from his Fox Saturday gig? Karros was a big part of the 2003 NL Central title team, is very good on the air, loved being a Cub and understands very well what being a Cubs fan is all about.
Other than that, I don't have any ideas. I do hope that WGN might let Pat do the first spring training broadcast solo, if he's willing; that would make the statement that although someone will succeed Ron Santo at the mic, no one will replace him... either there, or in our hearts.