Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Cubs and Theriot Disagree About Value of Scrappiness

It's a little difficult to sit down to write a post today because of all the swelling and bleeding caused by friends of Paul Sullivan (who knew?) but damn it, I'm dedicated and not terribly bright, so I shall push on.

If we can't agree that Paul Sullivan is lame then can we at least all agree that the Cubs are not good at many things?

Don't get me wrong. They are good at some things. They are good at raising ticket prices. They are good at marketing lousy teams. They are good at creating propaganda intended to make us believe that prospects like Hee Seop Choi are good at playing baseball.  They are also good at not taking their players through the horrible process of a baseball arbitration hearing.

They have not actually gone into one of these hearings with a player since 1993 with Mark Grace.  The reason for this is pretty simple.  The Cubs seem to understand that going to an arbitration hearing with a player will rarely end well.

Once a player and a team pass the point of no return and go to the hearing, the arbitrators who hear the case do not decide on a compromised salary.  They pick a winner and a loser.  So the hearing consists of the player and his agent talking about how awesome the player is and how much he deserves the salary submitted by the player, and then the GM and his team present evidence to prove, that no, that player is not awesome and he should only get paid the low amount submitted by the team.

The Cubs and Ryan Theriot are heading down the road to that very scenario.  He'll sit there and his agent will point out that Theriot has led the league in singles the last two years, that he has stolen more than 20 bases for three staright years, he has been difficult to strike out, and that he has started at shortstop since 2007 for a team that couldn't find a shortstop to save its life for years.  They will go on and on about how scrappy Theriot is and how he is the first Cubs prospect to manage to stay relevant on the Cubs' major league roster since Mark Grace.

Then Hendry and his boys will bring up Theriot's lack of baserunning instincts that have led to his crappy stolen base percentage, his rising number of strikeouts because he mistakenly now believes he is a power hitter, his complete lack of range, arm strength, or decision making ability at the shortstop position, and his inability to be a normal sized person.

It won't be pretty.

Even if Theriot manages to win the case (and the consensus seems to be that he will lose), it makes for some awkward moments afterwards.

It seems odd that the Cubs would choose to go to war with a player during their year of rebuilding a happy, clappy clubhouse atmosphere again, but it is also odd that Theriot somehow thinks he is worth $3.4 million. 

My guess is that the two sides will come to some sort of agreement.  They managed to work out a deal with Zambrano a couple of years ago on the way to the hearing room right before the case, so they won't get bothered by the deadline of a hearing date that will happen on February 8th at the very earliest.

But if both sides keep their heels dug in and they do go to the hearing, Theriot's days as a Cub could be numbered.  A soured relationship with management combined with a rising star shortstop in the minors could end up getting Theriot traded.  Maybe not this year, but let's face it, he is one of the few Cubs with any value that doesn't have a no trade clause, so it's not out of the question if this season goes south early on.

Like most of the time he is running the bases, I'm not quite sure what he is thinking.


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