You'd be hard-pressed to find a more divisive figure among fans of the Chicago Cubs than Ryan Theriot. As a member of the team over at least parts of the past five seasons before being dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline this past July, the LSU product was either beloved for his gritty, tenacious style of play or lambasted for his weak throws to first, baserunning foibles and almost utter lack of power.
When the news hit this past Tuesday that the Dodgers had traded Theriot to the St. Louis Cardinals for right-handed pitcher Blake Hawksworth (gotta love that name), the story really needed no further embellishment. Theriot lovers howled in anguish at the thought of their beloved middle infielder, a product of the Cubs farm system, wearing Cardinal red. Meanwhile, a more vocal and seemingly larger contingent of Theriot
haters critics guffawed at St. Louis's rather naked attempt to clone David Eckstein (member of the 2006 World Series champion team) and return him to the shortstop position at New Busch Stadium. But the story didn't stop there.
The Interwebs and radio waves, already alight with discussion over the deal, positively exploded when news came out that, during an interview on KFNS 590 AM radio in St. Louis, Theriot uttered those 11 fateful words: "I'm finally on the right side of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry."
Oh, the outrage. Oh, the insult to our collective honor. Oh, the utter gall of the man.
Seriously, Cubs fans, you are (in journalism parlance) burying the lede. That statement -- while certainly provocative -- isn't such a big of a deal. He is now a Cardinal. What's he supposed to say? No, it was a couple of other Theriot quotes from the interview that should probably have you a little more steamed.
First, in complimenting the Cardinals' bullpen, Theriot said:
[When I was a Cub, it] seemed like everybody [on the Cardinals] was throwing 100 miles an hour. Where's the guy that throws in the 90's, with a little sink right down the middle? He doesn't exist over here [with the Cardinals].
The interviewer then tossed in the obligatory slam -- "He's got a Cubs uniform." -- before apologizing for taking such a shot. "It's not a shot anymore," Theriot responded.
Now I realize this was all off-the-cuff, impromptu radio banter, and he was probably just kidding while trying to work the home crowd. But not even a single good word for your former Cubs teammates who sit out in the bullpen, Ryan? Not for Carlos Marmol, the possessor of the MLB record in strikeouts per nine innings? Not for your former Iowa Cubs teammate Sean Marshall, who was one of the best left-handed set-up guys in the National League last season?
But, hey, maybe we can let that go. They are only relief pitchers, after all. Likely the worst thing that Theriot said in the interview was as follows:
Once I got to pro ball, [winning a World Series] was almost an afterthought. It really wasn't talked about too much. It was like an unattainable goal. And now, being here with an organization like this, it's right there for the taking.
An afterthought? Not talked about too much? Ryan, two of the Cubs teams you were on won their divisions and went to the postseason! Here, you said it yourself in the same interview: "I won two divisions at shortstop [with the Cubs]." You're talking about it right now!
An unattainable goal? You had 661 plate appearances with a team that won 97 games! That goal was so attainable you had many of us contemplating throwing ourselves in front of a city bus when you and all of your teammates with the great chemistry blew the NLDS in three straight games! The World Series was almost literally right there for the taking!
Ahem. Let me be clear: None of us should let Theriot's comments upset us all too much. You've heard of Manny being Manny? Well, this is Theriot being Theriot. He likes to talk. He likes to talk a lot. And he especially likes to talk a lot on the radio.
In fact, he appeared this morning on ESPN 1000's Waddle & Silvy show and was funny and interesting and charming in his own homespun way. He blamed the Cubs' demise over the last couple of seasons on, as alluded to above, team chemistry (or lack thereof); he speculated that former teammate, good buddy and World Series champion Mike Fontenot may have a piece of equine footware lodged in a lower bodily orifice; and he did a pretty decent imitation of former manager Lou Piniella (thought not as good as that of Carlos Zambrano, in my humble opinion).
So, quoth Tupac, "I Ain't Mad At Cha," Ryan Theriot. But, going forward, please pay your former teammates and especially that great (if heartbreaking) 2008 team a little more respect. And, speaking of which, with all due respect, at this point in your career, I think I prefer you on that side of the Cubs-Cards rivalry as well.