Ryan Theriot understands Cubs-Cardinals rivalry — perhaps as much as anyone

Ryan Theriot understands Cubs-Cardinals rivalry — perhaps as much as anyone

When former Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot talks about Cubs fans and the city of Chicago, it’s all good vibes and the stuff of true love, even 10 years after the Cubs traded him to the Dodgers.

“That city put its arms around me and many other players, man, in a way that’s tough to describe,” he said. “It’s a special place for me.”

So obviously Theriot has reversed course since signing with the Cardinals the following season, in 2011, and changed his mind about telling St. Louis media how great it was to be “finally on the right side of the rivalry,” right?

“No, I’ve not,” Theriot said. “Because at that time, the St. Louis Cardinals were writing my paycheck. And if I’m anything, I’m smart.”

Theriot, the only starting shortstop for multiple Cubs playoff teams between Billy Jurges in the 1930s and Addison Russell in 2015-17, understands the complicated nature of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry perhaps as much as anyone.

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A fan favorite in Chicago for Dusty Baker’s and Lou Piniella’s Cubs teams, he caused a stir with the “right side of the rivalry” comments when switching sides in 2011, stood by his comments upon his much publicized return to Wrigley Field, and then won a World Series that year with the Cards — followed by another in his final season, with the Giants, in 2012.

Theriot — who had the game-tying hit in the ninth against the Cubs in 2011 that led to Carlos Zambrano’s famous “we stinks” rant — is just one in a long line of players to experience both sides of one of the longest-standing rivalries in the sport, from Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby, Dizzy Dean and Lou Brock to current-day All-Stars Jason Heyward and Dexter Fowler.

“We stinks”?

Just last year a months-long fan-agitating stir was started by Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant joking that St. Louis “is so boring.” 

That almost put Theriot’s rivalry-stoking comments in 2011 to shame — though Theriot got booed at least as loudly upon his return to Wrigley that year as Bryant did in his first appearance in St. Louis last year.

Nothing new for a rivalry nearly 140 years old that took on an elevated tone when the Cardinals started winning championships under executive Branch Rickey’s direction in 1926.

Just ask former Cardinals hero Jim Edmonds, who signed with the Cubs 12 years ago this month with significant doubt about how much he had left in the tank — and then stabilized center field while going on a post-May tear that helped the Cubs to the National League’s best record. 

He got a standing ovation before his first at-bat as a Cub in St. Louis — then booed with the rest of the Cubs the rest of the game.

“Jimmy was just a wonderful teammate to be around,” Theriot said. “I still talk about his opposite-field power; in batting practice he would hit balls out to left field almost easier than he did to right field. Just bringing that winning mentality over, it’s a different perspective.”

Until the Cubs finally broke through to win the 2016 championship, that was distinct.

“Being in both cities and playing for both teams it was a little different, because in St. Louis with Tony [La Russa] and those guys, the whole ‘can we win’ question was never a question, because they had done it and repeatedly done it. It wasn’t an ‘if.’ It was almost like a ‘when’ — ‘when are we going to put our foot on the gas pedal and get this thing going and win this whole thing.’

“So Jimmy kind of brought that mentality and that aspect to the clubhouse, a calming feeling.”

MORE: Former Cubs SS Ryan Theriot to MLB players: ‘Stick to [your] guns’

The Cardinals’ championship in 2011 was the most recent of their National League-record 11.

But that team wasn’t as good as the Cubs’ 2008 team, said Theriot, despite its first-round loss to the Dodgers — Piniella later admitting the weight of 100 years contributed to playing tight.

“I agree with Lou,” Theriot said. “It got real tight that year in ’08. And I still say to this day, that was the best team I ever played on. That 2008 team was the best major-league team that I ever played on, top to bottom — ’11 was pretty close.”

Eight years later, at home with his son Houston “fired up” and sitting next to him in a Cubs jersey, Theriot was “locked into every game” of the World Series the Cubs finally won in 2016.

“It was pretty emotional for me to watch those guys,” he said. “I’m just so happy for the city, for all those die-hard Cubs fans that live right there around the stadium, that have the memorabilia on their windows, and you see the old-timers that wear pins all over them — it’s a dream for those guys to experience a championship.

“I know I wasn’t part of that team, but I had some pride when they won.”

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Cubs' Adbert Alzolay complains about South Bend conditions but comments misleading


Cubs' Adbert Alzolay complains about South Bend conditions but comments misleading

Cubs right-hander Adbert Alzolay made waves on Thursday tweeting (now deleted) about the conditions for players at the club’s alternate training site, hosted at the South Bend Cubs facility.

Alzolay and the 10 other players in South Bend are eligible for this season but will remain inactive unless need arises on the big league roster. He tweeted the players make $18 a day — or $10, when accounting for “dues” the players owe, while possibly tipping clubhouse attendants.

Whether it was a miscommunication by someone with Alzolay, the actual amount the players get is $25 and no dues are deducted from that. The option to tip clubhouse attendants is up to players individually. Through Summer Camp, the 11 Cubs in South Bend will also receive two packaged meals a day at the complex.

Once the regular season starts (July 23, per MLB’s arrangement for the 60-game campaign), the alternate site Cubs will receive $50 a day in meal money, instead of what was originally proposed because the Cubs proposed higher daily meal money.

Players will receive full salaries beginning July 23, per MLB’s agreement, and minor leaguers are being paid in the meantime. Six of the 11 Cubs in South Bend are not on the 40-man roster, and they will continue receiving $400 a week. Those on the 40-man (including Alzolay) received advanced salaries, per MLB’s agreement with the MLBPA in March.

Alzolay received $30,000 from that agreement.

Additional important context is the South Bend facility is one of the best in minor league baseball — with housing for the players nearby. The players are residing at new apartments that opened in December right outside the ballpark. They aren’t being charged for those apartments through Summer Camp, and the Cubs will subsidize many of the players in South Bend once the regular season starts. 

MORE: Where Cubs could find position of strength in 2020: South Bend

Alzolay later tweeted an update on the matter.

In wake of José Quintana’s thumb injury, general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday the Cubs haven’t decided if Alzolay will join the Wrigley Field training group.


Why it matters that the Cubs bullpen is 'deeper' than David Ross expected

Why it matters that the Cubs bullpen is 'deeper' than David Ross expected

The Cubs pitching staff is staring at a block of 17 straight games to start the season. After just three weeks of Summer Camp.  

“There’s a reason why Spring Training’s so long,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “Because we want to stretch it out, make sure everybody’s healthy. So, outside of the virus factor, there’s a risk-factor of injury as well.”

Expecting starting pitchers to consistently throw seven innings at the beginning of the season isn’t realistic, so pitching coach Tommy Hottovy has built in a cushion. While most Cubs starters are upping their workloads to three-plus innings this week, some middle relievers are stretching to multiple innings as well.

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Late this week, Hottovy said he expects Rex Brothers, Dan Winkler, Casey Sadler, Duane Underwood Jr. and James Norwood to throw two innings in simulated games.

“As much as it is important to get these guys going multiple innings,” Hottovy said. “It’s also important to get them the volume they need, that you would see during a regular season. So throwing a two or three inning stint and having three or four days off, it may help us in one game, but over the course of the season … we’re going to need guys to be able to bounce back.”

Those who aren’t expected to throw multiple innings will, for the most part, still work up to a batter or two over one inning.

Kyle Ryan, who was delayed by what Ross called “protocol technicalities,” is in that category. He arrived in Chicago Wednesday night, according to Ross. Ryan was scheduled to be tested for COVID-19 along with the rest of the team Thursday. He will be quarantined until the Cubs receive his tests results, as long as they come back negative.

But Hottovy still believes there’s a chance Ryan could be ready to pitch in time for opening day in two weeks.

“We still have to get our eyes on him,” Hottovy said. “I feel like there is because of the work that he’s done and what he’s had access to back home.”

Either way, the Cubs hope to avoid having him pitch in back to back games early in the season.

“I don’t think anybody,” Hottovy said, “no matter what work you’ve done, is going to be ready to go back-to-backs at least consistently and definitely not those three days in a row.”

Not even closer Craig Kimbrel. Hottovy anticipates several of those pitchers will need to fill late-inning roles due to the compact 60-game schedule.

The Cubs starting rotation may be lacking in depth, even more than the Cubs originally expected after southpaw Jose Quintana lacerated his left thumb while washing dishes. But even with swingman Alec Mills expected to join the starting rotation, Ross has been pleasantly surprised with the overhauled Cubs bullpen.

“It’s definitely deeper than I had in my mind going into it,” Ross said. “These guys have really taken it upon themselves to be in tip-top shape.”