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.

RELATED: 7 significant Cubs who also played for Cardinals

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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What the Cubs' Summer Camp testing delays mean for the regular season

What the Cubs' Summer Camp testing delays mean for the regular season

A silhouette appeared at the top of a Wrigley Rooftops building beyond right field, backlit by the bright sky over Lake Michigan.

The Cubs players huddled up the third baseline Monday morning raised their hands and shouted. The figure acknowledged them and made his way down through the rooftop stadium seats, his dog by his side. It was Cubs manager David Ross.

“I got a nice seat over there," he said Tuesday, after returning to the team. "I got to watch the practice. The energy was good. I could hear the guys.”

Ross and five other Tier 1 individuals kept a safe distance from Wrigley Field on Monday, while waiting for COVID-19 test results. Despite frequent delays, Cubs leadership, from Ross to president of baseball operations Theo Epstein to general manager Jed Hoyer, has expressed confidence that the testing process will only get smoother.

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On Tuesday Ross described Summer Camp as “a great testing time for them to iron some things out.”

He added: “We’re dealing with circumstances that have never been dealt with before.”

Since the clubs settled into an every-other-day testing schedule, the Cubs have pushed back workouts twice and were missing players once while waiting for test results. During that period, the team has been tested five times. Ross said he expects the results of the most recent tests, which the Cubs took Monday, by Tuesday night.

So, delays have become the norm in the first week and a half of Summer Camp. Is that what the Cubs can expect during the regular season?

“Every day there’s more and more improvements,” Ross said. “There’s another site opening up on the East Coast that should help put a lot from just sheerly the time zone constraints. … There’s going to be some adjustments to routing.”

On Monday, the issue arose from batch testing. By the afternoon, the Cubs had received the results of five of the pending tests – all negative, NBC Sports Chicago confirmed. The sixth case, which was not a player or Ross, required a new test. The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney first reported the test results.

Ross noted in a press release that “situations like this have not been a worrisome indicator of a positive test result to date,” but he and the other five affected individuals would not attend Monday’s workouts “out of an abundance of caution.”

He didn’t go far.

“It was miserable,” Ross said. “Your team’s here working and you want to be a part of it, and there’s no way around that.”

Missing six Tier 1 individuals for a morning workout: a minor inconvenience. But what will the league do if the same issue arises the day of a game, especially an afternoon game?

“You’re very, very rarely going to have an instance when five guys are hurt on the same day,” pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. “So, when we get these pending test, that’s the unique part about this, is when are we going to get them back?

“If we had five pending tests and … one was a, let’s say, starting pitcher, one was your starting second baseman, one was your starting catcher, that’s a huge chunk of your team that day. So, it’s going to be interesting to see how the protocols come into place about those pending tests.

Ross said the league is still working to address those issues.



Cubs' David Ross watches missed Monday practice from Wrigley Field rooftop

Cubs' David Ross watches missed Monday practice from Wrigley Field rooftop

Cubs manager David Ross missed Monday's team activities while waiting for results from a COVID-19 retest after Saturday's results came back pending. However, he still found a way to take in the action from a safe distance.

Ross posted up on a Wrigley Field rooftop behind the right field video board for Monday's practice, texting bench coach Andy Green to stay updated.

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Ross is the second Cub in the last week to watch team activities from a unique location. Anthony Rizzo, who's been limited since last Tuesday due to lower back tightness, watched Thursday's intrasquad game from Wrigley's bleachers.

That rooftop is one of 16 set to be open at limited capacity for Cubs home games this year. Fans that get a chance to attend a game from there can now be assured the view is good enough to watch what's happening on the field.