It looked weird, three Kansas City Royals employees wearing gold-trimmed Cubs jerseys on their day off. But there must be some sort of 108-year exception to Major League Baseball's no-fraternization policy or whatever unwritten rule that might fall under now.
Jason Hammel, Jorge Soler and Travis Wood received their World Series rings before Monday night's game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field. Team president Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and manager Joe Maddon stood near home plate as the Cubs played a tribute on the giant video board above the left-field bleachers and handed out the championship bling, a warm tribute to three players who helped build a contender.
"I love the idea that we're bringing these guys back to honor them in this manner," Maddon said, "because they were really big in regards to us winning the World Series — and in the previous year almost getting to the World Series. I just think that if I'm them, man, I'm just digging on this and there's nothing negative about it whatsoever."
Maddon's quick hook frustrated Hammel, who felt he deserved more respect and latitude as a veteran pitcher who won 33 games and put up a 3.59 ERA in a Cubs uniform.
The Cubs buying out Hammel's 2017 option for $2 million — after he missed his last start with right elbow tightness and didn't make the roster in all three playoff rounds — led to a free-agent odyssey that didn't end until early February with a two-year, $16 million contract with the Royals.
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Whether or not Soler ever puts it all together and lives up to the enormous potential the Cubs saw when they gave the Cuban defector a $30 million, major-league contract, it wasn't going to happen at Wrigley Field now.
Where would Soler play and could he stay healthy? The Cubs felt like they had a diminishing asset on their hands when they executed the Wade Davis trade at the winter meetings. Soler opened the season on the disabled list with an oblique injury.
"I would hope that they would really appreciate the fact that they both got a World Series ring," Maddon said. "That's a nice conclusion to your time in Chicago. The group that we had out there playing last year — I think that they understood what we had going on and why at the time.
"Jason had a great season — 15 wins last year — and again it's just a matter of keeping Georgie out there as often as we possibly could. George the previous year made quite a dent in the (playoffs). I think both of them — regardless of their participation in the World Series — have to take that ring as an indication of all the good stuff they did as a Cub.
"If you're altruistic in regards to your method in being part of a team, then you accept that ring and understand that you're a part of something a little bit bigger than yourself.
"They're all big boys. They understand how it goes."
During a conversation in spring training, Hammel said his family plans to keep their house in Lakeview and would be open to the idea of a return at some point in the future.
"I loved my time as a Cub," Hammel said. "And who knows? Maybe I finish out there in the bullpen at the end (of my career). I don't hold grudges. I'm certainly not going to burn a bridge.
"I'm very happy. We won the World Series. And now I get to go try and do it with another team that's very capable of doing it."