It’s a bit surprising in how little it’s been discussed – including here – but, did you know that Matt Garza is, on paper, a character risk? Known as a hypercompetitive player (on the plus side), Garza has a whole lot of Carlos Zambrano in him. But he’s also known as a great teammate; someone whose passion simply gets the better of him from time to time. Hopefully coming to the large market of Chicago won’t be an issue.
Sound familiar? To me, it sounds a whole lot like when Milton Bradley came to town. Lesser degree? Absolutely. But it’s something to be aware of.
His ego was one of the reasons the Minnesota Twins traded him to the Tampa Bay Rays after the 2007 season, and it was behind a scuffle with teammate Dioner Navarro in 1998 that resulted in Garza being introduced to a sports psychologist. That episode was a huge red flag, but for Garza, it worked. The results finally caught up to the talent as Garza went 11-9 that season and the Rays won the American League pennant. Garza was a 15-game winner last season.
But that was on a small stage in St. Petersburg.
An athlete coming to the Cubs will find his own history being put on trial. Plus he’ll have to deal with 102 years of failure that have absolutely nothing to do with him. The latter might be tougher to overcome. The longer the Cubs go into a summer atop the division, the more “Is this finally the year?’’ becomes an every-day, suffocating question.
Is Garza, 27, ready for that? Spring wasn’t a very good indicator.
His explanation for a 1-4 record and 10.38 ERA in the Cactus League was, ‘‘It’s my first year in Arizona. And it sucks. . . . It’s so dry, but whatever. Now it’s time to go to Chicago, where there’s a little more moisture in the air.’’
Moisture isn’t the only thing in the air in Chicago. There’s hope, doubt, excitement — heck, pick an emotion.
‘‘Shoot,’’ Garza told a reporter last week, ‘‘I played in Boston during the playoff run and [pennant] stretch time, and I was the most hated person on that hill. I’m pretty sure Chicago will like me a lot better than that.’’ Chicago Sun-Times.
All that said, I’m generally not concerned that Garza will become the kind of distraction Bradley became, or that the Chicago media will get to him.
One reason I’m optimistic: despite Garza’s atrocious Spring, I’ve never got the impression that there were off-field causes or concerns contributing to that performance. With Bradley, as early as Spring Training, we could perceive issues. Heck, I just read a story that Garza was playing hide and seek the other day with Kerry Wood’s kids. I’m pretty sure if Milton Bradley was playing hide and seek with your kids, you’d call the police.