Primarily because of his notoriety in the Chicago Cubs’ system, because of the $30 million big league contract he signed last year, and because of the bat-wielding incident earlier in the month, Jorge Soler’s recent benching got far more attention than was probably reasonable.
For my part, I wrote about the benching from the “Cubs Way” perspective, indicating that I thought it was great to see the benching happen for a lack of hustle, and then to see word of that benching spread around a bit. To me, it was never about Jorge Soler, the individual. It was just about the concept of benching a stud prospect for a lack of hustle. It sends the right message to him, and to others in the system. I don’t think it’s fair that Soler received so much negative attention for the situation, however, and I was glad to hear Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, and Cubs manager Dale Sveum, essentially say the same thing.
“Our managers are encouraged to bench players who are giving less than 100 percent effort – whether that’s failure to hustle down the first base line or failure to properly prepare for a game,” Epstein said, per ESPNChicago. “It’s our responsibility to make sure every player in the organization demonstrates preparation, hustle and effort every day with no exceptions. Playing time is still the best way to get a player’s attention. These actions are intended to remain in-house. Many players have been benched for this reason already this year and have responded immediately with proper effort. Soler is not alone, and, in fact, he has shown a real interest in learning to play the game the right way.”
Like I said yesterday: this has probably happened all the time in the last year and a half, and we just didn’t notice or didn’t hear about it.
Sveum underscored the importance of nipping these things in the bud.
“You say something, you get a grip on it and then you don’t see it again,” Sveum said, per CSN Chicago. “You just let people know that you’re held accountable for everything and everybody’s the same – no matter how much money you make. You just don’t let it fester. You have to take care of it. Otherwise, you lose the players that are busting their butts.”
Thus, the value in benching guys for not hustling is three-fold: (1) it teaches that player a lesson that will help him be successful in the future; (2) it teaches other players a lesson that they can put into practice in their own game; and (3) it reassures players who are playing the game the right way that their efforts are not going unnoticed.
All in all, this is a very good thing organizationally. It’s unfortunate that it made Soler the target of additional unfair barbs, but hopefully he’ll be the better for it.