If you followed Ian Stewart on Twitter, he seemed, at times, to be an odd bird. Recently, he went on an over-the-top rant against the Rockies’ organization for DFA’ing (and ultimately trading to the Yankees) third baseman Chris Nelson, the man who took Stewart’s job after the Rockies dealt him to the Cubs. It seems Stewart still harbors some ill feelings about being cast aside by the Rockies, and wishes he’d been given a chance to show what he could do there, if the Rockies were just going to dump Nelson anyway.
Maybe that’s an understandable position, but probably not one you should be espousing publicly given that you’re currently cashing checks from a team that hopes you can work your way back to the big leagues once healthy and effective.
But that day might not be coming, and the oddness of the Ian Stewart story continues to grow.
After some conflicting reports this weekend, it now seems clear that Ian Stewart simply decided not to play baseball over the past three days. When the Cubs activated him from the disabled list and optioned him to Iowa on Friday, Stewart had 72 hours to report to Iowa. Since he was already there, and since there was no question he was going to accept the assignment (he would lose his guaranteed contract if he didn’t), you would have expected him to play the next day as though no transaction occurred. The move was perfunctory, after all, and it’s not like he needed 72 hours to relocate.
According to GM Jed Hoyer, however, and per Jesse Rogers, Stewart decided to take the 72 hours the CBA granted him. He took that time and didn’t play. It was a kind of … break? Vacation? It’s unclear. Rogers lays into Stewart pretty good.
“We had a lot of discussions with him about it, in the end that was the decision,” Hoyer said of Stewart not playing for Iowa this weekend. “He has the right, it’s the given right the players have and that was the decision.”
Let me make sure I understand this correctly.
We’re talking about a player who was new to the Cubs in 2012 after being on the verge of a non-tender by the Rockies. His debut season with the Cubs ended after just 55 games with ongoing wrist problems that the Cubs helped Stewart fully explore and have surgically addressed (after the issue was missed in Stewart’s time with the Rockies). Before, during, and after that surgery, Stewart elected to rehab at home, rather than stay with the team, as many injured players do (for example, Matt Garza couldn’t tear himself off of the top step even after everyone knew his season was over with weeks yet to be played). He did have a child in that time period, so at least there is some explanation. Other writers, however, have intimated that the Cubs questioned Stewart’s commitment at that time.
They must not have questioned it completely, however, because the Cubs then gave Stewart $2 million for 2013, a season in which he could prove that he was finally healthy, and eager to show what he could do. You’d think he might have even been eager to repay the Cubs’ good graces, but I don’t want to read too much into things. Then, in the first intrasquad game before the Cactus League began, Stewart strained his quad. That strain kept him out for more than a month, at which time he was rehabbing at AAA Iowa. He wasn’t hitting, but presumably wanted to work hard to show the Cubs that he could be ready to contribute soon.
And then, when it became clear that he wasn’t going to be ready by the time his rehab stint was up, Stewart … took a three-day break? Because the CBA permitted it?
Now, I don’t know Ian Stewart from Adam. I’ve never (really) spoken with him, and I don’t presume to sit in judgment from hundreds of miles away. But when you consider that timeline, this latest episode, and what you could glean from his late-night Twitter proclivities (before he abruptly deleted his account last week, that is), you get the picture of a young man who may have some maturity issues and who may not be all that into playing baseball for the Chicago Cubs.
It’s unfortunate, but there’s no longer any reason for much optimism about Stewart’s future, at least with the Cubs. When the performance isn’t there and the health is in question, all you can hang your hat on is effort and attitude. Right now, Stewart doesn’t appear to be showing much in that regard.
I’d like to hear his explanation for avoiding baseball this weekend when he returns to the Iowa Cubs today, as he is expected to do.