Do I look glad to be right here? How I got here to phrases with a commerce I by no means needed


I had performed at Wrigley Subject many occasions, largely as a homegrown Chicago Cubs participant but in addition as a Philadelphia Phillie. In 2003, although, I returned to Chicago as a employed hand, dealt on July 30 by the Texas Rangers for money and a minor league catcher — proper earlier than the MLB commerce deadline.

And I wasn’t precisely thrilled about it.

After I was instructed I used to be traded, it was by telephone. After I went to say my goodbyes within the Texas clubhouse the subsequent day, my locker was already packed. I used to be gone earlier than I used to be gone. That was exhausting. I might miss supervisor Buck Showalter’s humor. I might miss teammates like Michael Younger, Juan Gonzalez and Alex Rodriguez. I might miss our wild staff conferences. I might miss my fan membership program — the Good Grades Membership, the place college students would mail me their report playing cards for an autographed photograph or different rewards, a superb thought by the Rangers’ advertising staff. Now the mail would cease.

Worst of all, I used to be 32 years previous, recovering from a torn hamstring tendon, and after hobbling round minor league rehab for a month, I had lastly received my timing collectively. Nobody might get me out within the American League in July: I posted a .925 OPS that month, and regardless of a dismal season for Texas (we had been in final place once I was traded), I used to be constructing my method again to being a viable free-agent candidate and a starter once more. I did not need that run to finish on another person’s phrases. But it surely did.

This week, many gamers can have these sorts of emotions and extra. Misplaced, revitalized, the brand new child, the previous vet, pushed out of a job, final to first, starter to bench man, all in a easy transaction — with no ensures as to how the story will finish.

One of many first issues I did after returning to Chicago was a photograph shoot with different traded-for Cubs. Kenny Lofton and Aramis Ramirez joined me for the quilt of the Cubs’ month-to-month Vine Line Journal. That image is value a thousand phrases, my emotions of disillusionment on full show. I had not lower my hair for the reason that 12 months earlier than, and I saved fascinated about how I used to be traded from the place I used to be taking part in on daily basis to the place I might be a platoon participant at finest. Positive, the postseason is the purpose — particularly after a profession, at that time, of champagne-less offseasons — however I additionally wanted to have a job to even take into consideration October. Getting 50 at-bats in two months won’t be sufficient to make a roster.

Not less than they appeared glad to have me. On my first day as a brand new Cub, supervisor Dusty Baker greeted me and expressed his pleasure with my becoming a member of the staff. The person matched the legend, barrel-chested and imposing, but appeared you within the eye with a sure heat and understanding. I instantly discovered in regards to the chewing sticks and the inexperienced tea he saved shut by within the dugout, the well being drink he relied on as he recovered from prostate most cancers. He didn’t promise me a beginning function, however he knew what I might do — in spite of everything, I had performed in opposition to his Giants loads of occasions.

I had solely heard, secondhand, about Baker being this superb gamers’ supervisor, however I had a wall of emotional iron round me, and it was exhausting for me to take it in. He did not know of my lengthy journey within the Cubs’ minor leagues to get to Chicago. My struggle with my Triple-A supervisor, my watching outfielders lap me to achieve the massive leagues or how I misplaced my father on the final day of the 2002 season. Regardless that I had been lengthy gone from Chicago by the point this commerce went down, I had the luggage of being traded earlier than. That arduous lesson about not having management of my future, the sensation of being property even when the opposite facet thought they had been getting a present.

I discovered that Lofton was our heart fielder and I might play in opposition to some lefties and are available in to pinch hit or pinch run, perhaps play some protection late within the recreation. After beginning for my whole profession, it was an ego examine, and since I by no means felt I received a shot to be that beginning heart fielder in Chicago, it felt worse. First, the Cubs did not guess on me to be a beginning heart fielder and traded me away, then, once I’d develop into a starter elsewhere, they traded to get me again simply to place me on the bench once more. It was like a merciless joke. However then I appeared across the clubhouse and noticed a number of gamers in the identical boat. Tony Womack, Eric Karros, Mark Grudzielanek, Tom Goodwin. We had all been starters, and Baker had his arms full to persuade all of us that we should not be beginning now. To his credit score, Baker was a magician with folks.

Actual life needed to be managed, too. I needed to shut out an condominium in Texas, in the midst of a lease. I needed to ship my automotive to Chicago, full of all of the stuff I could not carry in my suitcase, then fly to Dallas to fulfill the transport firm on an off-day when the Cubs had been taking part in the Astros in Houston. I could not think about what that might’ve been like if I would had a household on the time.

Rejoining Chicago was additionally like transferring again house after graduating faculty. A lot had modified. I did not know a number of the gamers; the workers was totally different. It was a brand new tradition — I got here up in 1996 with the Cubs with Jim Riggleman as supervisor, somebody who I revered and received together with properly. Constructive, even-keeled, principled. We didn’t have a lot success over that 12 months and a half, however he took the time to at all times inform me the place I stood, pulling me apart to let me know, “At some point, you may be a beginning heart fielder — someplace.” Baker introduced in a smashmouth model, dripping with confidence, a grasp of psychological warfare. For these two stints, I performed on the similar handle, but it surely was removed from the identical place.

I ultimately discovered my edge by working with all the Cubs’ veteran gamers in a pennant race. Though the Cubs had been at .500 once I arrived, we weren’t far out: Two weeks later, we had been in first place. It was my first true understanding {that a} massive a part of a supervisor’s job is filtering out the negativity that may come from an entire bunch of gamers who assume they need to have a distinct function. I used to be shocked to seek out myself a kind of guys.

It turned vital to observe how Dusty ran his ship. Baker was actually the “Godfather of Baseball,” and he gave you straight discuss. Months later, I might get the game-winning hit in Recreation 3 of the NLCS and remind folks publicly that I might hit right-handed pitching as a right-handed batter — I pinch hit in opposition to a righty in that recreation. Dusty pulled me into his workplace after listening to that postgame interview and insisted, “I know you may hit righties.” I received the message, however he dished out the reality and it gave me room to inform mine. I appreciated that.

The times and weeks after my commerce had been a crash course in becoming in, one thing that may be more durable for a set-in-his-ways veteran. I needed to let go of the ensures that put me within the lineup on daily basis and ensured I might have a job the subsequent 12 months, and enter the realm of the unknown. Not realizing once I would get within the recreation or if we’d make the playoffs. I noticed the worst-case state of affairs: not making the playoffs after which not getting a job in free company. Was it value it?

In my case, it was, as a result of I might get the one playoff expertise of my MLB profession. Wanting again, regardless of the way it most likely damage my being seen as a starter, I gained one thing that turned out to be value my shift in standing. A division title and a style of a championship collection.

This week, many gamers are coping with change. Even the largest names — whether or not it is a trio of champions in Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, and Anthony Rizzo, all former Cubs now, unsigned and unsure in new environment as they chase the postseason, or Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, in greener pastures as doable three-month leases. Pretty much as good as they’re, they’re nonetheless an harm away from altering their contract alternatives within the offseason. They had been settled of their respective cities and fan bases. Households, youngsters, September faculty enrollment, misplaced stability — these are not any small issues, even for gamers on the highest of baseball’s meals chain.

Then think about the younger prospects or the journeyman jockeying for enjoying time, despatched again for these family names. Little energy, little selection, besides to grab the chance and make a brand new house elsewhere. However a brand new house could be constructed, and championships could be gained.

As I as soon as discovered, typically you must embrace the danger. For final week’s traded gamers, it begins now.

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