As I warned the day the arbitration figures were exchanged, Ryan Theriot and the Cubs were on a collision course toward a hearing, a first for the Cubs since Larry Himes and Mark Grace went at it in 1993. Theriot, who made $500,000 last year is seeking $3.4 million while the Cubs are offering $2.6 million.
That’s a difference of “only” $800,000, but the Cubs appear to feel the $3.4 million figure is way too high, especially give the midpoint is $3 million, which the Cubs also feel is too rich for a first-year arb-eligible player. As a somewhat related aside, Theriot is no kid. He just turned 30 years old in December.
Just for the fun of it, let’s pretend we’re in the hearing room, assuming Theriot and the Cubs are going to arbitration sometime this month. I actually spent a few minutes in an arbitration hearing room. A couple years ago, when Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs settled just minutes before their scheduled hearing, a few of us reporters hightailed it from Mesa to Phoenix, where “court” was set up in a hotel conference room. Both sides were going to be well represented, with laptops and reams of information ready to go.
They’d have kicked us out, of course, before the hearing were to have begun, but I think I managed to grab a can of Diet Pepsi from the room, if the Cubs and the players association want to bill me for it.
So here we go. The Cubs and maybe GM Jim Hendry are likely to say: “Obviously, Ryan, we love you. Obviously, you scrap and scrape and do all those little, gritty things this organization loves. But since we do pay attention to stats, contrary to what some may believe, we’ll present these to the arbitrator:
“From 2008 to 2009, Mr. Theriot’s offensive line went from .307/.387/.359 to .284/.343/.369. His wOBA (yeah we know what that is, too), went from .338 to .318. More alarmingly, his flyball percentage jumped from 20.2 percent to 30 percent, and we don’t pay Mr. Theriot to hit flyballs, no matter what our manager (and we love him, too) thinks. On top of it, Mr. Theriot’s walks total dropped from 73 to 51 while his strikeouts spiked from 58 to 93. Or, put another way, Mr. Theriot’s BB/K ratio went from 1.26 to 0.55 in a year’s time. We rest our case.”
Now, it’s The Riot’s turn:
“Thank you. You know, I really put it all out there last year, playing in a career-high 154 games, even when that beloved manager said he’d give me a rest now and then. Those 154 games led the team, as did my 602 at-bats. Can you say ‘gamer?” I believe many have.
“On top of that, I set career highs in triples with 5, home runs with 7 and RBI with 54. Hey, I was only doing what Skip wanted me to do when to told me to ‘drive’ the ball. Isn’t that the epitome of a team player?
“I hear a lot of talk about my defense and range being lacking. You forgot something, there, across the table, when you cited all your fancy stats. How about my UZR going from 0.4 to 7.7 and my UZR/150 going from 0.7 to 8.3 in a year's time? I saw all those glances in the dugout whenever Andres Blanco made a nice play, and I’ve heard all that talk about that Castro kid taking my job this year and pushing me to second base. But right now, I’m the best you got. We rest our case.”
OK, you be the judge. How do you rule? Give The Riot the $3.4 million or side with the Cubs and $2.6 mil?
I’m sure by now both sides could use a Diet Pepsi if those blasted writers didn’t abscond with them before they were thrown out of the room.