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Who knew David Ross's retirement would do so much damage? I mean, besides everyone else.
I sure didn't. I weighed in with the opinion that the biggest celebration of a back-up catcher in baseball history at the end of the regular season last year was a wee bit of overkill.
But all those fans who gave Grandpa Rossy three standing ovations during David Ross Night late last year obviously knew something I should have known. Apparently the Cubs juggernaut couldn't take the departure of the guy who played one out of every four or five games during the historic 2016 season. The team just wrapped up its by-far worst week of the season (and that is saying something) with an embarrassing 14-3 home loss to the Pirates. The Cubs enter the All-Star break at 43-45, five-and-a-half games behind the Brewers.
What's that you say? The departure of Dexter Fowler was much more important? Well ol' Dexter's numbers aren't very impressive for the Redbirds. His bank account is all good but his on-base is .336. Then again, he does have 14 home runs, tied for the team lead, for a St. Louis team that went on a little roll before the break and pulled even with the Cubs in second in the Central.
Still, the Cardinals probably need Fowler to get on a base at a slightly healthier clip if they are going to actually pull their record all the way back to .500. And while the Cubs have suffered for a lack of a leadoff hitter, it is only one spot in a lineup that has been disappointing from 1 through 9.
There is some good news, I guess. Ross announced Sunday that he will return to the diamond.
He will apparently play for an over-the-hill gang known as the Kansas Stars. That is an independent minor league team co-founded by, wait for it, Adam LaRoche(!) and featuring fellow apparently prematurely retired players Jake Peavy and Chipper Jones. There was no word on what role LaRoche's son Drake is playing for the team.
Ross's announcement contained nothing about why he has now decided it is OK to re-expose himself to the risk of concussions that the catcher cited as a major reason for his retirement last year.
I actually have no problem with Ross suiting up again. I believe all pro athletes should play as long as is humanly possible.
Fans like storybook retirements, ones where successful athletes finish with a championship and then ride off into a twilight doubleheader in Iowa, never to play again. But athletes in all sports will almost certainly never be as good at anything else as they were on the field/floor/ice. If they don't squeeze every last drop out of their playing career they will regret it.
Heck, at this point, I will definitely take following the Kansas Stars over following either of the local baseball teams (nice game on Sunday, White Sox! Maybe next year you'll try harder not to leave early for the break!)
The Cubs are still a winning streak away from returning to contention in the Central. And let's be clear about one thing: This team needs to play to win right now. There is no saving of prospects for future seasons. But I also don't understand the commentators who think that adding a starting pitcher or two will turn this thing around. This team has done a terrible job in the batter's box. It won't improve in any substantial way unless the bats get going. And that is what Theo is talking about when he says that if this team is to make a run, it needs to make it with what it has.
Surely it will be at least a little embarrassing for Theo if his team finishes behind the Cardinals. That would mean that for all of their tanking, the Cubs still managed to pull in front of St. Louis (a team that has never tanked a season) for only one season so far during his six-year tenure. The Cards of course finished in front of the Cubs in 2015 before losing to them in the playoffs.
Hey guys! Start with playing better than the Cardinals in the second half, OK? If you can do that, you can avoid a season that isn't just the most disappointing in baseball but also the most embarrassing.
Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.