March 27, 2011
I'm not taking Silva's side — heavens, no — but he apparently is too dense with conceit (that's not a weight joke) to realize how the Cubs messed up.
By now you probably heard about them telling Silva that if he wanted to stay in the organization, he must either accept a minor league assignment or be put on the trading block.
And that if the Cubs could not trade Silva, who is in the last season of a $48 million contract, they would release him.
And, as you probably read or heard, Silva didn't take the news too well, whining to the media in Mesa, Ariz., that he's a major league player and the "competition" the Cubs set up among himself, Andrew Cashner(notes) and Braden Looper(notes) was a farce. (Cashner got the starting job, by the way, and right-hander Marcos Mateo(notes) got Silva's roster spot.)
Silva fumed to reporters about new pitching coach Mark Riggins misleading him on where he stood, for essentially beating around the bush before dropping the bad news. Silva also took a shot, ironically, at the professionalism of Riggins, who had been a career minor league coach and manager before this season.
UPDATE: The Cubs released Silva on Sunday, but brass also fired back verbally, with GM Jim Hendry unnecessarily putting words to the obvious, that Silva "wasn't good enough" to make the team. Manager Mike Quade was righteously angry that Silva took shots at Riggins, when it was Quade's call to make.
Basically, Silva showed a lack of class, along with a disconnect to reality. It was an emotional day for him, no doubt, but he also has a 5.87 ERA in 55 starts since signing that bloated deal with the Seattle Mariners before the 2008 season.
I don't find fault with what Silva says Riggins told him, or how it must have come out of his mouth. Because it's irrelevant.
What is relevant: Hendry and manager Quade also talked to Silva, but Riggins was the guy who made first contact. That's irresponsible of the Cubs. It's either Hendry's duty, or it's Hendry's duty to make Quade do it. (It's probably Hendry's duty.)
But it sure isn't Riggins' place. Would a team ever use its hitting coach to tell a young shortstop he was going to the minors? They might as well have a trainer do it, or the traveling secretary. Major league teams don't operate like that. Well, at least one does.
Maybe, if Larry Rothschild were still the pitching coach (his title was practically "manager of pitchers," he had so much authority) they would have gotten him involved. Quade and Larry together, OK. Larry and Hendry, fine. Or all three. Mix and match.
But to have a rookie coach on the firing line by himself, it's just not what good organizations do.
The Cubs have had other communication gaffes this offseason, including how they told Ryne Sandberg that Quade got the manager's job. The front office just assumed Sandberg knew he was welcome back to manage the Cubs' Class AAA team after being passed over. Sandberg was mostly cool about it in public, and he might have left anyway (Ryno works for the Phillies organization now), but his departure undoubtedly would have been on better terms.
He started the 2010 season on a roll, but his final five starts were disastrous. He missed some time with an irregular heart beat. Hey, at least they found one.
And it's an expensive hook from which Silva has the Cubs dangling. Seattle chipped in $6 million as part of the Milton Bradley deal (that's got to be the "Sophie's Choice" of trades), but the Cubs still owe Silva all of his $11.5 million salary for 2011. There's also a $2 million buyout for the 2012 option, but the Mariners have to cover it.
(Editor's note: In an earlier version of this story, a different — and incorrect — breakdown of Silva's salary was used.)
In order to move Silva, the Cubs had better be willing to absorb most, if not all, of what they owe him.
It's too bad everybody burned all of their bridges, because it would have been amusing to see Silva start the Cubs' Cactus League game on Monday as he was scheduled to. It would have been a showcase to remember (assuming other teams would have sent scouts, that is).
But all of that is beside the point. Cutting a veteran player, even one who plays poorly and acts like a jerk sometimes, is no small transaction. Imagine for a moment being GM of an MLB team, and you get a chance to cut an underachieving, overpaid goof with no self-awareness. Why wouldn't you run to his locker?
Hendry should have told him. Not to make it easier on Silva, because the heck with him. It's not about Silva's feelings. It's about being responsible for how the organization communicates. It's one of a GM's most important jobs.