CHICAGO – Ian Stewart wants the best of both worlds.
The 28-year-old third baseman, relegated to Triple-A while pocketing $2 million this season, went on Twitter late Monday night to vent his frustrations, predominately stemming from the Cubs’ unwillingness to release him.
The tweets did more than just reflect poorly on Stewart. They also will cost him money, though how much is still to be determined. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Stewart will be suspended without pay for violating the loyalty clause in his contract, which “requires a certain standard of personal conduct and he didn’t adhere to that.”
Among Stewart’s tweets, which he apologized for Tuesday afternoon before deleting his Twitter account, was an interaction with a follower who asked when he would be back with the Cubs. Stewart’s response? “Probably never.”
“I said that be because the Cubs are done with me … there [sic] going to let me Rott in AAA all season and then non tender me after,” Stewart said in a later tweet.
Stewart has no one to blame but himself for this predicament. He had an opportunity to get a fresh start elsewhere when the Cubs outrighted him to Triple-A Iowa on May 3 after they determined he wasn’t playing well enough to rejoin the team after his rehab assignment. However, motivated to keep the rest of his $2 million owed this season, Stewart accepted the Cubs’ decision.
“Well, he had the right to elect free agency and decided not to, so he decided to become a minor league player with us,” Epstein said. “ … I don’t follow him [on Twitter], but I know he’s pretty active late at night and I know he’s frustrated. It didn’t fully surprise me.”
As he has watched his playing time dwindle at Iowa, stuck behind Brent Lillbridge, Junior Lake and the currently injured Josh Vitters on the depth chart at third base the past few weeks, Stewart decided to go on Twitter and complain. But it’s hard to feel sorry for a player making $2 million, especially when he had the option to become a free agent a month earlier. Choosing free agency would have come at another price: forfeiting the rest of his guaranteed money this season.
Instead, Stewart is acting like a child who behaves badly in hope of his parents finally giving in to a demand. Except in this case, Stewart wants to force the Cubs into releasing him. If the Cubs release Stewart and make him a free agent, he would receive the remaining $2 million owed.
“If the Cubs don’t have Ian in their future plans, I feel that it is in the best interests of both parties for the Cubs to release him and end this relationship,” Stewart’s agent Larry Reynolds said.
At this point, the Cubs have no reason to give into Stewart’s request to be released. He ticked off the organization by utilizing the full 72-hour window he had to report to Iowa in May when he was already with the team because of his rehab assignment.
Combine that with his noticeable absence from the Cubs for large chunks of last season as he worked back from wrist surgery, an absence that disappointed manager Dale Sveum, Stewart hasn’t built up much good will.
To top it off, Stewart was critical of Sveum in his tweets, claiming he wouldn’t be called up because “I think Dale doesn’t like me and he’s running the show.”
“I was all on board bringing him back [in the offseason] and giving him another chance to prove what he could do at the big league level and with the Cubs,” Sveum said. “Obviously, it didn’t work out. It’s unfortunate people have to vent their frustrations through social media.”
If Stewart put as much time and effort into his game as he does on Twitter, where he often spends late nights, maybe he wouldn’t be hitting .168 with five home runs, 20 RBIs and 45 strikeouts in 40 games at Iowa. Hopefully Stewart’s actions serve as a warning to other players within the organization to think before tweeting or interacting on social media. Epstein believes this situation is an isolated incident and there won’t be further incidents. Cubs players, at any level, would be wise to learn from Stewart’s dumb and ill-advised mistake.
“If you just accept any type of behavior without responding, then I don’t think you have an organization that stands for much of anything,” Epstein said. “There was a personal attack on our manager which can’t really be tolerated.”
• Meghan Montemurro covers the White Sox and Cubs for Shaw Media. Write to her at email@example.com. Read the Sox Insider and Inside the Cubs blogs at NWHerald.com and on Twitter @Sox_Insider and @InsideTheCubs.