Once a promising prospect, Ian Stewart is now a fringe player mired in the minors, and he's taken to Twitter to vent his frustrations. In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, he took a few shots at the Cubs, who nontendered and then re-signed him this past winter, casting doubts about his future in the organization. Below is just one part of what Stewart had to say:
A 2003 first round pick who made the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list a whopping five times — tied for a record — Stewart yielded diminishing returns in parts of five seasons with the Rockies before being traded to Chicago for Tyler Colvin in December 2011. Hampered by a left wrist injury that required midseason surgery – a bone fragment was causing inflammation of a nerve — he hit just .201/.292/.335 with five homers in 202 plate appearances for the Cubs, who re-signed him to a $2 million contract after nontendering him. A quad strain knocked him out of action in spring training and for all of April, and his numbers at Triple-A Iowa (.164/.279/.345 in 129 PA) have been terrible, though he has recently heated up, homering three times in a game on June 8.
That his bat appears to be coming around is of small solace to Stewart, apparently. When a Twitter follower congratulated him after Monday night's game and asked when he'd head back to Chicago, Stewart (@IAN_STEWART_2sc) responded, "Probably never." When another follower reminded him that current Cubs third baseman Luis Valbuena got the job when he was injured, Stewart replied, "I honestly believe if Valbuena were to get hurt cubs wouldn't call me Back up just MHO."
Stewart continued his diatribe in subsequent syntactically-challenged tweets. "I meant they might as Well release since I have no shot of a call up....let me Sign elsewhere," read one. "I think dale [Sveum, Cubs manager] Doesn't like me and He's Running the show," read another.
Valbuena isn't exactly setting the world on fire, but as the long half of a third base platoon with Cody Ransom, he's hitting a respectable .243/.363/.429 with six homers in 169 PA for the Cubs. At 27 years old, around eight months younger than Stewart, he's hardly a cornerstone of the team's rebuilding effort, but he's making just $930,000, less than half what Stewart makes. Which isn't to say the move is financially motivated; Stewart, like Valbuena, bats lefthanded, and the Cubs are satisfied with what they're getting in that department from a player about whom they currently have no health questions.
While Stewart's outburst is understandable on an emotional level, it's not likely to help his cause in the organization, but then that may be the point — he appears to be bucking for his release. He may not get it anytime soon, however. According to the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan, the Cubs are likely to fine him and could suspend him as well, but the brass says they won't release him:
The Cubs were upset about Stewart’s comments, but would not say what the punishment would be.
"We spent the entire morning dealing with an issue that doesn’t help us get better as an organization," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "That's not how we want to spend our time. What he did was really unprofessional and there are going to be consequences. Beyond that, I'm not going to comment."
Whatever discipline is to be handed down hasn't happened yet; Stewart is in the Iowa lineup this afternoon, and he has already homered for the fifth time in seven games.
[Update: Via MLB.com's Carrie Muskat, Stewart has been suspended without pay by the Cubs, and the team is currently going through "legal hoops" as they determine the length. Stewart has apologized via Twitter:
"I want to apologize to the entire Cubs organization for my comments on twitter. I let my frustrations get the best of me and in no way want to be a distraction. I am focused on getting back to the big leagues and am working everyday to make that happen."
Stewart's agent, Larry Reynolds, issued a statement on his client's behalf. Via the Twitter account of ESPN's Buster Olney:
"I have spoken to both Ian and Theo regarding Ian's tweets last night. Ian is very apologetic for venting his frustrations with his situation in that manner. He has apologized to the Cubs organization and does not want to be a further distraction. With that being said, if the Cubs don't have Ian in their plans, I feel it is in the best interests of both parties for the Cubs to release him and end this relationship."
It sounds as though Stewart's release is coming. Via the Twitter account of Comcast SportsNet's Patrick Mooney
, Sveum said, " "I was all on board bringing him back and giving him a chance... obviously it didn't work out."]