CHICAGO -- There's no shame in going to the Minor Leagues when you're 24 and haven't spent one full season in the Majors, even if you're Kyle Schwarber.The Cubs' demotion of Schwarber reverberated through the baseball world on Thursday, as you'd think it would.This is the guy who hit five
CHICAGO -- There's no shame in going to the Minor Leagues when you're 24 and haven't spent one full season in the Majors, even if you're Kyle Schwarber.
The Cubs' demotion of Schwarber reverberated through the baseball world on Thursday, as you'd think it would.
This is the guy who hit five home runs in the 2015 postseason, and then doubled down on his legend by contributing heavily to the drought-ending World Series victory over the Indians after missing all but two games of the '16 regular season.
You can't exactly slip Schwarber and his .171 batting average off to Triple-A Iowa in the middle of a dark June night.
Schwarber hasn't looked great this season, first as he adjusted to being in the leadoff spot and lately as he turned into a bottom-of-the-order, semi-platoon player. He's hit 12 home runs, but only 16 singles, with opponents' shifts bedeviling him.
He's been downright mortal this season, not the second coming of Babe Ruth, as he was described in a scouting report by the late Stan Zielinski.
This wouldn't be a shock for any other player who missed practically an entire season last year. Schwarber spent six months rehabilitating his surgically repaired left knee after an ugly outfield collision, and baseball is a game of repetition as much as anything.
The Cubs should have set the bar lower for Schwarber's return, but got caught up in how he drove the ball and worked great at-bats in four World Series games as the designated hitter. He's always been more of an exception than a guy who follows the rules, but this time, he couldn't deliver on oversized expectations.
If Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon didn't enjoy Schwarber as much as they did, he might have been sent to Iowa when he was dropped out of the leadoff spot last month. Thursday's announcement was surprising, but not really shocking.
Schwarber had only 12 plate appearances in the last five games. Maddon pinch-hit for him with the bases loaded on June 2 against the Cardinals, and on Monday, double-switched him out of a game against the Padres, even through the Cubs trailed, 2-1, and he was due up the next inning.
Maddon was showing diminished confidence in Schwarber, and as mentally tough as Schwarber is, the lack of production had to be impacting him. He'll benefit from getting four or five plate appearances every game at Iowa, with no consideration to whether the pitcher is a left-hander or a right-hander. He's been an everyday player his entire life, and he'll be that again.
There's no word on how long Schwarber will be in Triple-A. If the All-Star break is the over/under, I'm taking the under. The Cubs are their best when he's hitting alongside Kristopher Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, although they do have a number of other left fielders in the pipeline.
The long-term fit has become at least a little cloudy, but it's an overreaction to believe the Cubs will aggressively shop Schwarber before the non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Nothing that has happened this season has caused Epstein to lose faith in Schwarber, or to consider him an American League player. He's been worth minus-four Defensive Runs Saved in left field, which ranks ninth among 12 Major League outfielders who have played 400 or more innings there (ahead of Melky Cabrera, Matt Kemp and Khris Davis).
Schwarber is going to Triple-A, and he's going to come back. Players do it all the time. And he probably should have gotten this chance a while back.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.