Carlos Villanueva was a serviceable pitcher during his time in Chicago and now he’s continues to help his old team even as he toils for another. He might finally be on the right side of the Cubs/Cardinals rivalry, but that doesn’t mean there’s any respect lost for the mustachioed righty. In fact, as Patrick Mooney writes, Cubs players still sport t-shirts with Villanueva’s image on them.
While neither his versatility on the mound nor his glorious handlebars are guiding the Cubs, his position on the MLBPA’s executive board may. That’s not to say that Charlie Newhouse is going to allow a soft spot for Chicago to sway his thoughts, only that his opinions on the matter of Kris Bryant and service time manipulation in general could help to shape future events.
The union was quick to disparage the Cubs for their decision to send Bryant to AAA to start the season, even going so far as to threaten litigation. Villanueva, however, feels that this is a matter better decided at the bargaining table than in the courtroom.
“I’m a union guy,” the former Cub explained. “We signed that contract. That language in the contract – the team has the liberty to do what they want when it comes to that. We don’t have to like it. And if we don’t like it, next time we sit at the bargaining table, we have to do something about it.”
He went on to empathize with the Cubs’ situation, even going so far as to admit that it’s one he himself would have made if put in the same position.
“If I’m an owner of a team, if I’m a GM, and the rules permit me to have a guy for an extra year at less money, it’s a business decision. And I would probably do the same thing. At the end of the year, can you say, ‘Well, we didn’t make the playoffs by one or two games, could he (have made) a difference in it?’ Maybe. We don’t have a crystal ball to know.”
But don’t let this lead you to believe that Villanueva is happy with the situation. Quite the contrary, as he explained further.
“I hate that it is what it is, but there’s nothing that prohibits the team right now, aside from making fans maybe angry or other players upset. They really shouldn’t care. Because if he does come up, and he starts raking, and they win, nobody’s going to remember it.”
Well, maybe not nobody.
“Boras is going to remember it. He’s not going to get paid as much, maybe. But it’s not the first time that something like this has happened, and it’s not going to be the last. If we don’t like it…then we have to do something about it when we sit at the table. And I’m pretty sure we will.”
Boom. There you go. This was perhaps the most measured and judicious discourse I’ve read so far on the topic and hand. It’s not hard to see why this guy had such an impact on the Cubs clubhouse and throughout baseball, particularly when you consider that he’s bilingual as well. Villanueva’s is a voice that many will listen to.
That’s why I take him at his word when he says they’re likely to pursue some changes to service time definitions in the near future. I think it’s in the best interest of both the fans and the players to do so as well, and that doing so without filing a grievance will create a great deal less acrimony on all sides.
Besides, when Bryant officially makes his debut in just a handful of days, everyone may be too busy basking in his awesomeness to care about legal proceedings. We’ll all just hold hands and sing We Are the World. Well, until it’s time to talk CBA again anyway.