Ryan Theriot booed upon his return to Wrigley

Former Cub Ryan Theriot riled the faithful at Wrigley Field when he returned last night. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

It’s May 10, 2011, and old rivals the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals face each other once again at Wrigley Field. Carlos Zambrano is the opening pitcher as the Cubs take the field. The announcer calls out the first batter’s name, “Ryan Theriot.”  A loud boo rises from the crowd at Wrigley. This reaction is not normal for former Cubs players. The WGN sportscasters note, during the rising tide of negativity, that former Cubs players are usually cheered by the fans and booed later on.  But not in the case of Theriot. Perhaps it had something to do with a sentence that flashed across the TV screen just moments before the game started:

“I’m finally on the right side of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry,”

– Ryan Theriot

Theriot’s journey through the bigs

Theriot, a one-time Cub, made his Major League Baseball debut on September 13, 2005, as a pinch-hitter against the Reds, and gained his first hit the following day against Brian Shackelford. In 2006, he bounced back and forth between the Iowa Cubs and the major league team, hitting .328 in 53 games with Chicago.

Theriot then made the opening-day roster  in 2007 as a utility player. However, the early season struggles of Cesar Izturis lead to Theriot getting more starts, and he quickly became the starter. Izturis was traded in July. Also in 2007, Theriot was reunited with his former collegiate teammate Mike Fontenot. Theriot and Fontenot made up the double play combination for the 2000 National Champion LSU Tigers.

Theriot was a versatile player throughout the 2007 season,  playing multiple positions defensively, and hitting all over the batting order. While not the strongest hitter, Theriot was asked to try to drive in more runs early in 2009, as the Cubs roster racked up  injuries and were haunted by poor performance.  He responded by hitting seven home runs, including his first two ever outside Wrigley Field, as the other players regained their health.

On May 1, 2009, Theriot hit his first career grand slam against the Florida Marlins. The Cubs were down 5-2 when he hit it, giving the Cubs the lead en route to an 8-6 win. On February 19, 2010, the Cubs went to salary arbitration with Theriot, the first time they had gone to arbitration with a player since 1993. Theriot’s figure was one year, $3.4M. The Cubs’ figure was also one year, $2.6M. The Cubs won the case. He appeared in 96 games with the Cubs in 2010, hitting .284.

However, in July of 2010, Theriot was traded to the Dodgers along with Ted Lilly. Then, in November of 2010, he was traded to the Cards and, during the off season, he uttered the words that riled Cubs fans: “I’m finally on the right side of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry.” Certainly, Theriot had some idea that his statement would stir up feelings in Cubs fans and players. After all the Cubs fan base is unlike any other sports followings in any league in the world.  Most Cubs fans are life-long fans and wear their hearts on the sleeves of their officially sanctioned Cubs clothing.

Last night, Cubs fans had the pleasure of cheering against Theriot as he went 0-for-4. Welcome back, Ryan.

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