Rant on Cubs’ Shawn Camp
By Joe Han
Many Cubs fans were surprised (to put it nicely) or disappointed (a little rougher) when the collateral damage for Matt Garza finally returning from the disabled list was in the form of Michael Bowden last week. Based on 2013 performance, the logical choice would have been the struggling Shawn Camp. The veteran Camp literally and figuratively added insult to injury that same night by serving up a go ahead grand slam and effectively costing the Cubs and Garza a win in the series opener against the Pirates. But more on that later.
May 21, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Shawn Camp (54) reacts after surrendering a grand slam home run to Pittsburgh Pirates pinch hitter Travis Snider (not pictured) during the sixth inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Bowden was the return from Boston in the Marlon Byrd trade back in mid April 2012. The Winfield, Illinois native must have enjoyed the return home, as the righty ended up appearing in a career high 32 games (two with the Red Sox) that spanned 36 2/3 innings of work with the Cubs. The reliever ended the season with a 1.81 strikeouts to walks ratio with a 1.140 WHIP and an impressive 2.95 ERA on the North Side. That set the stage for Bowden to have a bullpen job to lose in Spring Training 2013. The Waubonsie Valley High School product made the Opening Day roster and has been one of the lesser concerns of this year’s inconsistent Cubs pen. While his strikeout totals are down to 3.8 per nine innings (compared to 7.1 as a Cub last year), he still had a reasonable 3.78 ERA to go with a 1-2 record.
Even if those numbers are not All Star material, they were still more respectable than those of Camp’s even before the grand slam mentioned earlier. In an almost identical number of innings worked, Camp currently owns a ballooning 7.56 ERA with a whopping four home runs allowed. In Bowden’s 16 innings of work, he had yet to give up a long ball. The only thing going for Camp was a strikeouts per nine innings ratio that is in line with the ratio he had in a successful 2012 season. But even that positive is countered with a walks per nine innings ratio that has jumped almost one whole walk compared to last year. Statistical comparisons aside, Bowden also fit into the long term big picture the Cubs front office keeps pointing to. As well as Camp served the team in 2012, he does not figure to be a part of the team plans for contending in 2015.
As a result, Cubs fans were confused when the team designated for assignment Bowden instead of Camp. The knee jerk reaction was to second guess the front office, as Bowden was clearly the better pitcher than Camp so far this season. Unfortunately for the team and fans, there is a stipulation in the current collective bargaining agreement that prevented the Cubs from just cutting ties with Camp. Players that had been signed as post 2012 Article XX-B Major League free agents are not allowed to be traded or waived prior to June 15th unless they have consent from the player. Camp falls under this category and thus could not be designated for assignment.
But that does not take Camp off the hook for a heated rant whose flames have not died down much over the past few days. AFTER witnessing a useful part like Bowden be designated and AFTER essentially costing his team the game and even the three game series, Camp decided to come clean on a toe injury that he had been trying to fight through. The sprain had gotten serve enough where it was affecting Camp’s ability to push off of the mound was affected, in turn affecting his pitch velocity. The veteran reliever had not told anyone of the issue and the Cubs staff had failed to see the dip in velocity as a red flag. To make matters worse, Camp apparently has dealt with the problem in the past, as recently as 2010 AND 2011 with the Blue Jays.
While Bowden still remains in DFA status as of this morning, this is an instance where Camp’s decision impacts the Cubs on many levels. It is respectable when athletes these days try to tough out an injury and not use it as an excuse for poor performance, considering many high salaried super stars would sit out just from sneezing too hard. But the veteran right hander’s decision in this case can only be considered pure stupidity. And that is putting it nicely. Even manager Dale Sveum admitted the obvious move would have been to keep Bowden and place Camp on the DL had the team been alerted to the injury sooner. Now the Cubs have Camp on the DL while potentially losing Bowden on waivers, when the bullpen has already been one of the weak links of the 2013 squad.
Camp may return to the Cubs this season once he is healthy, but his time on the North Side should be numbered. The Cubs certainly will need to look in another direction for 2014 if not sooner.