When Ben Zobrist took a personal leave of absence from the Chicago Cubs in early May 2019 as details of marital trouble emerged, I don’t think anyone thought we wouldn’t see him again until September, when he closed out the final month of the year with the team before his career abruptly drew to a close.
Of course, the funds Chicago saved due to that leave of absence ($7.5 million) allowed Theo Epstein to go out and add Craig Kimbrel, who is one of the most valuable players in baseball with the trade deadline approaching. But to say it wasn’t the ending Zobrist deserved is putting it mildly.
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The two-time World Series champion never officially retired, but it’s pretty clear his playing days are behind him as he shifted his focus to his children following an extramarital affair on the part of his longtime wife, Julianna – whose songs and covers he walked up to the plate to during his Cubs career.
Now, with divorce proceedings making their way through court, the gloves are coming off between the two. If you’re unfamiliar with all the details, I strongly suggest you take a look at this intense account of the matter from the Chicago Tribune – it definitely lays everything out and paints a much fuller picture.
But the latest on this front has Julianna seeking an extra $4 million – which she claims is due her after Ben took that leave of absence during the 2019 season, the final year of his four-year contract with Chicago. A brief from her attorneys charge Ben with “intentionally and voluntarily stopped working” and “essentially went from the top of his game to basically giving up, which caused a massive loss in income.”
The three-time All-Star’s legal representation quickly fired back with a statement of its own:
"“Rather than accepting blame for having torn her husband’s heart out by having an affair with their pastor, she expected him to be able to totally focus in an elite athletic job that required (100%) of his physical and mental energy,” Rogers writes in the memorandum. “It is Mrs. Zobrist, by having the extramarital affair and confessing same to her husband, and not disclosing the true extent of her affair, that caused him such extreme mental distress and difficulty that resulted in an inability to finish his long and very successful career in the way that he had hoped for and planned for.”"
Chicago Cubs: Ben Zobrist deserved a better send-off than this
Look. How all this plays out doesn’t matter to most Chicago Cubs fans. But I think we can all agree Ben Zobrist deserved a David Ross-esque send-off at the end of his playing days. We’re talking about a guy who played an integral role not only on the North Side, but also in Tampa Bay and Kansas City. Remember, in 2015, he won a World Series with the Royals in 2015 before coming to Chicago.
Now, he’ll be remembered as much for this high-profile divorce as anything else, which is unfortunate, to say the least. Especially considering the countless accomplishments he had in his career – of course, culminating in the go-ahead hit in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series and eventual World Series MVP honors for his exploits.