I’ve had an article on the Chicago Cubs cutting ties with Daniel Descalso sitting in my drafts for over a week. At first, I assumed the struggle with putting words to why Descalso mattered to the overall narrative of the post-2016 Cubs rested mainly on my personal struggle with Coronavirus. There’s some truth to that, but the reality is that there’s no magnificent pearl or hidden gem to be found and presented in the tale of Daniel Descalso and the Chicago Cubs.
While I wasted my time looking for some angle to better present Descalso, the truth was right in front of me. The reason that Descalso didn’t stand out is that there was never anything special about his signing and eventual departure from the club. In every way, possible Descalso was a random shot in the dark that didn’t pay off. Yet, it is in that randomness that Descalso is the perfect encapsulation of the Cubs’ struggles following their World Series victory.
It is true that Descalso is not the only free agent the Cubs signed, nor is he the only free agent to not pay off for the National League’s North Side ballclub. However, Descalso represents something beyond just a failure to perform. He represents what Cubs fans were delivered in lieu of the dreams of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Instead of the premier players that Cubs fans were promised they received a journeyman who never quite panned out.
Descalso isn’t without fault in this scenario. He may have only spent two seasons in Chicago (though he only actually played in 2019), but had he performed anywhere above a 59 DRC+ and -0.2 WARP chances are he wouldn’t quite represent the final thrashings of a failed dynasty. If he had been able to perform at any level beyond abject disappointment then Descalso would not be straddled with being the face of Tom Ricketts’ lies and cheapness. Alas, that is not the hand that was dealt and Descalso will forever be remembered as a sign of Chicago’s failures.
The aforementioned Tom Ricketts deserves the brunt of the blame. He did what all MLB owners do and promised his fans the world while only delivering Daniel Descalso. After 2016, reality set in for Tom Ricketts and his family. They could deliver mediocre players and the fans would continue to show up. They had their World Series title, everything that happened after that was a means for them to make more money. Spending on a Harper or Machado was never in the cards after that World Series win, a businessman like Ricketts doesn’t spend money when there’s no need to spend.
It would be a lie to say that Daniel Descalso underperformed during his tenure in Chicago. He performed right around his career mark and ultimately he delivered exactly what was promised. He played like a journeyman that should be forgotten the moment he leaves town. Unfortunately for Descalso, there were larger machinations at play and those machinations have made it where Cubs fans will always remember him as the physical representation of when any hope of doing more than coasting on 2016 glory was officially thrown out the window.