WASHINGTON – Cubs players and coaches are anything but unified in their desires and efforts to visit the Trump White House on Wednesday, just five months after almost all of the team attended a more formal championship ceremony at the Obama White House.
The afternoon schedule of Wednesday’s event, which makes it too late for some early scheduled work, played a role in some of the decisions not to attend. But personal feelings also seemed to play a role in several cases when it came to one of the most polarizing presidents of the past century.
“I’m going because it’s the United States of America, and I’d rather not live anywhere else except this country,” said first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who was the player rep who addressed the media in January after the Obama visit. “It’s an honor. No political ties. It’s the White House.”
Of the 22 players surveyed before the game, 10 planned to skip Wednesday’s event.
Only four current players who were on the World Series roster missed the trip in January: Jake Arrieta, John Lackey, Jon Lester and Hector Rondon. And at least five other 2016 players who were not on the Series roster attended.
Arrieta, who pitched Tuesday night, and Rondon aren’t going this time, either.
“I prefer to stay in my room, get rest and get prepared for the game,” Rondon said.
Lackey said he plans to go Wednesday but declined to discuss it further. “I’m not saying anything political for a quote,” he said.
Said Jason Heyward, who won’t be there Wednesday after going in January: “Some guys didn’t go last time. Some guys aren’t going this time.”
He declined to elaborate.
“I just don’t feel like I want to go,” said reliever Pedro Strop, who went in January.
But Albert Almora Jr. isn’t missing the chance for a second trip: “I just look at it as it’s not every day you get to meet the President of the United States. And in a year I get to meet two.”
Justin Grimm said he would go if he didn’t have family in town.
Mike Montgomery called it “maybe a little disrespectful to turn it down.”
Addison Russell said he’s not going. Why? “We already went this year,” he said.
And reliever Carl Edwards Jr. opted to see other sights around the city, instead. “I’m trying to go see like the dinosaur museums,” he said.
Manager Joe Maddon said he has no problems with any player’s individual decision. “I don’t have any rules to begin with,” he said. “I just want you to run hard to first base. As long as you run hard to first base, they can make up their own mind whether they want to go to the White House or not.”
Maddon said if a team such as the NBA-champion Warriors decline an invitation it would “absolutely” be a political statement but dismissed the Cubs’ visit as a political endorsement.
“To go [Wednesday] is out of respect to the Ricketts family and to the office and the building itself,” he said. “Listen, I like the United States a lot. I like living here a lot. I like everything that it that it represents a lot. When you get a chance as a citizen to get to go to the White House, you go.
“And whether you like that person that’s running the country or not, out of respect to the office itself you go. I don’t agree with all the other banter that’s going on right now because I have a different perspective. I would much prefer living here than some of the other places that adopt different methods of government.
“I think sometimes that gets confused when people want to take a stand [without] realizing actually what we have here, which is a lot better than most everyplace else.”