Jerry Sullivan: After watching his Cubs get their rings, Bisons' Coghlan fighting to get back in the Show - The Buffalo News

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Jerry Sullivan: After watching his Cubs get their rings, Bisons' Coghlan fighting to get back in the Show

The Cubs received their World Series rings before Wednesday night's game against the Dodgers at Wrigley Field. It was a long time coming, a 108-year wait. Chris Coghlan is still waiting.

Coghlan, who was on that Cubs team, watched the ceremony with his wife and baby boy in his Buffalo apartment, hours after playing for the Bisons against the Red Wings.

"I don't know," Coghlan said Thursday morning when I asked when he expected to get his ring. "I haven't asked."

It had to sting a bit to watch his former teammates feted from afar. Coghlan, a former NL Rookie of the Year, had a strong second half after being re-acquired by the Cubs last June. He started Game One of the Series against Cleveland and appeared as a pinch-runner in the dramatic deciding seventh game on Nov. 2.

After rejoining the Cubs, Coghlan had described them as a second family, the tightest team of which he had ever been part. But they opted not to retain him after the 2016 season. In early February, he signed with the Phillies as a free agent. He struggled at the plate in camp and the Phils let him go at the end of March.

On April 1, he signed with Toronto, who assigned him to Buffalo. Suddenly, Coghlan was a minor-leaguer. Two years after hitting a career-high 16 homers with the Cubs, five months after playing in the World Series, he was playing second base and leading off at Coca-Cola Field. Humbling game.

"Yeah, life is humbling," he said. "It doesn't matter what you do. The game's not fair; life's not fair. Nobody cares about your story. It's all what have you done for me lately. That's performance. That's the industry. There's no feelings in this industry.

"So you either got to put up or shut up," Coghlan, 31, said. "I always say, 'If you don't like it, play better.' If you don't, you lose your job. It's that simple."

Coghlan didn't mean to come off as bitter or ungrateful. But he wasn't going to be a phony about it, either. Baseball can be a cold, unsentimental business, where you're constantly trying to justify your salary and position in the big show.

A former 36th-round draft pick of the Marlins, he bounced around the minors before exploding on the scene in the second half of the 2009 season. He became the first big-league rookie with consecutive 40-hit months and hit .372  after the All-Star break on his way to being named the NL's top rookie.

Blue Jays sign ex-Cubs OF Coghlan, assign him to Bisons

He wasn't able to sustain it. His production steadily declined until 2012, when the Maryland native hit .140 and wound up in the minors. The Marlins let him go after the 2013 season and Coghlan signed with the Cubs. He was promoted from Triple-A Iowa that May and enjoyed two solid seasons with the Cubs as a starter.

But after his strong 2015 season, the Cubs traded him to Oakland for Aaron Brooks, who is still in the minors. Coghlan hit .146 in 51 games last season for the A's, who traded him back to the Cubs for Arismendy Alcantara. It seemed like a gift from above.

"It was," said Coghlan, who was  0 for 7 for the Cubs in the '16 postseason. "Listen, I stunk in Oakland. There's no ifs, ands or buts. It cost me my job. That's the way it is. I went back to Chicago. They believed in me and knew what I could do. It was a great run. I loved it. But because I stunk so bad, I had to take a minor-league deal, and this is where I'm at."

"They don't care how great I was in '14, or how great I was in '15. All they care about is how I was last year. So I've turned the page on last year, and it's about fighting and getting better."

The Cubs felt like a family. But minor-leaguers aspire to leave the family. Everyone is either trying to get to the show for the first time or striving to get back there. Coghlan admitted it can be difficult to reconcile. But he knows it's important to serve as an example. The young guys are watching.

"You've got to learn to be able to separate the two things," Coghlan said. "Listen, this is a selfish game and a team game at the same time. You've got to do you in order to provide for your family. You need to earn your keep.

"You also need to do what it takes to help the team win, whether it's cheerleading on the bench, pinch hitting, running the bases, going first to third, making a diving play or getting two knocks, whatever it is. You have to contribute somehow, some way. So it works hand in hand. How you help the team also helps you individually."

Coghlan, a devout Christian, has a family to take care of now. Two days before Christmas, 2015, he and his wife, Corrie, adopted a son, Judge, through an organization called Lifeline Children's Services. Corrie (a former contestant on the TV series The Bachelor) and Judge are living in Buffalo with Chris.

"They're here," he said. "They're going to go with me on the road. That's good."

If things go well in Buffalo, they'll be living in another country before long -- Toronto. Coghlan has played six positions in the big leagues, everything but shortstop, pitcher and catcher. Versatility matters in the grind of a long season. If necessity demands, he's bound to get the call to the parent club at some point.

A peek at the schedule shows the Blue Jays play an interleague series at Wrigley Field from Aug. 18-20. Wouldn't it be nice if Coghlan was on the big-league roster and got his own Series ceremony? You have to admit, it has a ring to it.

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