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“Wish we'd had him four years ago.”
The Cubs have spent much of the last two years taking things away from us. They took away our favorite pitchers, they traded away the most glorious overbite in backup catcher history, they let our large adult son wander off, they put all of the games on a public access TV network starring an obnoxious Canadian “comedian” who used to pitch for the team, and the TV announcer was so disgusted by it all that he voluntarily took a pay cut to announce games on the radio (which nobody has listened to for like four years—and I’m not even sure comes standard in cars anymore) for the other team in town that nobody really gives a shit about.
But on Friday they made it all up to us by bringing back the 2015 Cy Young Award winner, the winner of two of the four World Series wins for the Cubs in 2016, and the only pitcher in MLB postseason history to throw a shutout with more than ten strikeouts and no walks. That’s right. Jacob Joseph Arrieta is back. So all is forgiven, right?
Jake’s intensity and all around badassedry was missed in the three seasons he spent on sabbatical in Philly, and it will be cool to see him finish up his shirtless yoga on the field, throw on his 49 jersey (provided the team didn’t retroactively retire it in honor of Felix Heredia in Jake’s absence) and stroll out to the mound again.
But there’s a reason that Jake was still a free agent in February and that he signed for $6.5 million for one season. He’s not that good anymore.
At least he hasn’t been. I’m sure the Cubs vaunted pitching infrastructure will turn him around. Wait, what’s the sarcasm font on this thing, I think I forgot to use it there. Anyway…
His ERA+ the last four seasons (his final one with the Cubs in his first go-around and his three years with the Phillies) went from 124 (pretty good) to 104 (just above league average) to 94 (below league average) to 90 (nearly as good as Jose Quintana in 2019 *gulp*). His strikeouts per nine went from 8.7 to 7.2 to 7.3 to 6.5. And his hits allowed per nine went from 8.0 to 8.6 to 9.9 to 10.4.
Nothing he does in his return will take away from the amazing run he had with the Cubs from 2014 through 2017. He was 64-29 with a 2.67 ERA, a mere 552 hits allowed in 751.1 innings pitched (that’s ridiculous in the best possible way) with 756 stikeouts and just 54 homers allowed in 119 starts.
But, unfortunately, it seems unlikely he’s going to be adding to that legacy. As my Remember This Crap podcast co-host Mike Donohue said on the Twitters the other day. This is a long beloved Cubs tradition:
How many times has it “worked?” Well, twice, I guess. Reuschel wasn’t washed up when he returned to the Cubs in 1983 after a couple of seasons with the Yankees, but his career turnaround didn’t start until the year after he left the Cubs a second time and went to Pissburgh. Lieber was a good 40 lbs heavier on his return than he’d been the first go around and the Cubs used him out of the bullpen on Lou Piniella’s 2008 division champs. Lieber pitched once after July 10.
But, Fergie won 14 games in 1982 on a terrible Cubs team (he was used to that) and yes, he lost 15, but he had a 3.15 ERA in 34 starts. He made 29 more starts in 1983 and called it a career.
Greggie was supposed to be the vastly overqualified fifth starter on the 2004 Cubs when he returned from the Barves, but he ended up teaming up with Carlos Zambrano to try to drag the Cubs into the playoffs as Mark Prior and Kerry Wood battled injuries (shocking, I know.) Maddux had a 15 start stretch from July 3 through September 23 where he went 11-4 with a 2.93 ERA. Zambrano was good over that same stretch, but was incredible from September 6 through the 27th when he went 5-0 with a 1.01 ERA in five starts.
As an intrepid reader pointed out, Maddux’s September 28 start against the Reds was a killer. He gave up six runs to the punchless Reds in five innings as the Cubs stumbled and fell down in the final week of the season.
So, is Jake more likely to emulate Fergie and Greg or Reuschel and Lieber? Well, Fergie and Greg have a few things in common. They both wore 31 for the Cubs. They were the first two pitchers in MLB history to retire with more than 3,000 career strikeouts and fewer than 1,000 walks. (Greg finished with 999 and had to pitch to the final 71 batters he ever faced without walking one to stay under 1,000 and, of course he did it.)
And they both did this as Cubs in their returns.
So I guess all that Jake has to do is strike out 1,650 guys now that he’s back and it’ll all work out.
Anyway, it is nice to have Jake back. I just wish he was being brought in as starting pitching depth and not a key addition. But as long as The Garbage Family That Owns The Cubs™ is going to pretend to be poor, this is the kind of stuff that’s going to happen.
Cubs President of Ascots and Perrier, Crane Kenney, made one of his self-serving and contractually obligated visits to The Score’s terrible morning show on Friday where he was presumably there to break the horrible news that the Cubs and The Score have extended their deal for “multiple years.” Apparently they’re on the Ted Phillips, Ryan Pace, Matt Nagy super-secret contract length plan. The horrible news isn’t that the Cubs are on The Score. That’s fine. It’s nice to have them on an AM station with an actual signal (unlike whatever the hell AM 1000 has). The horrible part is that this likely means many more years of Zach Zaidman’s irritating fake laughter from the second row, and even worse, his impossible to follow fifth inning play by play. Then again, I realized that during the pandemic shortened season last year I literally didn’t hear a single inning of a Cubs radio broadcast. So I just need the entire world to be crippled by a frightening, out of control disease and I can miss Zach altogether.
Anyway, during his visit with the bland morning team, Crane revealed that he expected the Cubs were going to add more pitching (the Arrieta news broke later that day) and he said that, “Jed’s been working pretty hard. We talk every day, and we understand that the pitching is a place we need to spend a little more time and a little more money.”
Why in the world would Jed possibly have to talk to Crane every day? Hopefully the daily discussions go like this:
Crane: “Hi Jed!”
Jed: “You guys actually make us money yet?”
Crane: “Hah! That’s a good one.”
Jed: “Fuck off.”
I find it infuriating that Crane has the freedom to say something like, “we understand that pitching is a place we need to spend a little more time and a little more money.”
We? You got a mouse in your pocket?
Isn’t Crane busy enough trying to revisit one of the most embarrassing days in the history of Wrigley Field (a structure that has seen an incredible amount of embarrassment over the last 107 years):
Only Marquee would want to dredge up memories of the time Illinois and Northwestern tried to play football at Wrigley and nobody bothered to check with the Big Ten to see if they were cool with having half of one of the end zones on the wrong side of a brick wall. If you don’t remember (and of course you do, it was hilarious) the game started late because they had to work out a deal where every time the ball changed possession they had to turn the teams around so the offense was trying to score at the properly sized end zone.
When the Cubs cash grab of moving the bullpens under the bleachers was executed they supposedly put in removable seating so they can actually have a full size football field laid out. And, Purdue and Northwestern are going to give it a shot next year!
I hope both schools bring their protractors or whatever, so they can double check the Cubs grounds crew’s math.
The Cubs are supposed to be still looking for a lefty hitting infielder (presumably one to share time with lldemaro Vargas while Nico Hoerner is in Des Moines learning how to hit a thrown ball) and a lefty for the bullpen.
It’s seemed pretty likely to me all along that they’re just going to bring back Jason Kipnis.
As for the lefty reliever, I mean, if all you’re going to do is bring back old Cubs there are really only three possibilities.
Justin Wilson (who is reportedly close to signing with the Yankees)