It finally happened. With news dripping out of Cubs camp at a pace that would insult the word "glacial," we're turning toward other camps and former players. Jake Arrieta finally got his deal, and it was in Philadelphia. Which a lot of people figured would happen, just sooner.
I'm not sure I expected a huge outpouring when Arrieta officially signed. We'd already said our goodbyes. We knew this was coming after the season, as the winter meetings, and then really when Yu Darvish signed. The rotation was filled, the Cubs made it clear they were moving on. And yet I can't help but wonder where Arrieta will fit in the memories of Cubs fans.
There were the Twitter tributes of course last night. Most blogs have done their bit early on in the winter. And yet I wonder. Have Cubs fans become as steely-eyed as their front office? Is it fatigue? Because we knew Jake was a goner pretty much before last season started. Either he was going to recapture something of his '15 season and be far too expensive. Or he'd decline, as he did, and really not be worth it for the Cubs. So we'd been saying goodbye for months before we actually had to.
I think it's also the crash. I've written about the sheer power and feeling of watching Arrieta in '14 and '15. The supernatural aspect, the feeling of utter confidence in the fanbase on that day. #ArrietaDay became a holiday around here. That day, no matter what else you had to do, you were sure you were going to see something special that night or that afternoon. Something better than any Cubs pitcher had produced in a very long time. Probably going back to Prior.
And then in the middle of '16, it kind of just went away. Not totally, but it was no longer a sure thing. It was no longer special. It was no longer A HAPPENING. That's a crash. And it never really got back there. So though we say goodbye to a player, we said goodbye to that emotion and feeling a while ago.
There's tenure as well, but that hasn't mattered. This is a fanbase that reveres David Ross, and all David Ross is is a normal, career back-up who just happened to be a nice guy. There's nothing remarkable about his story. His story is carried by dozens of other backup catchers, and yet he's the pope around here or something. Arrieta's story is actually way better than Ross's, because he was the failed NEXT BIG THING in Baltimore and then found it. There's more "overcoming" and "surprise" in that story than Ross's, who basically managed like one homer that mattered.
David DeJesus got a standing ovation when he returned and he played for a really bad team for one year. Huh?
I can't help but think of Derrek Lee. While Rizzo has or certainly will pass him, Lee is just about the greatest first-baseman the Cubs have had since Ernie Banks, and that's if you don't consider Banks a shortstop. Don't even start with Mark Grace, ok?
Lee had two incredible seasons, 2005 and 2009. Sadly, they both came for two mediocre Cubs teams, but that wasn't his fault. He had two other seasons of a wRC+ of 120 or more. And he was a genuinely stand-up and good guy. Shouldn't he be as loved as Ross? And yet you never hear that. Lee should get a standing ovation every time he's in the park. Does he?
Arrieta will get his when he returns, I'm sure. I just wonder after that. Chicago fans in all sports have always looked side-eyed at players who cash in big-time, whether here or leaving here to do so. I think it's still some misguided attempt to hold onto some false and silly blue-collar persona that quite frankly has been b******t for years.
For two and a half seasons, there was no better Cub, and no one came close for that long. And he has two wins in a World Series, which no Cub can say. Isn't that way more than David Ross?
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