Do Chicago Fans Have A Problem With Greatness?

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?

Filed under: Uncategorized


Leave a comment
  • I have no problem saying his 4.5 years was one of the better runs by any Cub all time. The challenge I have is some people are out there claiming he was the Best Cub of all time or there was one where people said that he better than Sandberg.

    I think it is a great contextual discussion given the history of the Cubs. But, in my opinion, a WS win shouldn’t over-inflate his value. He was extremely good. He had a run like no one else had from late 2014 - early 2016. His 2015 2nd half was historic. He was a great Cub for his tenure.

    In a way, I am also happy that the Cubs didn’t ride him all the way to his sunset so our memories of him will be his peak.

  • In reply to Gator:

    I agree that his run was too short to be considered one of the all time greats

  • Jake did not have much personality other than a “steel eyed I’m gonna kick your ass arrogance” to him. Comparing Jake to Ross is apples and oranges, Sam. Jake will be revered for his utter dominance and run on the hill that puts him in the Maddux stratosphere for those 1 1/2 to 2 years. Ross is grandpa and everyone loves grandpa. Not because of performance, but just being a good guy and teammate.

    I also think Jake did no favors when he claimed there would “be no hometown discount” in his contract negotiations. Fans of any team do not like to hear that talk. He would have been better off keeping that to himself.

    Jake will always be a central piece on the World Champion Cubs of ‘16. He is perhaps Sutcliffe more than Sandberg to the fans of the 80’s Cubs team.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Ross is one of the most over rated Cubs ever.
    No player should take a hometown discount. They are professional athletes trying to get paid the most for their short run in pro sports.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    How, exactly, is Ross "over rated?" Because people like him?

    Players take hometown discounts for all sorts of reasons. Maybe their families don't want to move or change schools. Maybe they are active in local charities. Signing for less money in exchange for staying put isn't always a bad thing.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Players almost always sign the most money.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Augie Ojeda disagrees

  • I wonder what "Chicago fans" need to do in order to express enough adoration for Jake to suit Mr. Fels? A statue outside Wrigley? A mayoral proclamation, complete with a paid day off for all city employees? Annual "Jakefest" at "Jake Pier?" People could fly in for the festival through "Ohare-Arrieta Field." Reverse the digits to change Interstate 94 to 49? Heck, let's just name the whole length of it "the Jake." All of it.

    Seriously - this is an issue?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    That wasn't at all what I gathered from this article. I believe that the majority of Chicago fans will simply wish him the best and that will be the end of it.

  • In reply to rickmonday:

    According to the article, "wishing him the best" isn't nearly good enough. Chicago fans seem to like David Ross better than they do Jake. It's all just so unfair...

  • I root for the laundry.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Interesting. I consider myself an MLB fan first and a Cubs fan second (and a Red Sox fan third but that's a different discussion). If I like a player I like him no matter who's uniform he's in unless he's a Cardinal and even then I make an exception for Dexter Fowler. Jon Lester and Jose Quintana had been favorites of mine for years before they were ever Cubs. I'll watch Jake with interest this year both because I like watching him pitch when he's right (I still think he'll decline fairly quickly) and I've really invested myself into that Phillies rebuild.

  • In reply to TC154:

    It’s probably a little harsh to say I don’t root for the player. I really liked Jake. Last night I watched the video the Cubs released three times and loved reliving those moments. But this year I’ll root for Yu and against Jake, simply because of the uniforms. And if the Cubs suddenly traded Bryant for Arenado i’d root for Arenando.

  • Ah, I'll always appreciate Jake, and yes far more than David Ross. I think in the annals of Cubs history he will be thought of as the modern day Rick Sutcliffe, but with jewelry. As far as your overall all point, Sam, I think Chicago is a town that loves scrappy little overachievers sometimes, but not always, more than incredibly gifted stars. I'm not sure why, nor would I speculate but it is what it is.

  • Much like Dexter Fowler, and in some ways Starlin Castro, I want Jake to find success with his new team. Jake was a Cub and a force of nature in two of the most exciting seasons we have ever had.

    I'll cheer him on any time he plays - and will wish him success and health. The exception being - I want him to play well against the Cubs, but lose anyway more often than not.

  • Sam, you got this right. Cubs fans love their mascots. Ross was a mascot just like Augie Ojeda or Mick Kellaher. Good players can also be mascots, as Anthony Rizzo was preceded by Mark Grace, Ryne Sandberg, Ron Santo, Ernie Banks, etc.

    Arrieta belongs in the appreciated but not embraced category that includes players like Shawon Dunston, Lee Smith, Bruce Sutter, Rick Monday, Bill Madlock, and so on.

  • In reply to Tom U:

    Tom, you have explained the situation very nicely, here. There are mascots and there are players who are appreciated, even if not clutched to their collective bosoms. Jake was not taken into their hearts but boy, was he exciting to watch. And, for awhile, he was just magical. Those kinds of occurrences need to be treasured because they come along rarely.

    Watching Michael Jordan play all those years distorted my judgement about just how rare that kind of dominance truly is in sports.

  • I personally think Arrieta is being nicely and appropriately remembered throughout town, but the author is right, more Cubs fans are getting more clinical in evaluating players. Not completely so, as all the calls for Baez and Schwarber to be untouchables show, but I find the trend refreshing..

    Yes, Arrieta's biggest fans are over the top about Arrieta's place in Cubs history. Where does he rank? Well, the indisputable facts are 1.) the Cubs got his peak years, 2.) his key overall achievements were one exceptional Cy Young season, and being the third best starter on a very good championship pitching staff in 2016, and 3.) last, he certainly had the most dominant half season of pitching in Cubs history. (Though in recent ML history, I remain partial to Orel Hersheiser's 1988 second half in which his he threw nearly 20 more innings and finished the season with 59 consecutive scoreless innings -- including 10 innings of shutout ball in his final start. But a debate for a different day)

    In terms of fairly evaluating Arrieta entire 4.5 year Cubs career, three Cubs pitchers come most to mind: Greg Maddux, Rick Sutcliffe and Fergie Jenkins. (Sorry Kerry Wood fans. He pitched the single best game in Cubs history but never earned a single Cy Young vote.)

    Like Arrieta, Sutcliffe was acquired mid-year, and his first 4.5 years with the Cubs also coincided with his peak. Sutcliffe netted a Cy Young in 1994 while dominating with an FIP just about equal to Arrieta's 2015 FIP (2.28 to 2.26). Sutcliffe was also Cy Young runner-up in 1987, posting a WAR higher than in any of Arrieta's non-Cy Young seasons. If not for a Leon Durham playoff error, Sutcliffe's 1984 Cubs might have included a title, but in the end, Arrieta's time with the Cubs did include a title, I think that is a major tie breaker in his favor.

    Another Cubs Cy Young winner was of course Greg Maddux, who won his first award just before leaving the Cubs and entering his true peak years with Atlanta. That said, Maddux's best two seasons (1987 and 1992) probably eclipse Arrieta's two best combined. And the stats are split on ranking their Cy Young seasons with Maddux achieving a higher WAR and Arrieta having an FIP advantage. But since Maddux's first six seasons with the Cubs included some growing pains (akin to Arrieta's Orioles years), overall give the nod to Arrieta.

    But for my money, nothing compares with Fergie Jenkins 6 consecutive 20-win seasons with the Cubs from 1967 to 1972. In this stretch, Jenkins finished in the Top 3 of Cy Young voting four times, with one Cy Young win. Like with Maddux, Jenkins earned significantly more WAR points (10.2 to Arrieta's 8.7), and Jenkins six-year combined WAR of 41.9 WAR is more than double Arrieta's 19.9 over 4.5 seasons.

  • The Cubs have never had a pitcher as filthy as Jake was for a time. It was quite a run. I think Tom U has a point, that sometimes a player does not get the fan love that his performance would deserve. Some players just have a way of connecting with fans, while others are all business.

  • I was able to catch some of the Phillies broadcast today. One thing they really respected about Jake was his 2017 2nd half. He figured out how to battle for wins with what he had. He wants to & they want him to be a mentor for the younger pitchers very similar in role to how Lester was brought in to solidify & mentor.

    That to me is a great testament to his character. I do not need nor like too much the guys who need to be vocal leaders. Jake was never that Rah Rah Guy. But his intelligence when doing his bimonthly hits on the Score & his honest post game pressers showed his grit.

    The Cubs & is fans got to enjoy peak-Jake. That was the treat.

  • Jake left us Cubs Fans a classy, handwritten note, thanking everyone. From the City of Chicago, Wrigleyville, Team, and us Fans. I'll miss Jake, but welcome Yu Darvish. When Lester hangs up his cleats, us Fans will miss him, but move on. I've been a Cubs Fan for 55 years. Seen hundreds of players that donned the pinstripes, were treated like Kings, get traded, and then they're Bums. Altho Santo, Jenkins, Fowler, are still held in my high regard. What's everyone think about Kosuke Fukudome? Or the Reuschel Brothers? Why is Jody Davis given a standing ovation? Christ I can still hear Harry singing that goofy song. Dave Kingman? Ron Cey? Move on Cub Fans. The next best player could be Adbert Azolay!

  • Sorry. I don't get it. Jake got plenty of fan love. More than enough. All he as due. And plenty. He was totally appreciated and celebrated. Never felt he was under appreciated. This parsing of perceived general attitudes is clearly the product of stretching to write about something, anything, while we wait for the start of games that count.

    Jake was the man. So many great, forever memorable, moments. And much loved. Period.

  • fb_avatar

    Am I in the minority? Contributions matter, but are not the end all be all, but I def liked Jake way more then Ross.

Leave a comment