Jeff Samardzija, the ace of the Chicago Cubs pitching staff, finally earned his first victory of the year on Memorial Day, 8-4 over the San Francisco Giants. It may prove to be the biggest win of the year for the last place Cubs.
The hardest luck hurler in MLB thus far this season—sans the poor fellows who’ve had to hang up their gloves in exchange for rubber devices used for rehab from Tommy John surgery, the longhaired righty has definitely pitched well enough to have won nearly all of his starts.
It’s been his pinstriped pals who’ve let him down, whether from the bullpen or with the bat. Both have contributed to Samardzija’s 0-4 personal record in his first 10 starts from the bump in 2014.
Samardzija has clearly been on his game from the get go. His ERA is the second lowest in the majors among starters at 1.68 and his WHIP is just over one at 1.07. He continues to be a consistent strikeout pitcher averaging nearly one per inning. So what’s been the problem?
If you believe in Billy Goats and Steve Bartman, you may have to simply point your finger at the smiling little face on the sleeves of one of baseball’s most beloved franchises—the Cubs.
When the Cubs selected Samardzija out of Notre Dame in the 5th round back in 2006, I thought surely the guy would still end up going to the NFL. Notre Dame was a football school for Pete’s sake and Samardzija had set records there. Him and Touchdown Jesus were tight. No way he would pass on the bright lights of the shield for rookie ball in the Cubs organization.
But that’s exactly what he did. I though we’d seen the last of Jeff Samardzija.
One must give credit where credit is due however. The Indiana native had a couple of good seasons pitching for the Fighting Irish, but that was not a true preparation for what he would be facing in MLB. Yet, he has learned on the fly.
Samardzija’s stat line has improved throughout. He has continued to be stingy in the run department and has developed off-speed and breaking ball pitches to go with his big arm. The only area he has not improved in is wins. And that, my friends has not been entirely his fault.
The Cubs, with what, their … one-millionth manager in the last 20 years are perpetually stuck in rebuilding mode. Boston magic man Theo Epstein has yet to prove his touch in the windy city, but we all know it takes time.
Mr. Epstein, however, might be in position finally to prove that magic for the Cubs.
By dealing his ace to a contender now for a trio of young prospects on the cusp of making some MLB noise.
Samardzija’s worth may never be higher than it is now. Despite the sub-par win-loss record, everything else is top shelf.
I will direct you back in baseball history when the Cubs had a young pitcher on his way to Hall of Fame status named Greg Maddux, but could not win with him.
Despite Maddux winning the Cy Young with a 20-11 record in 1992 for Chicago, he left the fourth place Cubs as a free agent for the Atlanta Braves where he won three more Cy Young’s and was a post season regular for a decade.
The Cubs shouldn’t take the risk again, because unless things dramatically turn around in the NL Central, Samardzija will leave for greener pastures as well.
So Monday’s big win for Samardzija comes as collective relief for both he and his team. They can either build on it and improve around him or let him go and improve without him. How can the Cub’s lose on this one?