Before the haters jump on me, let me be clear: I like Jeff Samardzija. I want him to remain a Cub. I hope he signs a long-term deal, pitches up to his potential, and is part of a Chicago Cubs World Series Championship. And no, I don’t hold athletes to a higher standard of conduct than the rest of us. In fact, I hold them to the exact same standard as the rest of us, which is why Jeff Samardzija is pissing me off this week.
By now, it’s well-known the the Cubs offered Jeff Samardzija a long-term deal back in Spring Training. At that time, Samardzija was in no hurry to sign a long-term deal, no doubt counting on a sparkling season to up his value and get a better offer from the Cubs. Reportedly, Samardzija told the Cubs the offer on the table “wasn’t even close” and essentially walked away from negotiations, opting to revisit them at another time. All was well and good.
Samardzija came out of the box red hot this season. I mean really hot. Hot to the point where I felt I could put all those “OMG sooner or later the real Jeff Samardzija is going to show up and we’re going to be screwed” feelings that I’ve been lugging around with me lo these last 5 years away. And he was pitching well. Really well. See?
April: 3.35 / 1.17
May: 2.31 / .091
And then June came along, and he didn’t pitch *quite* as well, but it wasn’t exactly time to hit the panic-button, either.
June: 4.20 /1.48
And then July came, and the pitching started getting a little alarming:
July: 5.28 / 1.57
But through it all, Jeff Samardzija was his usual happy-go-lucky, I-think-I-pitched-great-even-if-I-did-give-up-nine-runs self. In fact, I think one of Samardzija’s greatest talents is that he’s not burdened by a lof of self-doubt or a lot of intellectual curiosity. He always thinks he pitched “pretty well,” even when he gets completely shelled. This is a good thing in a pitcher.
In fact, just two weeks ago, Samardzija had this to say:
PHOENIX — Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija will be arbitration eligible for the second time after the 2013 season. The Cubs have given long-term deals to Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, but considering that the team is still in rebuilding mode, has Samardzija thought about a possible long-term contract?
“I haven’t thought about that too much, to tell you the truth,” Samardzija said Monday. “I haven’t had too many talks with my agent outside of bill paying and insurance paying and taxes, which are always the most fun conversations. We’ll see what happens in the offseason.
But then, August rolled around. Samardzija’s fastball got hit hard, and the month wasn’t off to the greatest of starts. So far this month, Samardzija’s ERA is a whopping 11.57 and his WHIP has jumped up to 2.46. And suddenly, just 15 days later, the lack of a long-term deal is weighing heavily on Jeff Samardzija’s mind:
“To say it doesn’t weigh on you is a lie,’’ Samardzija said after Saturday’s loss. “But I’ve been pretty good about blanking it out, to tell you the truth. I try to go in start to start with the least amount of distractions as possible. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do. There’s still room for improvement.’’
I have a simple solution for a guy who is bothered by the lack of a long-term deal: SIGN ONE.
The Cubs have offered Samardzija a long-term deal at least twice this season, once in Spring Training and once since then. I’ve been told that the deal the Cubs offered Jeff was “generous” and “more than fair.” At that time, Samardzija was in no hurry to sign a long-term deal, no doubt thinking his value would go up as the season progressed. Instead, the high point of his season seems to have happened back in May, and it’s been downhill ever since.
It’s not Samardzija hasn’t pitched well this season, he has. And I don’t doubt that the status of his future keeps him up at night. But there was a simple solution to that problem: Head back to the table and negotiate a long-term deal with the Cubs, something that Jeff Samardzija has yet to do.
Samardzija is the one who chose to defer signing a long-term deal to a later date. He is also the one who chose to gamble on his performance in 2013 and lost . It’s immature and unfair of him to start whining now about how the lack of a deal is affecting his pitching, particularly when he’s the one who decided not to seriously negotiate and get a deal done back in Spring Training.
I hope Samardzija is able to make adjustments to get back to where he was in April and May. I hope hes signs a long-term deal and can stop worrying about it. Hell. I hope he goes on to win the bloody Cy Young Award. But until that time comes, Jeff Samardzija should shut up and pitch.