As new chapter begins, Cubs reflect on Jake Arrieta’s lasting legacy
Thursday morning brought about an unceremonious end to a legendary Cubs career.
The organization decided to part ways with Jake Arrieta, placing the veteran pitcher on unconditional release waivers.
Arrieta started Wednesday night’s game, surrendering 7 runs in the 1st inning and ultimately left with his team down 8-0 in the 4th inning. He has not lasted more than 4 innings in a start since June 25 and over his last 15 outings, the 35-year-old had an 8.95 ERA with 91 hits allowed in 58.1 innings.
After Wednesday night’s game, Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer and manager David Ross informed Arrieta of the team’s decision to move on.
“Obviously he was struggling, not getting deep in starts,” Hoyer said. “We’ve been patient and tried to get through it and hopefully he came out the other side and pitched better but we weren’t there.
“We thought it was the right thing to do for him. If he can catch on somewhere, maybe a change of scenery would help him. For us, it seemed like the right time.”
After three years in Philadelphia, Arrieta returned to the Cubs this spring and all parties were optimistic that the longstanding familiarity could help get the most out of the veteran starter.
The reunion actually got off to a great start in April as Arrieta posted a 3-2 record, 2.57 ERA and 3 quality starts in his first 5 outings.
His struggles began from there and it ultimately got to a point where the Cubs placed him on the injured list in early July with a hamstring strain.
He returned on July 30 but the results still didn’t come the way he or the team had hoped (0-2, 10.50 ERA in 3 starts).
“Early on in the season, his stuff was probably a little bit sharper, it was a little better,” Hoyer said. “Over time this season, things probably tapered back a bit, whether that was some injury issues, whether that was age.
“I think with Jake, he did everything he could to succeed. He’s a really hard worker — worked really hard on all his bullpen sessions. This certainly was not a lack of effort on his part in any way. And obviously it didn’t work out.”
The Cubs did not come to this decision lightly. It’s one thing to cut ties with a player who has spent only a few months with the team but the story of the Chicago Cubs cannot be told without mentioning Jake Arrieta.
His right arm and supreme confidence led to one of the greatest stretches the game has ever seen from a starting pitcher in 2015 and he won a Cy Young Award for his efforts.
He was also a major part of securing the most elusive championship in American sports history, forming a dominant starting rotation with Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks in the 2016 regular season and winning 2 games on the road in Cleveland in the World Series.
“You hate that one on so many levels for me,” Ross said of the moves. “A friend and I’ve got so much to be thankful for that he’s given me. It stinks. I try to forget stuff like last night and looking up at his numbers on the board.
“What he’s done for this organization, how consistent he’s been with the time I was on his team in ‘15 and ‘16 – those are the things I’m holding on to.”
During his dominant run, Arrieta threw a pair of no-hitters, including one with Ross behind the plate in April 2016.
His Cubs career ends with a 73-42 record, 3.14 ERA and 1.10 WHIP (including this season).
As the organization looks to turn the page and begin a new chapter, the Cubs were clear that this season is only a footnote on Arrieta’s lasting legacy.
“Nothing that happened on the mound last night or the other night in any way diminishes his role in club history,” Hoyer said. “When you look back, I think there’s a really good argument to say he’s one of the more influential people in the history of this franchise.
“Other guys probably have longer careers, probably put up some more numbers. But when you look at what the apex of his career was here, you could argue it had as much of an impact on three really good seasons in ‘15, ‘16 and ‘17 and a world championship. You could argue he had as much influence in that or as much to do with that as any single player. Nothing at all this year diminishes what he’s done.
“This guy’s a legend here. Some of my personal fondest memories of ‘15 and ‘16 were both because of his dominance and also the confidence that he gave our group. We talk about what allowed a group of young players to perform the way they did — I think being under the umbrella of his confidence helped that a great deal and we all benefited from that tremendously.”