(skip to the last paragraph for the emotional part)
In 2013 the Cubs traded two of the many names we say and chuckle at to Baltimore for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. I didn’t even know it happened. The Cubs were so unbelievably bad (tank szn) that there wasn’t much point in watching them – kind of like the Bulls now. They were so terrible that following them just hurt. Arrieta at the time had putrid numbers. Maybe he needed a “change of scenery”, they said. In 9 starts with the Cubs that season he went 4-2 with an ERA of 3.66
Fast forward to next season, where Arrieta didn’t start until May 3. He finished the season with a 2.53 ERA in 25 starts and pitched the second-most innings on the team. You may remember the 2014 season as the last time the Cubs were bad. He took a no-hitter into at least the 7th inning three times, once in Boston and twice against the Reds. He even finished 9th in Cy Young voting. It was clear that Jake was gonna be pretty good in Chicago, but there was someone who was skeptical:
Yup, that’s yours truly in an article for the blog we had to do for journalism class senior year. So what did he do in 2015? He went out and fuckin pitched. I actually went to his first start of the season (shoutout Jathon) which was their first win of the year. Jesus it was cold as shit that day. I went to the last game before the all star break vs. the White Sox in which Jake threw a complete game and hit a yabo (shoutout Sklar). That first half of the season was pretty good for Jake – 2.66 ERA in 18 starts, and if I remember correctly he was leading the National League in wins at the break – but was snubbed from the all-star game. It wasn’t super controversial, but it probably lit a fire inside of Jake, who then went on to do things that nobody had ever done and nobody will probably ever do again. This dude allowed 9 runs in 15 starts. He had an ERA of 0.75. That’s insane. He finished 2015 with a 1.77 ERA (which didn’t even lead the league, Zack Greinke went nuts), an MLB-leading 22 wins, a no-hitter in Los Angeles, and one Cy Young Award. And we all know what he did in Pittsburgh in the Wild Card game. That was fruitful.
In 2016 Jake obviously wasn’t as good because it would’ve been impossible to duplicate what he did the previous season. But he was still pretty freakin good – he was 13th in the majors in ERA and was an all-star for the first time. We’ll remember his 2016 most for his playoff heroics – his dong off of Bumgarner in San Francisco and then two ballsy wins in Cleveland in the Fall Classic – and for helping his team end the longest drought in sports history. Oh yeah, he threw another no-hitter too (against the Reds, because of course).
Then the World Series hangover happened, and before the all-star break, Jake, along with most of the other players on the whole damn team, stunk. But he turned it around after the break, like the rest of the team, and had a 2.28 ERA the second half. And as we knew he was probably leaving us after the season, his last two starts in October were so much more magnified. I remember when I listened to Pat Hughes make the call of Jake walking off the mound as a Cub for the final time in Game 4 of the NLCS (I was listening because I literally could not watch) I was tearing up a bit. And this is why.
Jake Arrieta did way more for the Cubs, us as Cubs fans, and the city of Chicago than anyone could have thought. For a few months Jake was an unhittable force who hit more home runs than he gave up. He was larger than life; a stonewall of a man who would get plunked, be in the middle of a brawl, and steal second on you. Without him there is no screaming “he threw a no hitter!!!” in Forest A1001, not once but twice. Without him there would be no NLDS against the Cardinals. Without him there is no game 7 in the World Series (although Addy kinda did that himself). Without him there is no Grant Park. Without him there is no three straight NLCS appearances. Without him, there would be nothing. Jake Arrieta gave us everything he had for four and a half seasons, and we are forever in debt to his greatness and what he did for us – a Chicago legend forever.
From the bottom of my heart and the hearts of Cubs fans everywhere – thank you, Jake.