It’s Not Goodbye, It’s See You Later

No matter where free agency takes him, Jake Arrieta should always be appreciated by the fan base for the things he has been able to accomplish.

Whether you like it or not or can’t admit it to yourself, game 4 against the Dodgers may have very well been the last start of Jake Arrieta’s career with the Cubs. Now, this isn’t to say that the Cubs won’t re-sign him but all indications so far indicate his departure in free agency. As tough as it would be to see Jake leave town for big money, Cub fans need to appreciate the entire body of work from Jake Arrieta.

We’re talking about a guy that wasn’t getting it done with the Baltimore Orioles and had been demoted to the minor leagues. The Orioles had given up on him with his cross fire delivery so they traded him to the Cubs in what might be the most lopsided trade in Cubs history. Scott Feldman to the Orioles in exchange for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. Looking back 4 years later you can’t help but laugh.

Still, when Arrieta came to Chicago, he was a guy with tons of upside but a very minimal amount of success and it looked like the Cubs were, as thy saying goes, “taking a flyer” on Arrieta. Chris Bosio began working with him to get him back to the cross fire delivery that got him to the big leagues. Jake absolutely took off from there. The Cubs were at the worst point of the rebuild at the time so he was given the opportunity to pitch every 5 days in the big leagues and ended the 2013 season with a solid 3.66 ERA in 9 starts. Small sample size but a positive showing for the front office.

Arrieta would follow up that season with a 2.53 ERA and won 10 games in his first full season with the Cubs and took a few games into the 8th inning without allowing a hit. It seemed like the Cubs finally found a starting pitcher that could potentially be a top of the rotation type guy but what we saw next couldn’t ever be imagined.

Starting in 2015, the Cubs had started to gain some expectations with the acquisitions of Jon Lester and Miguel Montero with the inevitable callup of Kris Bryant. The Cubs got off to a solid start in 2015 and found themselves in a playoff spot at the All-Star break. Going into the break, Arrieta was an All-Star snub but coming out of the break, he was the best pitcher in baseball. He pitched to a 0.76 ERA in over 107 innings. It is the lowest ERA in the second half of the season in major league history. He would finish the season 22–6 with a 1.77 ERA.

Every time out, he seemed to just be on his game. You’d look up and he’d have 8 strikeouts and be starting the 7th or 8th inning. It was the most historic second half in the history of the game and it propelled the Cubs to a 97 win season in which they grabbed the 2nd Wild Card spot and eventually landed him with the Cy Young award. This was the coming out party for Jake Arrieta. He pitched a complete game shutout and put the Cubs on his back to the NLDS.

It was a point in time where the Cubs needed an ace and somebody to lean on and Arrieta put the boys on his back and said let’s ride. Which leads us to this point. What would the Cubs be without Jake Arrieta? Without that historic run, would the Cubs even resemble the team they are today? I’d make the argument that they probably wouldn’t be and here’s why.

Without that dominance from Arrieta, the Cubs might not make it out of the wild card game. Let’s not forget, the Pirates were a tremendous team that year too. A couple hits here and there and cubs history could’ve been changed forever. If they don’t make it out of that game, then we don’t have that epic series against the cardinals in which seemed to be the changing of the guard. You don’t get that sweep by the Mets in the NLCS. All the experience they gained that helped propel them to the top in 2016 might have never even happened.

It’s tough to speculate what could have happened as the Cubs were the best team in all of baseball last year and could’ve won it all anyway but the question is still relevant. Speaking of winning it all, Jake Arrieta won both of his starts in the World Series, taking a no hitter into the 6th in the game 6 win that sent the series to the decisive game 7.

This guy has been an absolute horse at a time where we needed him to be. One thing is certain and that is that the Chicago Cubs would not be who they are today, the defending World Series champions, without Jake Arrieta. In similar ways to Joe Maddon and Theo Epstein, Jake Arrieta changed the complexion of the Cubs and helped mold them into what they are today: winners.

So before we get upset that Jake is leaving the Cubs for more money or that the Cubs were maybe unwilling to give him the money or just the fact that he’s gone, appreciate what Jake Arrieta did for this franchise. Appreciate that we were able to watch a budding prospect flourish into a star and an ace. Appreciate that the things that Arrieta did while he was here are not normal to even some of the best in the game. Appreciate that Jake Arrieta was one of the foundation pieces that broke the curse and ended our World Series drought. Appreciate that Jake Arrieta helped us get to a Game 5 with his gutsy performance tonight. All-Star, silver slugger, 4X player of the week, 4X player of the month, Cy Young award, and World Series champion. Don’t be sad that it’s over, be happy that it happened.

Stephen Sciaraffa is currently a student at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. Born in Chicago, Stephen spends his free time following the Cubs and taking in games at beautiful Wrigley Field with his dad. You can add him on twitter here.