Jul 8, 2021 6 min read

Cubs need to make a move with Jake Arrieta they don't want to make

Cubs need to make a move with Jake Arrieta they don't want to make

The franchise legend is on the 10-day IL with hamstring tightness. Will the Cubs ever make the tough but obvious decision?

Good morning, frents!

Well, the Cubs' 11-game losing streak is finally over and I imagine much of the team feels like the late Jim Frey did after snapping a 13-game slump back in 1985.

"It was like having a baby," Frey said at the time. "We've been in labor for more than two weeks and we finally gave birth today. I hope we have the brother tomorrow."   — K.K.

Wednesday's results
Sox 6, Twins 1
Cubs 8, Phillies 3
Fire 3, Orlando 1

Today's schedule
Phillies at Cubs (7:05, Marquee)
Sox off

Jake Arrieta and the reality of 2021

A heroic figure in Cubs history, Jake Arrieta walked that narrow line that so many professional athletes do late in their career. After his most recent disappointing outing with the Cubs on Tuesday night, Arrieta wanted to sound like a player who believed in himself.

Instead, he came off like a guy who doesn't know when to quit.

After getting hammered by the Phillies for seven runs, a big reason why the Cubs dropped their 11th straight game, Arrieta's ERA rose to 6.30 in 17 starts. The Cubs have won only once in his past eight appearances, and he has a 9.67 ERA in that span.

When confronted by a reporter in a video interview asking if he is considering hanging up the spikes and calling it a career, Arrieta resolutely said he was not.

"No, not even close," Arrieta said. "This sucks, really it does. I'm gonna continue to work and do whatever needs to be done. The stuff is too good, I still have a lot left in the tank — there's no question about that. The stuff still plays. The execution's not there and hasn't been for a while.

"I've been in worse situations than this."

If that's true, Arrieta got through them to become, for a time with the Cubs in a past stint, the best pitcher in Major League Baseball.

And even when he wasn't quite that at the end of 2016, he still was good enough to help the Cubs win their first World Series in 108 years.

On Wednesday, in a transaction that smacks of calling "time out," the Cubs put him on the injured list because of "tightness in the right hamstring."

So that's where the pride gland is located.

If Arrieta is in denial, Cubs manager and former teammate David Ross was somewhere between bargaining and depression.

"I've seen too many good outings to believe that this version of him — and maybe that's me being naive — I know that there's more in there," Ross said. "The gun says pretty good numbers. This guy's meant so much to the franchise (and) to me personally that it's a hard thing to wrap my brain around."

Does the gun really say "pretty good numbers"? Perhaps their gun runs a little hot, because the data from Statcast says Arrieta has lost about 4 mph on his sinker since he won the Cy Young in 2015, and three inches of vertical movement on his curve in that time. Maybe those aren't the worst drops ever, but Arrieta certainly isn't compensating for them. His poor results have been going on longer than half a season.

Since late in the 2018 season, over his past 60 starts and 307 2/3 innings for the Cubs and Phillies, Arrieta has posted a 5.24 ERA. Unless the Cubs break out all of the lumber and start scoring more than any team in the majors, that's not going to win them any games. The Cubs knew they weren't getting Cy Arrieta when he signed in the offseason, but they were hoping that he could make another positive pivot in his career, like he did when he came to the North Side eight years ago this month.

Some problems with that: Arrieta just turned 35 years old, and former pitching coach Chris Bosio isn't coming through that door again. Arrieta has put a lot of miles on his arm, nearly 1,600 innings since he debuted in 2010 with the Orioles, and he just can't command his pitches like he used to. Arrieta worked very hard to become an All-Star, but his stuff isn't that good anymore.

Not that he buys it.

"I know where my stuff ranks in the game," Arrieta said. "I watch a lot of baseball. It's still there. It is."

O ye of too much faith. So what's wrong, Rossy? Maybe "the gun" is hot, but the other measurables ain't so warm.

"I don't know," Ross said. "I can't put my finger on it. There's a lot of hard contact. Looks like the shape of the secondary stuff is not there. The command doesn't seem to be consistent. If we knew (how), we'd try to fix that."

They put Arrieta in dry dock with this hamstring injury, but even that is problematic. Arrieta says his work between starts in the bullpen has been good, that it's always good. It's those pesky games.

"It's not like you figure out some magical solution," Arrieta said. "I have all the tools, I know what needs to be done."

At this point in his career, he might be a few wrenches short of a full set. Kind of like the big picture for the team. Arrieta's personal slump has hampered the Cubs, but it's more coincided with their other problems. He's not the only one at fault for the Cubs falling under .500 — not even close, as Arrieta would put it.

Their losing streak ended Wednesday night but they're still 8 1/2 games back of the Brewers and 7 1/2 back in the NL Wild Card. Remember when you could count on the Wild Card to overcome your lack of ability to shine in a mediocre division? Well, thanks to the NL West, that's not possible this season.

Arrieta is being paid $4 million this season and has either a club option for $10 million or a $2 million buyout in 2022. There's almost no way the Cubs don't pay for Arrieta to go away after this season ends. It's just a matter of how soon we know for sure.

It's hard for a lot of Cubs fans to watch Arrieta struggle. It's not all that different than how he came into the majors, as an underachiever. He (and the Cubs) made himself great. Arrieta had a great middle of his career. The peakiest peak. He got paid a lot of money by the Phillies. He hoped to have a few more good times with the Cubs, with whom he had the best of times a half-decade back. But the good times have rolled on without them.

Now it's down to maybe a few more starts after his hamstring heals, cough-cough. If he can't get better results, Ross is going to have to get his head around telling his friend and player to get on with his life somewhere else.

Arrieta unintentionally told us how this is going to end.

Referring to the Cubs turning around their season in the second half, Arrieta said: "There's no storybook ending that's just magically going to be written."

He meant that the Cubs wouldn't be able to will themselves into having a better record, or speaking it into existence. It would take more work and a lot more execution.

"Whatever needs to be done will get done," Arrieta said.

Are you ready to do what needs to be done, Rossy?

News and results

Sox 6, Twins 1:  Like clockwork

Tim Anderson went 4-for-4, Lance Lynn pitched six innings of one-run ball and Leury Garcia had himself a day, coming one double short of a cycle.

  • How much have the Sox dominated the Twins this season? They still have seven games remaining this season, but have already clinched a season series win with a 10-2 record.
  • Cleveland was swept by Tampa Bay on Wednesday,  including falling victim to a combined no-hitter over seven innings. They're eight back of the Sox.
  • Bad news for Yasmani Grandal: Surgery was needed to fix his tendon after all. While the team believes he can still return in 2021, that 4-6 week timeline will likely be extended.

Next: Sox get a day off in Baltimore before a three-game series against the O's to close out the first half.

Bears announce training camp schedule

The team reports July 27 with the first practice the next day. Around 1,000 fans can attend each day through a lottery held on the Bears' website.

Fire 3, Orlando 1

That's two in a row for the Fire, who got their first goal from Robert Beric since opening weekend. The team currently ranks 11th out of 14 teams in the Eastern Conference with a 3-7-2 record.

  1. Everything we thought we knew about Justin Fields and his second reads was apparently wrong. NBC Sports Chicago
  2. Kahleah Copper's long journey from Philadelphia to becoming an All-Star with the Sky this season. Philly Inquirer
  3. At least one sportsbook has the Hawks and Seattle Kraken with the same 100-1 odds for next year's Cup. A reminder that the Kraken do not have any players yet. Twitter
  4. Imagine thinking that a search for America's best pizza city was actually needed and then deciding that America's best pizza city is Portland. Bloomberg
  5. That said, I would like to go to this tavern-style pizza place in Portland. Eater Portland

Thank you for reading today's issue of Midway Minute!
Did someone forward you this email? Sign up here
Support Midway Minute: Become a member or leave a tip
Want a free coffee mug?: Recommend this newsletter to some friends
Have a link, story idea or want to advertise? Email KevinT

Join the conversation

Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to Midway Minute.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
You've successfully subscribed to Midway Minute.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Success! Your billing info has been updated.
Your billing was not updated.