There are very few players in the long history of the Chicago Cubs more revered than Jake Arrieta. His 2015 season was the stuff of legends, going the second half of the season without a loss, including a no-hitter. He then took on the entire city of Pittsburgh prior to throwing a complete game shutout in the Wild Card game. Then in 2016, he was still good, but he was great when they needed him. Twice in the World Series, the Cubs absolutely needed a win when the ball was in his shoe, and both times he went out and dominated Cleveland. He was also warming up when the final out was made, and there’s no doubt that he would have come in had Michael Martinez not hit the bouncer to Kris Bryant.
2017 saw him start losing velocity, and the Cubs made the decision to thank him for his services, and bring in Yu Darvish. Now the Cubs have thanked Darvish for his services, and have brought Arrieta back.
2020 saw Jake get some of his velocity back, but it was a pretty small sample size of a season that ended for him with a hamstring injury.
Think of it this way – imagine you’re a big fan of the Beach Boys. You listen to their albums (let’s be real, you stream them on Spotify), you know them and love them. You see they’re coming to town, and you think, “I haven’t seen them in years, maybe it’ll be fun”.
You get to the gig, and you see Mike Love hitting on women young enough to be his granddaughters while his kids sing off key, and for some reason known only to God, John Stamos is there. You’re wondering what the hell you’ve gotten yourself into before they break into “Kokomo”*
You later find out that Brian Wilson is touring and his show is a transcendant experience, where maybe they play the entire “Pet Sounds” album, or pull out some deep cuts that you might have forgotten about, but they rock. You go and remember why you loved the Beach Boys in the first place.
So this is where we are with Jake. Can a 34 year old pitcher recapture the magic? You know once he puts pen to paper, his first stop will be the Pitch Lab, and they’ll take a look at his mechanics and see what they can do about getting him a little extra velocity and spin.
We can get into where he slots into the rotation, sure. Right now a healthy Arrieta can slide in between Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies so the opposing team gets different look each game of a series. Add in Adbert Alzolay and Trevor Williams, and there’s your five starters, with Alec Mills ready for spot duty.
But for today, let’s be happy for the chance of a little recaptured glory. And kudos to everyone who bought an Arrieta jersey at the end of 2017 off the discount rack.
Now all that remains is seeing whether the song we’ll hear will be “Kokomo” or “Good Vibrations”.
*”Kokomo” has been found in clinical studies to be the worst song ever written, performed, or composed.