Jeff Samardzija’s time with the Cubs has been a weird ride to say the least, and despite all the losing and setbacks and trade rumors, the weirdness had only peaked with the pitcher’s start to the 2014 season — a historical run in both good and bad ways.
The good can be all attributed to the proclaimed “Shark,” who has grown fully into an ace hurler this year, throwing consistently well and doing the kind of things (and more) from the mound that most major league teams need to win every time he’s on the field.
Problem is, Samardzija doesn’t pitch for most major league teams, he pitches for the Cubs, for the time being at least.
Pitching for the Cubs means that despite giving up the fewest runs on average in MLB that Samardzija would still go win less in his first 10 games, compiling an 0-4 record in that stretch.
That changed Monday with an 8-4 victory at San Francisco, only the team with the best record in the Majors. Shark even helped take matters into his own hands offensively, knocking in a run off a double in the fourth inning and scoring off a later hit.
Of course, on the mound, Samardzija was his same ol’ dominant self, striking out 10 and going seven full innings, providing the kind of quality start that his bullpen has so deftly fumbled away throughout the last 16 outings he’s had.
The Chicago Sun-Times led off their reporting of Monday’s win by recounting that the celebratory beer shower Samardzija received yesterday was his first since the Cubs clinched their division in 2008 in his rookie year.
The development since that heady time of positive belief in the club’s future has trended so far down while their main pitching talent has kept rising, to the point that many believe his next beer shower will be elsewhere, maybe New York, maybe Toronto, maybe those same Giants he took down have something to offer the eternal rebuilding plans on the North Side or maybe they can make Chicago’s entire summer and kindly hand him to their cousins down further on the Red Line at 35th Street.
Or maybe the Cubs can just keep him, cause there really isn’t any talent — not on the top level, not even one of the many heralded prospects on the lower levels — who is messing with him, not now and not for the next couple years at least.
Don’t Greg Maddux this guy and send him down the road of not having a logo on his Hall of Fame cap. Everything Shark has offered in public has belied any belief that he may be dissatisfied with the Cubs and their future direction. Yes, it sucks to see such a talent playing meaningless baseball, and it’ll be more bogus for seamheads who’d rather see him in the mix in the tight AL pennant races, but if King Felix hasn’t abdicated his throne in the Northwest, then there’s no reason this warrior prince should lay down his sword at Clark and Addison.
The Cubs need to make sure their fans have a reason to come out, a real reason, a baseball reason and Samardzija is that reason. It takes real talent to make losing look good and if any franchise in baseball can appreciate that it is the Chicago Cubs.
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