I’ll always remember where I was when Jake Arrieta won the 2015 Cy Young: standing in line for a boat at Disney World.
Thanks to a tram malfunction, the Taylor Family’s plans to be back to our hotel from the Magic Kingdom long before the Cy Young announcement that night went sideways. We had to wait in an hours-long line for a boat instead, and my spotty cell service was just enough to keep me updated on how close we were to an announcement of the winner, but not nearly enough to let me actually live in that moment with other Cubs fans. Especially since I was there with The Wife and two very tired, cranky little kids.
So when the announcement was nearly arrived, and the boat’s gatekeeper literally drew the capacity line for the next trip at our family, I was not able to control myself. Like a sports fan who’d just watched a would-be walk-off homer robbed at the wall, I turned my head to the sky, instinctively, and yelled out the loudest expletive I may have ever in my life sent out into the atmosphere.
The death eyes from every parent around me felt like hot pokers, and the pair coming from The Wife felt like an angrily-worded memo about couch sleeping for the foreseeable future.
About 10 minutes later, just before we finally boarded our boat, I saw the tweets coming through: Jake Arrieta had won the Cy Young award. You know what? The Wife may not agree, but I say: that totally redeemed the night.
For so many months, it was natural to think about Jake Arrieta’s free agency and likely departure from the Cubs as something mechanical. We studied and observed, considered the implications, awaited the signing that finally came yesterday, and looked forward to the extra draft pick the Cubs snagged in the process.
But it’s only now that he’s actually signed with another club that the reality sinks in. Jake Arrieta will be a Phillie this season, and will probably never be a Cub again.
And with that chapter being closed, we must recognize that this is the end of one of the most incredible eras for a pitcher in Cubs history.
After getting himself settled into the organization after the midseason 2013 trade from the Orioles, Arrieta emerged as one of the best pitchers in baseball. From 2014 to 2017, only four pitchers in the game bested his 18.5 WAR: Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, and Max Scherzer. And none of those guys were quite as good as Arrieta was in the postseason, helping lead the Cubs to three straight NLCS, and, of course, winning the 2016 World Series.
Arrieta’s 2015 Cy Young season will always stand out as one of the best Cubs-pitched seasons ever, and his second half that year was probably the best pitching by any pitcher ever.
Arrieta threw two no-hitters with the Cubs, and just missed several more. He was as much the central figure in the Cubs turning the corner from 2014 to 2015 as any other individual. He will be remembered for that, and much more.
Since 1950, Arrieta’s 18.5 WAR with the Cubs ranks 12th in the franchise. None of the men ahead of him reached their totals in anything close to as few as 128 games, as Arrieta did. Arrieta’s 2.73 ERA is by far the best by a Cubs starter during that stretch (second place? Kyle Hendricks, at 2.94).
The best starting pitcher in modern Cubs history? I think you certainly can make the argument that Arrieta should be included in that conversation, even if Fergie Jenkins probably holds onto the crown thanks to not only tremendous success, but also spending nearly 10 of his seasons with the Cubs. Greg Maddux, too, spent nearly 10 seasons with the Cubs, and although his best years came with the Braves, he was still very, very good in his time with the Cubs.
In any case, Jake Arrieta hit his peak with the Cubs, and even though it was only 4.5 seasons, it’s going to stand him up as one of the best Cubs pitchers in recent memory.
Reliving some of Jake Arrieta's best moments in a Cubs uniform.
There were plenty to pick from. pic.twitter.com/6TIajpmU9B
— NBC Sports Chicago (@NBCSChicago) March 11, 2018
— Amanda Kaschube (@amandakaschube) March 12, 2018
Interesting thoughts from Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo on Jake Arrieta's legacy ("Cubs family forever"), what #Phillies are getting and MLB's labor unrest: "I’m sure he was hoping for a longer contract. He definitely earned it."https://t.co/AsLAE2HuTD
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) March 12, 2018
— Cubs Insider (@realcubsinsider) March 12, 2018
— Jake Arrieta (@JArrieta34) October 4, 2015