I loved the Yu Darvish signing. I loved targeting Darvish, I loved the contract the Cubs got him on, and I loved the idea of watching his unique pitching skill set for the next two+ years (depending on his opt-out, and whatever happened down the line).
But I can’t say it hasn’t been about as rough as it gets since then.
Darvish has struggled to produce and has struggled to stay on the field, cutting starts short because of minor issues, and missing starts altogether because of illness and injury. You couldn’t draw it up much worse, absent perhaps a more dire MRI result than the one we got yesterday.
Still, we’d be foolish to disregard a player’s entire history of high-level performance because of a small handful of crummy starts on a new club. I was overjoyed at the MRI results yesterday precisely because I believe Darvish can and will be very good as a Cub, and I dreaded the thought of losing his performance for a year or more.
That’s why I was pretty bummed to see this come across my feed:
— Steve Greenberg (@SLGreenberg) May 31, 2018
Darvish’s friend, Chris Gimenez, who arrived with the big league team just as Darvish was going on the disabled list for the second time, told the Sun-Times he thinks that Darvish “thinks that Chicago hates him for going on the DL a couple of times.” He went on to say that Darvish reads what is said about him on Twitter, and it upsets him.
That’s all especially true, it seems, because of the way Darvish’s World Series went, and how eager he’s been to show the baseball world what he can do.
All of that is human stuff, and I don’t really blame Darvish for any of it. Fans always kinda want it both ways: we want players not to be bothered by the things we or the media or anyone else are saying about them, but we also kinda want them to receive the feedback. It sounds like Darvish is receiving it more than most.
Do Cubs fans really hate him? Of course not!
Sure, there are some fans in every fan base that hate a given player – I will swear to you that there are some fans who hate Kris freaking Bryant! I see them! – but the overall collective of Cubs fandom does not hate Yu Darvish. We want him to be healthy, get sharp, and be out there dominating. We’re still excited to follow him.
When a guy comes in on a big-time free agent contract, there will be a contingent of fans who freak out if the very first pitch he throws or sees does not win the game for the team. That contingent doesn’t represent all fans, but they certainly can be loud.
Part of all of this, I’m sure, is also because Darvish is seen as “replacing” Jake Arrieta, even though it was always clear that those two sides were parting ways (and even though the Cubs nominally made Arrieta an offer to stay before finalizing their deal with Darvish). Arrieta was a huge part of the Cubs becoming what they are, and pitched through one of the best stretches of Cubs baseball in the organization’s long history. He’s about as universally beloved as a pitcher can be, and I think that probably tugs at a number of fans when they see Darvish struggling and injured.
But, again, I think the majority of Cubs fans are perfectly at peace with that side of things, and simply want to see Darvish healthy and pitching well (and are fine with seeing Arrieta pitch well with the Phillies, too).
It doesn’t help when there are some out there who are charged with creating narratives about baseball, fomenting fan outrage at a player whom they perceive as “soft”. Guys get sick. Guys get hurt. Smart clubs protect those players and refuse to allow them to play at less than, say, 90%. It ain’t worth pitching through sickness and getting shelled just to prove you’re tough, and it ain’t worth pitching through triceps inflammation and straining a muscle just to prove you can do it. It’s not like Darvish has a career history of ticky-tack, nothingburger injuries that keep him off the field.
If his injury is not serious – and it sounds like it isn’t – he’ll be back out there soon, and hopefully he can continue the progress he was showing before he went down.
So, to the Cubs fans who are “hating” on Darvish, I say chill out.
To Darvish, I say the vast majority of Cubs fans don’t hate you and just want to see you do well.
To everyone else, I say hey, how are you doing, wanna get a milkshake or something?