The hope is that Yu Darvish can throw a successful bullpen session in Los Angeles this week, as monitored and evaluated by Cubs personnel, and then return to the big league rotation this weekend after missing more than a month with triceps inflammation.
That injury came after a rocky first month and a half with his new team after signing a $126 million, six-year contract as a free agent in the offseason. There is always a contingent of fans that tends to be very hard on former free agents who get big contracts and do not immediately succeed and/or get injured (let alone both), so Darvish has already heard it from some Cubs fans who have been less patient than they should be.
But that doesn’t compare to what he’s heard from Dodgers fans in the months after two highly-ineffective World Series starts may have cost his former team a title.
It seems that Darvish even had anxiety about returning to pitch for the Dodgers after last year because of how his kids might be treated in L.A.:
Yu Darvish told @dylanohernandez he worried how his children might be treated at school in LA if he had re-signed with the Dodgers.
“Their last name is Darvish,” he said.https://t.co/iP0VZXryrM
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) June 27, 2018
That entire interview is worth checking out for more on what motivates Darvish, how he thinks about what happened last year, and why he failed in the World Series.
Two big things stuck out to me, as they relate to his presence on the Cubs and how he’ll perform over the life of his contract here:
First: “I had told my wife that I was thinking of retiring at the end of the year,” Darvish said about last season. “I was thinking I didn’t want to do it anymore, but then I was traded to the Dodgers …. It was my problem, [not something to do with the Rangers]. But my environment changed drastically and playing in that new environment changed something in my soul.”
Darvish, at the time, had just worked his way back from Tommy John surgery, was pitching very well, was 30 years old, and was contemplating retirement. As Tommy La Stella’s story reminds us, there’s so much more going on with these human beings than we can ever truly, fully know, and even a fierce competitor like Jake Arrieta has conceded in the past that he considered whether he was really going to keep going when he could not establish himself in the big leagues in his days with the Orioles. These things do not necessarily speak to a player’s ability to compete and succeed.
That said, I do hope this was, conceptually, something on the Cubs’ radar when they were negotiating with Darvish, so that all sides could be in a position to best support each other through the necessary ups and downs of a big-contract transition to a new organization. The Cubs have made a significant and lengthy commitment to Darvish, and it’s fair to want to know that he’s all in. We’ve been given no indication otherwise.
Second: Darvish said he was dreading the trip to Los Angeles from the moment he signed with the Cubs, telling the L.A. Times that, even though he was dreading it, he now fears that it’ll be even worse if he pitches in L.A. in the playoffs. “It wouldn’t be as bad in the playoffs if I could pitch in this series. The frustration of the fans is pent up at this point. If they could release some of that frustration now, I think it wouldn’t be as bad later. I’m a little scared of how that frustration is building and building,” he said, apparently smiling.
I get that it’s natural, given the extremity of his experience with the Dodgers, that this kind of thing would be on your mind. But there’s something about this kind of open, multilayered consideration of how and when best to face Dodgers fans that I don’t quite understand for a successful big league starting pitcher. You’d rather hear a guy saying he just wants to compete with his new team and win – if the old fans hate him for what happened, and hate him again for beating their team, so be it.
Again: just because they’re pro ballplayers doesn’t mean they aren’t – just as we are – complicated human beings. I’m just saying I read that section of the article and I was kinda scratching my head. Maybe I’m just not used to hearing so much honesty. Maybe this shouldn’t even be a jarring thing at all.
Read the full L.A. Times piece for more on Darvish, who will hopefully be back in the Cubs’ rotation this weekend. I’m still very, very bullish on his future with the Cubs, and I hope the fans here continue to embrace and support him for so long as he deserves it. He notices.