For a few teams in MLB, there’s still a week left in the season. There are pennant races going on in and the games filled with significance. In those places, the postseason is still out there for the taking, if the players can only seize the opportunity. It’s the start of what could be an amazing week.
And then there’s my home town of Chicago.
The Cubs and the White Sox are on the dark side of 90 losses, and the season has been over since before the All-Star break, in practical terms. If last Sunday had been the final day of the regular season, it would have felt like a mercy killing for fans on both sides of town. But there’s still one more week to suffer through.
The inevitable postmortems will be written soon, but for now it’s safe to paint in broad strokes. The Cubs improved, in an absolute sense, by winning more games than they did in their first year under Dale Sveum. Regardless of how the final week shakes out, the Cubs will be closer to a .500 team than they were in 2012. Credit must be given where credit is due.
The good news seems to stop there. The Cubs will finish last in their division, now that perennial cellar dweller Houston has moved to the American League. There’s also a very good chance that Chicago will be the first team in franchise history to lose 50 games in one season at home. These are two very large signs that the rebuilding effort seems to be cratering at this time.
One of the main reasons that a team either wins or loses in the major leagues is the quality of its pitching. And the Cubs, yet again, have failed in this regard. The bullpen issues have persisted but the starting pitching wasn’t any better. Matt Garza was traded (as I predicted he would be) and unless Travis Wood wins his final start of the season, this will be the second year in a row where the Cubs won’t have a pitcher with as many as ten wins on their staff.
But the biggest disappointment of all, when it comes to Cubs hurlers, has been Edwin Jackson — or more specifically, the Edwin Jackson signing. On the day that Cubs fans knew about the Edwin Jackson signing with the Cubs, I questioned whether it was wise to give so much money–and so many years–to a lifetime .500 pitcher. In case you’ve forgotten how much money we’re talking about, it was $11 million this season and a multi-million dollar signing bonus to boot.
You might think, for that kind of money, that a pitcher might be at, or near the top, of the league in some category.
- Strikeouts? No, Jackson is third on the Cubs staff, behind Wood and Jeff Samardzija.
- ERA? Jackson trails behind Wood, Samardzija, and middling newcomer Carlos Villaneuva in that measure.
- Wins? Not there either, since his eight wins trail Travis Wood on the Cubs staff, and have been doubled up by no less than four pitchers in the National League (Jordan Zimmerman, Adam Wainwright, Jorge DeLaRosa, and Francisco Liriano).
But actually, there is one category that Jackson does lead the National League in, but it happens to be losses.
With 17 losses at the moment, Jackson has a two-loss lead over Wily Peralta among National League pitchers. In fact, Peralta prevailed over Jackson, in a matchup of 15-game-losing pitchers. It would seem, at least on paper, that Peralta and his $490,000 salary would be no match for the $11 million dollar issue that would be the Edwin Jackson signing. But that’s not how it turned out, and it looks like Jackson will end up at the top of the N.L.’s heap in this regard.
There are times when I like being right about something, but this is not one of them. I was critical of the Jackson signing in this space, and nothing I have seen this year changes that opinion. The Cubs eased their frustration over not signing Anibal Sanchez (who is, coincidentally enough, leading the American League in ERA) by throwing money at Jackson instead. And the results have been disastrous, at least for year one of his contract.
Lucky for Edwin Jackson, there are three more years to prove that the Cubs didn’t make a mistake in signing him. But so far, it doesn’t look very good.