I remember sitting in the Eutaw street bleacher seats one sunny day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards watching tall Texan pitcher Jake Arrietta do long toss before the game. Back then, you never knew what you were going to get with him.
In his time with the Baltimore Orioles, of which I doubt he would like to recall, his ERA was anywhere from 4.6 – 7.23 until he along with Pedro Stop was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger.
Those days in Camden Yards must seem like a distant memory to him now in Chicago where on Tuesday night he continued a stellar season by pitching a complete game shutout against the Brewers to become the first MLB pitcher to reach 20 wins this season. He now owns the second best ERA in all of the majors with 1.88. He has posted a 0.94 ERA in his last 18 starts, pointing the Cubs in the direction of their first postseason since 2008. His post All-Star break ERA is 0.86 – the lowest for a starter in MLB history. Once a guy who was sent to minor leagues three times, he is presently a 2015 National League Cy Young Award contender.
The Orioles rotation is in 13th place in the American League with a 4.45 ERA. Jake Arrietta – oh, how we could use you now.
The truth is, there really was no time during his Baltimore days that it looked like he was going to significantly improve. There was talk of his “overthinking” and his “anxiety.” The more he wanted it, the more it seemed to elude him.
How is it possible that the Cubs’ pitching staff was able to unearth the talents that the Orioles’ pitching staff was not? Isn’t it the same game everywhere? Can a change of scenery and of personnel and personalities really have that much of an impact on a player’s performance? Clearly, at least in his case, it can.
As the Orioles season fades, I look at the pictures of a euphoric Jake Arrietta and think – good for him. This is why we watch baseball. For those countless stories of struggle and redemption that give us all hope.