"They hit some good pitches. You have those days when they hit the ball. There were a lot of times I was ahead in the count and just didn't put them away."
- -Edwin Jackson, trying to win a job on the Chicago Cubs starting rotation
So, today we have a Baseball Edition of "Quote of the Day."
A little background. In 2013, the Chicago Cubs signed pitcher Edwin Jackson for $52 million over four years. By any accounting, that's a hefty payday for anyone, but especially for a pitcher whose career record at the time was below .500, with a won-lost figure of 70-71. Since that point, however, he's struggled from even those numbers, winning just 14 games in two years and losing 33. Worse, his Earned Run Average those two years began with a dismal 4.98, and that was his good year, plummeting to a pathetic 6.33 this season.
An ERA under, oh, say, 3.75 to be fair is considered reasonably solid. Edwin Jackson's career Earned Run Average is 4.63. In other words, when Edwin Jackson goes to the mound on any given day to pitch, the average is that his team has to score an extra run every time, just from the start, in order not to fall further behind and get back to reasonable.
So, the question this Spring Training is whether Edwin Jackson would continue in the starting rotation, or moved to the bullpen as a reliever -- or traded, if there were any takers, or just dropped, even with tens of millions of dollars left on his contract. Why it is a question if they'll keep him as a starter is something bewildering, though it probably has to do with that contract and still having to pay him...along with a lot of wishful thinking based on two passable years he had six (and seven) years ago.
So, he's been fighting for a job in the starting rotation. Which brings us to his appearance on the mound yesterday against the Oakland A's.
Jackson lasted only 1-2/3 innings, giving up eight runs and nine hits. After the game, he gave reporters the quote above, and added that he had some positives he take away from his game. He said that he didn't walk anyone and felt strong.
Eight runs on nine hits in 1-2/3 innings! And his take-away from this is it’s a good thing that he didn’t walk anyone! Well, of course he didn’t walk anyone, they were too busy whacking the ball all over the place. And obviously he felt strong -- he only pitched for 1-2/3 innings!! He probably could have gone out afterwards and played 18 holes of golf and still felt fresh.
In fairness, I understand an athlete trying to put a good spin on things, especially when you’re trying desperately to win a spot. But geez guy, can’t you just add as a note, “I didn’t pitch well today.” Respecting that others can actually see what you did is a good starting point, at least if you want people to take you seriously and believe any words that come out of your mouth in the future.
Also, just for the sake of clarification, no, they didn’t “hit some good pitches” – they KEPT hitting pitches, relentlessly, batter after batter. Nine hits in just 1-2/3 inning is bordering on the level of T-ball. Yes, you do have those days when they hit the ball. Unfortunately, when your ERA for the past two years is 6.33 and 4.98, you clearly are having a LOT of those days. Note: the goal isn’t to “get ahead in the count.” It’s to put them away. This is the major leagues – sometimes professional batters let a pitch go because they’re sitting on you serving up a fat one.
To be clear, this isn't intended solely as a rant against Edwin Jackson's record, He's had some very good games over the past two years, though mostly he's been lousy. What brought this all about is his quote. Because when you give us nine hits and eight runs in a paltry 1-2/3 innings...you don't look for the positives that you walk anyone and explain how many "good pitches" you threw.
Even if you're fighting for a job. Especially if you're fighting for a job. Because if you tell your manager after you got crushed that this is you pitching "good", rather than having an off-day, why on earth wouldn't the team run in the opposite direction as fast as they can...??!
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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