There are plenty of highlights to pick from right-hander Jake Arrieta’s career with the Cubs. So what stands out to Cubs manager David Ross, who played with him and later served as his manager?
”That one time he was awesome, like, that entire year,” Ross said.
That’s hard to forget.
In the wake of Arrieta announcing his retirement Monday, Ross and Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer shared memories of him Tuesday.
Arrieta had two stints with the Cubs. The second was a failed reunion in which he posted a 6.88 ERA last season before the Cubs released him in August. But the first was one for the record books.
The Cubs acquired Arrieta in a midseason trade with the Orioles in 2013, and the deal turned around his season. He posted a 7.23 ERA with the Orioles and a 3.66 ERA with the Cubs that season. Two years later, he won the National League Cy Young Award — that one time he was awesome all year. And he was an integral part of the Cubs’ World Series title in 2016.
”I think every once in a while we say, ‘Oh, so-and-so’s pitching like 2015 Arrieta,’ and then you [see] his actual numbers during that period [and] realize no one actually ever pitches like that,” Hoyer said. ”We knew it at the time that we’ll never see something like that again, probably in our career, and I think that’s gonna be accurate.”
Arrieta was impressive throughout that season — 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA — but his numbers were even more eye-catching in his last 20 regular-season starts. He posted a 0.86 ERA in those games.
”2015, that magical run that we made, we certainly don’t do that without his second half,” Hoyer said.
Arrieta then pitched a complete-game shutout in his first playoff game, a wild-card victory against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. That start set the tone for the Cubs’ surprise run to the NL Championship Series.
The next season, Arrieta earned victories in both World Series games he started against the Indians.
”He wanted the ball on the biggest stages,” Hoyer said. ”There’s probably no bigger testament to a competitor than that.”
Though all those playoff moments stood out to Ross, one regular-season game in 2016 held extra meaning for the former catcher.
Ross caught Arrieta’s second career no-hitter at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. It was the only no-hitter Ross caught in his career, and he said he has the home plate from that game framed in his house.
”The guy’s got probably some of the best stuff I’ve ever been around,” Ross said of Arrieta. ”And then talking about mental toughness, it [doesn’t] get much more mentally tough than that guy.”
The final chapter of Arrieta’s time with the Cubs wasn’t nearly as sweet, but it won’t be his lasting legacy in Chicago.