The Cubs Got 99 Problems, But a Swish Ain’t One
It goes without saying that Cubs fans would rather Edwin Jackson had never been signed to pitch for their team, a sentiment made worse by the fact that he’s the highest-paid player on the current roster. But short of Theo Epstein finding a way to channel 1.21 gigwatts into the flux capacitor in the Cubs offices, there’s no way to go back in time and stop him from making the deal in the first place.
There are, however, other possibilities for the much-maligned mound-man. The Cubs moved him out of the rotation for a spell last season and might look to continue to take that tack on a more permanent basis moving forward. The fact that Jackson has some history with new skipper Joe Maddon suggests a change for reclamation.
It’s possible that a move will reinvigorate the righty, though I would be willing to bet that most folks want him sent out of Chicago on the first thing smoking, even if that means eating the remainder of his contract. Of course, an even better option would be to find some sucker, er, other GM, willing to take a flier on a guy who was once a somewhat consistent stalwart.
Wait, you mean we might be able to move E-Jax and get something, anything, in return? Big if true. This idea is intriguing to me and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter. That’s exactly the sentiment many of us shared upon reading this Kevin Ruprecht* piece indicating that the Royals could be interested in dealing for Jackson.
My 8-year-old daughter has a wart just below her left knee. It’s not terribly awful in size or anything, but it’s certainly not an aesthetically-pleasing blemish and it’s something she (along with my wife and I) would like to be rid of. So I bought one of those Dr. Scholls home wart-freezing kits to save a visit to the dermatologist. Bad idea.
The little kit dealy is actually pretty cool; it’s a can of compressed dimethyl ether and propane to which you attach a small wand. When you turn it upside down and depress the wand, the applicator at the end fills with super-cooled liquid, which you then place on the wart for a few seconds. Easy, right?
Well, do you remember that scene in Fight Club where Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden forces Edward Norton’s Durden to allow lye to burn his hand? Using the Dr. Scholl’s treatment was sort of like that. Except cold. And I was having to do this to my own child, rather than my weaker alter ego.
In the end, her pain and suffering went for naught as the wart soldiered on. We tried the bandages with the little discs of concentrated salicylic acid too, but to no avail. We finally resorted to my dermatologist, who gave us a liquid to apply twice a day and which my daughter quickly spilled.
We prepped her for the possibility that the only remaining option was for the doctor to freeze the wart off with his more advanced methods. She really wanted that wart gone, hated having it just chilling on her leg, but when presented with the option of freezing it, she shook her head vehemently and would have nothing to do with the treatment.
In his tenure on the North Side, Edwin Jackson has been kind of like a wart on the Cubs’ knee, hasn’t he? Like a doting father, Chris Bosio has done his darnedest to treat the ailment, but nothing seems to work. Fans have gotten to the point where they’re willing to get rid of him at almost any cost.
But when the prescribed treatment for the removal of Edwin Jackson was a heavy dose of Nick Swisher, many reacted like my daughter when she was asked about freezing her wart. Just the thought of having the well-traveled clown prince of baseball shoehorning his grinning mug into view of the WGN cameras was enough for some to justify Jackson’s continued employment.
In an informal Twitter poll, most voters would rather eat the money remaining on Jackson’s contract (even with, gasp, ketchup as a condiment) than be forced to tolerate the insufferable brohavior of one Nicky Swish. Some even likened such a deal to a reverse-engineered Milton Bradley-for-Carlos Silva swap, except without the domestic violence and lack of portion control.
Now, I find Swisher to be a total spazz whose personality could be used at Brolive Garden to spread parmesan cheese over soups and salads, but I don’t think he’s that bad. Sure, his goofy smile and wacky hijinks make the switch-hitting lefty come off a bit glib, something that was on display during his airtime on FOX’s playoff coverage. But I always figured he was a bit harmless.
Besides, it’s not his personality the Cubs would be targeting. So let’s set aside the antics and the annoying brocabulary for a moment and examine Swisher’s stats; he does, after all, check a few boxes. Switch hitter: check. Good OBP: check. Positional flexibility: check. Sounds good so far, right? Well, things may start to break down a bit upon further examination.
Swisher will turn 34 on November 25th, which means that he’s not going to be getting better at the plate. That degradation was already evident in the 2014, when he slashed .208/.278/.331 with only 8 HRs and 42 RBI. The OBP skills are still there, but the lack of pop is alarming; that SLG is 79 points below Swisher’s previous career-worst season (.410 in 2008). Not quite worthy of a standing brovation now, is it?
And if people are fed up with Edwin Jackson stealing money, they probably won’t be happy with Swish pulling down $15 million in 2015. Then again, the possibility that he could provide at least the semblance of a bench bat might be enough of a return to justify the move. But that’s if he can improve upon last season and his abysmal -1.6 WAR.
Still, this may all be a moot point. After Bruce Levine had initially reported the Cubs’ interest in a deal, Bruce Miles indicated that the opposite is true; perhaps a steel-cage death match is in order. Better yet, how about a triple-threat duel of Bruces, with Banner thrown in for good measure.
But while no news may be good news in this case, the Cubs’ general lack of activity has been cause for a little anxiety among the fanbase. After missing out on Russell Martin and then seeing Jason Heyward dealt to the Cardinals, then hearing that the Best Fans in Baseball might get to cheer for Jon Lester next year, there’s a hard edge forming on that uneasiness.
Don’t make them angry, Theo. You wouldn’t like them when they’re angry. If I get mad, the worst-case scenario is that I write a little diatribe calling you a duplicitous turd-polisher or an intractable user of sobriquets, but you do not want to see the legions of Theobots reprogrammed without regard for the first, and most important, of Asimov’s Three Laws.
The hot stove is really just starting to heat up though, and there’s plenty of time left for the Cubs to make a splash. But given the hype and hope, expectations were bound to give way to some measure of disappointment when the Cubs didn’t sign every major target on the market. And while it was unrealistic to think they’d get everyone, it’s hard to improve on 73 wins with just home-grown talent.
So we’ll see what happens. For now, though, the Cubs have 99 problems, but a Swish ain’t one.