I was going to make this an analytical piece that touted your outstanding statistical performance this season, but something tugged at me and told me to shoot from the hip. Seeing you shielding your little boy from the champagne shower that followed the announcement of your Cy Young win said more to me than any statistical breakdown ever could. Well, that and the fact that I’ve got a more stats-heavy piece over at The Cauldron.
But you wanna hear something crazy? I’m sitting here at my computer, having just started the second season of Fargo now that MLB Network has moved on from the broadcast of your award, and I don’t know where to start. It’s supposed to be easy, just writing without having to page back and forth to FanGraphs or Brooks Baseball or even my own previous articles.
I guess I’ll start with that hat, one of which I saw you wearing in the beardless picture your wife tweeted out a few days back. Speaking of, you’ve got mad beard-growing game. Just two weeks ago, you were (relatively) clean-shaven and now you already have a more prominent pelt than the one I’m sporting after starting N0-Shave November in mid-October. But even though your peak manliness highlights my own inadequacies, I can’t be mad at you.
Anyway, back to the hat. I think it was a different color from the first one I saw, but the brand and style were the same. It was incredibly simple, adorned with only a tag bearing the words “GREATER THAN SPORTS” in font barely large enough to read without cheaters. I had to search online to find out that GTS is a brand dedicated to producing “comfortable athletic wear with casual street wear” in small batches. So that’s cool, but I’d like to think it works as your personal motto as well.
You, Jake, are an athlete, and quite a good one at that. You make a living by throwing a baseball as well as anyone else in the world and yet you refuse to let that define who you are. In a sport that, at least from the outside, seems to boast the most down-to-earth players, you may be the down-to-earthiest. You are serious on the mound but you don’t take yourself too seriously. And that’s not to say you’re a flippant funster or detached dilettante, just that I don’t see you as a guy who harbors a great deal of self-importance. I like that. Love it, actually.
I guess digging a slogan on your headwear makes sense after I put one of my own on a hat after watching one of your many incredible outings this season. I hope you don’t mind, but I used your name on it. If it helps, all the (decidedly limited) proceeds from the sales of the hat have gone to one charity or another. Hey, maybe can can work together to hawk more caps and donate more money. Or you can just pimp those sweet mesh trucker beauties while I laugh all the way to the bank. Not that I need the extra cash, what with the baller lifestyle this blog affords me.
But enough about me, let’s get back to talking about you, Jake. From that hilarious Twitter Q&A you did with fans during a rain delay to your painful-looking stretching routines to your humility, man, I just loved watching you announce your presence to the world beyond Chicago. There you were, throwing a no-no on national television and barely flinching after being doused in ice water. You were also throwing your teammates’ names out there for praise, and not under the bus.
You weren’t forced to eat humble pie, but you chose to indulge anyway. You avoided talking about yourself even after having been named the best pitcher in the National League. You used your soapbox to congratulate Kris Bryant and Joe Maddon on their awards before discussing your own season. Your family and friends were there around you and neighbors were honking their horns in celebration and it was, well, it was really cool. I know that’s not particularly expressive or articulate, namely for someone who fancies himself a writer, but it’s the truth.
It was just a real joy to watch you pitch this season, but it was even better getting to know you as an individual, albeit from afar. It may seem strange to say that I’m proud of you, but it’s the truth. You’re a really easy guy to root for, on the field and off, and the role you played the Cubs’ season helped to make it perhaps the most fun I’ve ever had watching baseball. I just can’t remember a time in 30-some-odd years of watching the Cubs that I knew — really knew beyond even a sliver of doubt — that the team was going win. Yet I had the utmost confidence in your ability to pick up the W each and every time down the stretch. Well, except for getting no-hit by Cole Hamels and the Phillies. But all those other times, sure.
So thanks, Jake. Thanks for being you and for being pretty flipping awesome. Yeah, I know it could be seen as unbecoming for me to be waxing rhapsodic about a ballplayer, but I’m going full fan here. Maybe as my notoriety grows, I could even interview you and then we could grab a beer or five. It wouldn’t be weird though, right, because we have so much in common: we’re both dads and we both like hats and I’m trying to grow a beard. I think we could be friends and then hang out socially. If Jason Whitlock has taught me anything, it’s that real journalists hang out with the players they cover, so it’s totally cool. Is this getting uncomfortable yet? Yeah, probably. Sorry about that, I tend to get a little overzealous when I’m excited.
Anyhow, I’ll wrap this up here, but I just want to close by reiterating how great it was to watch you work and how much I’m looking forward to next season. Take care of that family of yours and take time to enjoy this honor. I promise I’ll try to be less creepy next time.
Sincerely, Your pal,
Your biggest fan,
PS — Please don’t block me on Twitter.