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Why is Jeff Samardzija in the majors?

Apr 5, 2011, 5:45 PM EDT

Jeff Samardzija

This isn’t a piece designed to answer that question. It’s an actual inquiry. What on earth is Jeff Samardzija doing in the Cubs bullpen?

Going into the spring, it seemed to be pretty much a given that Samardzija would have a roster spot because he was out of options and because the Cubs had so much invested in him, the result of a $10 million contract designed to prevent the former Notre Dame receiver from returning to football.

But the fact that the Cubs do have so much invested in Samardzija meant there wasn’t any real risk of losing him. Samardzija would have been exposed to waivers if the Cubs had send him down, but with a salary of about $2 million this year, there was no chance any team was going to claim him on waivers. It would have been terrific for the Cubs if some team had.

Because make no mistake, Samardzija isn’t a major league pitcher. He did manage to retire three of the five hitters he faced today, but the other two walked and came around to score off Marcus Mateo, leaving Samardzija with a 9.00 ERA through two innings for the season.

While Samardzija got off to a nice start in 26 relief appearances in 2008, his major league ERA now stands at 6.02 in 83 2/3 innings. He’s struck out 57 and walked 54 during that span.  Since the beginning of last year, he’s allowed 20 runs and posted an 11/24 K/BB ratio in 21 1/3 innings.

So why are the Cubs carrying him? It’s not like they bypassed any great alternatives, but they could have tried Todd Wellemeyer or Robert Coello. I agree about keeping Casey Coleman in the rotation at Triple-A Iowa, but using fellow prospect Chris Carpenter as a reliever would have made sense.

Anyway, I give it a month. Samardzija won’t last season the season with the Cubs, and my guess is that he’s designated for assignment within 30 days.  The Cubs may not be too much better for it, but every little bit will help.

  1. riverace19 - Apr 5, 2011 at 5:59 PM

    He can’t throw strikes. Last year between AAA and the Cubs he walked 87 batters in 130 2/3 innings. There is no upside here.
    He probably made the team because the equipment manager finally figured out how to spell his name.
    Just another bad personnel move by the most overpaid and underperforming team in the majors.

    • cur68 - Apr 5, 2011 at 6:16 PM

      I look forward to him being out of our hair, too. It’s a pain typing “Samardzija”.

      • Old Gator - Apr 5, 2011 at 8:19 PM

        The Cubs are entitled to the Ollie Perez of their choice. Fair is fair. Oh, and in news about your fellow boreals, Cowboy Junkies are playing a music festival in Beijing in June. Just thought you’d like to know.

      • cur68 - Apr 5, 2011 at 8:22 PM

        No way! That is so cool. Do they even have a following in Beijing? That’s a big market. Maybe they’ll finally be as big as they deserve to be.

      • Old Gator - Apr 5, 2011 at 8:25 PM

        Oh, yeah – and “Samardzija” also sounds a lot like the Czech word for “stinking.” I once heard Miroslav Holub read his poem about burying a dead Chinese emperor in fish so they fish would stink worse than the emperor’s decomposing body. It’s one of those oriental dignity things that we don’t have here in the Philistine west. Anyway, Holub read the last line of the poem – “all for the purpose of stinking up to here” – in English and Czech so we could absorb the sound-sense of the original words. Funny how these things come back at you after thirty five years, you know?

        Or maybe I just forgot about that halibut fillet and need to clean the fridge….

    • cur68 - Apr 5, 2011 at 8:28 PM

      Bury Samardzija in fish is what they should do.

      • Old Gator - Apr 6, 2011 at 12:13 AM

        Holub is great, by the way – the Fish poem is in his volume Vanishing Lung Syndrome. Lots of other great stuff in there too. He was a very important genetic researcher who wrote poetry as a hobby, and for a while we thought he might be the first guy to win Nobel Prizes in medicine and poetry both. He still might. Who knows? Dead moderates appeal a lot more to the Nobel committee than live ones.

        Anyway, on the Junkies in Beijing – yeah, really, June 6. I’m thinking seriously of going and bringing my son as a reward for skipping two years of high school and landing his associate’s degree from Bard College in May at 17. He’s a big Junkies fan – the mango never rolls too far from the tree (that’s what happens when you become more and more ellipsoid as you ripen, I guess). The problem is scoring tickets on this side of the expanding universe. Background radiation (with apologies to the residents of Fukushima): after Mike Timmins and his wife spent four months in China two years ago (she had a teaching fellowship), the Junkies recorded last year’s masterpiece of an album, Renmin Park, in collaboration with several important Chinese rock and folk musicians, including one track wherein the songwriter sings his own number in Chinese. It’s not for everyone but I think you’d get a kick out of it. There are some great songs on that album; I suspect the Beijing festival gig will involve some live collaborations with those musicians. Give it a try. Especially love the title song (two versions, prefer the longer one), a Timmins song called “Stranger Here” that evokes the lives of a variety of martyred Chinese poets, and a Chinese song called “My Fall” that Margo sings in English – haunting stuff. I think Mike Timmins is a legitimate genius. No one else could have come up with a translinguistic, transcultural synthesis like this – and still kick ass.

      • cur68 - Apr 6, 2011 at 12:39 AM

        Pretty good review Gator, both for the Junkies and Holub. The literary and music world agrees with you, it seems. I shall be adding Holub to my (lengthy) post thesis leisure reading list and will attempt to acquire whatever is available of Remnin Park tomorrow. Good luck in China. I am scheduled to be assisting my parents with major home renovations this summer, so no travel for me.

      • gordana1971 - Aug 22, 2011 at 8:52 AM

        you got no manners! ;((( you’re obnoxious!

      • gordana1971 - Aug 22, 2011 at 8:54 AM

        well I ment you cur68!

    • gordana1971 - Aug 22, 2011 at 8:57 AM

      you’re a rasist! shame on you!

  2. b7p19 - Apr 5, 2011 at 5:59 PM

    I think the Bears could use a WR. Any way they can just kind of blindfold him, point him to Soldier Field and tell him to walk forward?

  3. ursus59 - Apr 5, 2011 at 6:22 PM

    Hendry is engaged in a secret game of Scrabble with the other GMs and has Samardzija covering a triple word score.

  4. eslaught - Apr 5, 2011 at 7:33 PM

    He looks like a pirate. Trade him the the Pirates. The Cubs suck. Go White Sox

    • Old Gator - Apr 5, 2011 at 8:20 PM

      He looks like D’Artagnan to me. Trade him to Turner Classics.

  5. jhorton83 - Apr 5, 2011 at 8:40 PM

    He really would have been better served going to the NFL. His college pitching stats weren’t that impressive, but baseball was apparently the sport he loved so he chose that over football. It appears to have been the wrong choice. I’m sure he’ll try to make a sudden switch to football, but it’s likely too late. He can swap regretful stories with Drew Henson in a couple years.

  6. frankvzappa - Apr 5, 2011 at 10:09 PM

    whats with the picture of the guy from that “Workaholics” show?

  7. raffy7 - Apr 5, 2011 at 10:23 PM

    Clearly Samardzija hasn’t proven himself; and certainly doesn’t appear to be worth the money. Pouliot makes some astute points about how the hefty price tag would have scared off other teams and that that the flexibility of being able to send Samardzija down would benefit both him and the team.

    But, I feel like this story reeks of a piece that has been sitting in the well since the end of last year and was just dropped onto the site today once Samardzija had a tough outing. His performance in prior years has been deservedly criticized – pretty bad stuff. To write such a damning assessment of Samardzija after two innings of work this season seems a bit odd though, no? I like how you noted that he has an ERA of 9.00 after 2 innings. Come on – thats a little dramatic – Samardzija walked two guys today. Mateo and Marshall did everything they could to try to give away today’s game too.
    I don’t think there’s really anything new to note about Samardzija’s results that should generate such frustration by Pouliot. I also think the chest-puffing proclamation at the end is kind of funny.

  8. kcroyal - Apr 6, 2011 at 1:39 AM

    I don’t disagree with you, but bringing up a 9.00 ERA over two whole innings seems a little…amateurish.

    You’re better than that.

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