Remember the days when all of Chicago Cubs nation was counting down the days that Alfonso Soriano had left on his contract? And then when he was finally traded there was an undeniable letdown? The departing of Soriano wasn’t as “fun” as it was supposed to be.
Instead, it felt like a sucker punch to the kidneys. Soriano’s departure wasn’t just an overpaid, aging veteran being shown the door, but with him went all those memories of the excitement 2007 and 2008 had brought to Cubs fans. And how, just for a moment, it looked like Soriano was going to be part of something truly special with the Cubs. When he left it wasn’t a celebration; it was just yet another reminder in an endless list of them that the Cubs didn’t get it done.
When the Cubs announced they were designating Edwin Jackson for assignment, I had a similar feeling. Perhaps it’s ironic that Jackson was designated to make room for another Soriano — Rafael Soriano.
The circumstances are undeniably different –Jackson was never expected to be anything close to elite; nor was he expected to anchor a contending Cubs team. Quite the opposite actually, as he was brought on solely on the Cubs need for inning-eating mediocrity on the mound to match their general mediocrity on the field as they rebuilt. Yes, the circumstances are different, but the sentiments are very, very similar.
There’s no way to sugarcoat anything: Jackson’s time with the Cubs was disastrous (16-34, 5.37 ERA). He’s never been anything close to an elite pitcher, but these numbers were rough even for someone with the double-sided label of “innings eater.” Not only that, but like so many before him, he was grossly overpaid while doing it –signing a four-year, $52 million contract as Theo Epstein’s first major spending escapade.
Much like Soriano, Jackson had become the butt of never-ending jokes. Never for attitude, mind you, but for a lack of results and his gross over-payment for those results. He struggled so mightily that it became little less than not only Cubs fans expecting Jackson to fail, but wanting him to: “Of course “E-Jax” gave up the lead: He’s E-Jax!” It was too easy, it was constant, and, like Soriano, you thought you’d be jumping for joy the day Jackson went on his way.
But you’re not. Sure, you think his leaving will improve the Cubs (it probably will); you may even find yourself happy about his leaving (you’ve been waiting, after all), but you feel that same slight discomfort you felt when Soriano left –exaggerated by many of the glowing things Jackson’s teammates said of him upon his leaving.
Then it hits us: We wanted Edwin Jackson to be good.
It’s easy to forget that, amidst the array of jokes and eye-rolls. We suddenly realize that we’re also losers in Jackson’s seemingly endless struggles. Him being sent off is in no way a victory for us. And since we thought it would be, it feels disappointing. Disappointing to the point of guilt –guilt for all the things you know you said across the last three seasons about someone we were supposed to be rooting for.
So long, E-Jax. Good luck. We hope you find your footing.
Brian Davis is a writer and musician from Peoria, IL. He writes books, songs, and aside from ChiCity Sports, has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Music, and several music blogs. Follow Brian on Twitter @brianjdavis87