Friday, July 25, 2008

Samardzija = Borchard?

The following commentary contains factual errors detailed quite well in the string of comments that follows the essay. Nevertheless, my larger point stands - I think the Cubs are mistaken in thinking Jeff Samardzija's football experience will make it possible for him to rush through the minor leagues. And for those who will cite his first "save" on Sunday, I would cite Joe Borchard's 503-foot home run. Sunday could very well be the highlight of Samardzija's baseball career.


I realize that to be a fan of the Chicago Cubs, one must be a tad irrational in thought. But I would hope that Cubs fans have enough sense not to expect Jeff Samardzija to be the great savior who takes their favorite ball club to multiple National League championships and World Series titles during his athletic career.

Samardzija, of course, is the Valparaiso, Ind., native who gave up a final season of being the quarterback for Notre Dame University’s famed football program in order to play professional baseball – and Samardzija is on his way back to Chicago, as the Cubs have promoted him to the big club (for the time being).

SAMARDZIJA HAS BEEN a pitcher in the minor leagues, and some baseball fans would like to think the glamour and pressure of being a big-time football quarterback (particularly for Notre Dame) will make him fit to cope with the pressures of big-time baseball, and will enable him to bring a championship mentality to Wrigley Field.

Yet all I can think is that he is a kid ballplayer who has been on the fast track in the minor leagues because of his Notre Dame notoriety. It reminds me too much of the last big-time college football star who was supposed to set Chicago baseball ablaze.

You all remember Joe Borchard of the White Sox? He was the former quarterback for Stanford University who received a record high (for the Sox) signing bonus of $5.3 million to get him to choose the greatest sport of all over U.S.-style football.

Yet what did the White Sox get to show for that bonus contract? Half of one season (2004) with the major league team, parts of four other seasons with Chicago, and so much playing time with the top minor league affiliate in Charlotte, N.C., that he hit so many home runs that he is the all-time career home run champ in Charlotte Knights history.

MAYBE CHARLOTTE KNIGHTS fans think he was worth the $5.3 million, considering that they got to see him regularly at his best. We in Chicago did not.

Borchard’s problem was that he is a big bulky guy with a huge swing who, when he makes contact with the ball, hits long home runs. When he doesn’t make contact (which is often), he strikes out.

There was little in between. And because the White Sox of the early 2000s were perennially on the fringes of pennant races, there wasn’t the chance that he would have received with a bad ball club (like the Cubs) to just play and work out his kinks.

Borchard got caught up in his own negative vibe, which prevented him from ever becoming the ballplayer whom some White Sox fans tried to dub “Light Tower Power.”

EXPECTING SAMARDZIJA TO contribute anything to the Cubs at this point is a dream. I would hope the Cubs have enough sense to send him back to the minor leagues when relief pitcher Kerry Wood recovers from shoulder problems and comes off the disabled list. Life in Des Moines, Iowa, may not sound glamorous to Jeff, but it is best for his long-term future.

For Samardzija is the future, not a part of ’08 and the Cubs’ desire to take advantage of their fast start this season and actually win a National League championship – their first since 1945.

Trying to rush the future now will cause long-term problems, even if Cubs fans manage to see a good game or two from Samardzija during his current stint with the big club.

After all, Borchard is the guy who in August 2004, in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies, got ahold of a pitch from Brett Myers and drove it over the right field seats onto the concourse where the cheap drunks lounge around and guzzle overpriced beer while watching the Sox.

AT JUST OVER 500 feet, it is the longest home run ever hit at U.S. Cellular Field/New Comiskey Park (even Frank Thomas’ longest home runs never traveled so far). Even if the building survives another 30 or so years as a major league stadium, Borchard’s shot will always be one of the longest home runs ever hit there.

But was one tape measure home run worth $5.3 million? Could his talent have been harvested better had the White Sox not put the pressure on trying to rush him through the minor leagues and onto the big club?

Would he have been an integral part of this year’s pennant contending White Sox team, instead of struggling to hang on to the game at age 29 with a spot on the roster of the Richmond Braves?

It would be sad to see Samardzija, who is 23, become yet another former college football star whose career got spoiled by being rushed.


EDITOR’S NOTES: Patience is a necessity when it comes to the development of top-quality athletes ( in professional athletics.

Here’s hoping that Joe Borchard can recover from surgery on his shoulder that is keeping him ( from playing anywhere this season.


Jason said...

Are you kidding? How many errors can you make in an article. Samardzija was a WR not a QB. He also played all 4 years of eligibility at Notre Dame, there was no "forgoing a senior season". How the hell does an article that would get an "F" for inaccuracies in most High Schools actually get published in a Major Newspaper??!?!???!

Seriously get an intern to fact check so you don't look like an idiot in your opening paragraphs.

Anonymous said...

Terrible article...well, actually just a blog entry, but seriously man, do some fact checking. This blog is a waste of freaking time.

Anonymous said...

Jason is right on w/ his comments.
Samardzija played ALL 4 seasons
at the University of Notre Dame
(it's NOT Notre Dame University!)
and was a wide receiver, NOT a QB!
Did you ever hear of Brady Quinn?
He was ND's QB who lost out on the
Heisman Trophy to OSU's Troy Smith.

Did you hear Lou's comments about
Jeff who earned the save on Sunday?

Maybe you're wrong about BOTH
Jeff's football and baseball!

JimArmstrong said...

that was some great article. You don't know anything about the guy you wrote about. Plus your argument was off. You said Borchard didn't get "the chance that he would have received with a bad ball club (like the Cubs) to just play and work out his kinks." Then you asked "Could his talent have been harvested better had the White Sox not put the pressure on trying to rush him through the minor leagues and onto the big club?" So which was it? He didn't get to play in the majors or he was rushed to the majors? Stay away from issues you know nothing about or don't want to look nto.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me? It is funny that the website put your article you wrote on their website. I just wonder why you would write about sports when you have no idea about anything. You reference numerous times how Jeff left the Notre Dame football team for the pros. However, you wrote that he played quarterback. You also mentioned people think he could handle pressure because he played quarterback at a big school. As I see it, that was the basis for your whole comparison. Only one problem, you never watched a Notre Dame football game and he played wide receiver. You may have heard of(although I am not sure because it seems you have never watched football) Brady Quinn who was a Heisman finalist at quarterback when Jeff was there. Moreover, it is obvious that you have no clue about baseball either(my guess is that you are a cubs fan, but that is just because most Cubs fans know nothing about baseball). First, he is far from an inexperienced pitcher. He went through the minors in two years, but pitched in college for years. I will explain for you. If he had gone straight to the minors instead of college, he would have 4-5 years in the minors. By no means is that rushing. Moreover, the additional years has allowed him to command control of a breaking ball, slider, and his overpowering fastball. It is a dream to expect him to contribute anything at this point? He throws 99 mph and has a 2-seam fastball(look it up since you don’t know what it means I am sure) that breaks 4-5 inches at 96 mph. His breaking ball and slider have improved dramatically. I fail to see how he couldn’t contribute at all. Besides the first inning he pitched where he was a little excited, he has dominated. I hate the Cubs and can’t wait for them to finish 3rd in their division(hey I can hope), but I have to go with he has all the ability to help. Let me ask you this, if Kerry Wood goes down with a bad injury, who would you rather have closing – Carlos Marmol or Jeff Samardzija?

Anonymous said...

oh yeah and Kerry Wood has a blister on his hand, not shoulder problems. On a side note, I loved you when you played Corky on that show "Life Goes On".

Anonymous said...

If you think 1 save is going to be the highlight of his career then I have an even lower opinion of you then when I read your borderline insane article. My suggestion is to watch a baseball game before you start making comments. The point is simply that he has talent and is going to be at very least decent. Although you know nothing about baseball, I will explain it to you. As a pitcher, if you throw 99 mph, you will at least be decent and strike some guys out. If you can mix in a breaking ball and slider with control, you will be great. The fact of the matter is that you are so far from reality on this that I am not sure why I am wasting my time responding to you. However, if the cubs end up in the playoffs and if they manage to do anything in the playoffs, I assure you that it will be because he eats up valuable innings in the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th that propels them to the division or wild card. Their bullpen is shaky at best since Marmol fell apart and he already may very well be their best reliever. No matter what crazy theory you have that makes no sense the fact remains that he has the talent to be a very good pitcher. I really wouldn't be shocked if he ends up in the starting rotation by the end of the year either. Basically, what I am really saying is stick to writing about Starwars or Harry Potter or whatever you are writing about and leave sports to someone that at the very least has watched a game or maybe even played a sport at least when they were a kid instead of dungeons and dragons all the time and is now a grown man still living in his mother's basement. God you suck