Thursday, March 24, 2011

Will Peavy top Dean in ranks of Chicago baseball? Is he payback for Trout?

I’m starting to wonder if Jake Peavy is destined to be the best ballplayer to never accomplish a thing with a Chicago baseball club.

Peavy is the National League’s former Cy Young Award winner (as in the best pitcher in that league in 2007) who hasn’t shown a sign of greatness since joining the Chicago White Sox mid-way through the 2009 season.

I’LL CONCEDE THINGS started out promisingly. He won the three games he started when he first came to the team in 2009. But since then, the Jake Peavy story is one of injuries keeping him from pitching on a regular basis.

During his time with the White Sox, he has 10 wins, 6 losses, an earned run average of 4.11, with 40 walks and 111 strikeouts. Which would be acceptable if it came in a single season and Peavy were nothing more than the number four pitcher in the White Sox’ starting rotation.

But this is the man who supposedly was going to supplant Mark Buehrle as the White Sox’ top pitcher. The man who was going to be the dominant ace from Chicago. The one who would ensure that the White Sox would get another American League championship (if not a World Series title) in our current lifetime.

Now, we’re getting reports that Peavy may have become so anxious to return (and start earning the $16 million he is to be paid for the 2011 season) that he may have hurt his arm a little further, making it likely he will miss even more of this season. He definitely won’t be on hand when the White Sox start their season April 1 in Cleveland against the Indians.

DID THE SAN Diego Padres know what they were doing when they signed him to a big-money contract, then trade him away to Chicago?

I’m not implying some sort of conspiracy (leave that to Toronto Blue Jays fans still bitter over acquiring pitcher Mike Sirotka from the White Sox right as his arm went bad). I’m just wondering if Peavy is destined to be another hard-luck story that is so typical to Chicago baseball.

I’d say Peavy ranks up there with Dizzy Dean in the annals of Chicago baseball.

Dean is the Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher whom everybody remembers for his goofy temperament and his star years with the St. Louis Cardinals (including that peak year of 1934 when he won 30 games and he had a 2.66 earned run average.

BUT DEAN ALSO did four seasons with the Chicago Cubs, and nobody remembers his stint on the North Side – unless they’re looking for more examples of ineptitude by Cubs management throughout the years in acquiring athletic talent. Dean made the Hall of Fame DESPITE being a Chicago Cub.

Dean from 1938-41 won 16 games, while losing 8 with a 3.35 earned run average. That’s over four seasons. Which means if Peavy manages to win six more games during the next two seasons that he is under contract to the White Sox, he will match Dizzy both in victories AND in untapped promise.

There’s even the similarity in that Peavy and Dean were undone by injuries. In Dean’s case, it was sudden. The All-Star Game played in 1937, when Dean got hit on the foot by a line drive. His toe was broken, and he tried to come back before the foot was completely healed.

Which meant he had to alter his pitching motion to avoid putting full weight on that foot, Which cost him all of the movement on the ball that made him so special. That is when the Cardinals chose to let him go, and new Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley insisted on giving him what was big money for the era.

BIG BUCKS SPENT in Chicago to reward him for past athletic success. It applies to Peavy just as much as it did to Dean during the waning years of the Great Depression.

Which makes them the exact opposite of somebody like Steve Trout, the one-time White Sox and Cubs pitcher back in the late 1970s and into the 1980s who was a competent pitcher in Chicago – and was one of the regular starting pitchers for the Cubs the year they won their first division title ever in 1984 (13 wins, 7 losses, a 3.41 earned run average (80 wins, 78 losses with nearly 600 strikeouts during his 10 years in Chicago baseball).

In 1987, he was traded to the New York Yankees, who were counting on Trout to bolster their pitching rotation (the team’s weakness during the 1980s) and were willing to give him the big money contract that would have been his reward for a decade of work.

But four losses, no wins and a 6.60 earned run average in a half-season caused the Yankees to trade him away to the Seattle Mariners, while also paying that team $1 million to take him off their hands. It’s no wonder Trout these days is back in the south suburbs (he played his high school ball for Thornwood High School in South Holland – the same school that produced former Chicago Bulls player Eddy Curry – before signing with the White Sox) having to work for a living like the rest of us.


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