The Bronx Tale comes to mind when I watch ERA league leader Jeff Samardzija wasting away in
the Windy City. “Wasted talent,” says Sonny referring to people who don’t live up their potential, their destiny. Now, I am not saying that Samardzija isn’t at his best. Quite the contrary, I am saying that he can’t reach his potential hanging around Wrigley Field as a Cubs starter. The iconic team just isn’t cutting it for the rising star who is an athletic, injury-free 29-year-old pitcher.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish alum was a two sport athlete. Fall and winter he was an amazing wide receiver and in the spring a fast throwing pitcher. His athleticism has kept him healthy and injury-free throughout his career.
Coming into the majors as a reliever, he also doesn’t have as many pitches and innings under his belt as other pitchers around his age. “As much as the Cubs would like to keep Samardzija into their projected improvement, as much as they love his arm (an upper 90s thrower with very limited wear and tear), his competitiveness and his youth (he's only 29), it's fair to conclude he's much more valuable to a number of others teams now,” stated CBS Sports Jon Heyman this week. The Yankees lead the list of 10 possible suitors. They would have to give up a slew of prospects that could include Manny Banuelos and Ian Clarkin, but it may be just worth it with two-three guys out of the rotation.
I like his youth and I like what he could bring to the team. He like his fellow alum David Phelps has a rich commitment to the sport; a great work ethic perhaps learned through his younger years leading to the recruitment to one of the best academic and athletic programs in the country. He’s smart, he has talent and he has a rich future with the right team. The right team could be right here in New York, where we could put him right to work and provide an offense that could quickly turn his 0-4 record into a winning season. His losing record doesn’t reflect his stellar 1.62 ERA and in his last start against the Yankees, his infield let him down along with the lack of offense.
Could Samardzija make it in New York? I think so. “Samardzija, it has been noted by people close to him, has an amazing belief in his own ability. He also has the $10 million nest egg from a beefy signing bonus negotiated when the NFL was another option,” stated Heyman. Confidence can carry you very far and in the Bronx, you need a healthy dose of it, as the Yankees are not any ordinary team with ordinary media and fans. But he is used to the spotlight, being a sports hero with one of the most beloved teams in the world. I have made comparisons between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the New York Yankees- they both have a rich history, a devoted, extended fan base and are held to higher standards than other teams. There is no relaxing in either venue and I think Samardzija is primed for a great career with the Yankees.
I can visualize the rotation now, Kuroda, Tanaka, Samardzija, Whitley and Phelps. A gutsy group of hard throwing guys who may pack the punch we need to top the East in October. Let’s get the persuasive juices going now, Brian Cashman.
I can’t wait until July. Rescue Jeff from Chicago, because neither of us can waste anymore time or talent. All he needs is a plane ticket and a good haircut !
--Suzie Pinstripe, BYB Opinion Columnist
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