The Cubs released Jake Arrieta today, putting an end to Arrieta’s second run with the team.
His first stint included multiple no-hitters, a Cy Young in 2015, and helping lead Chicago to the 2016 World Series. Signed as a free agent this offseason to give more depth and innings than anything else, Arrieta has still been a disappointment on the mound, putting up a 6.88 ERA across 86+ innings. (That he started 20 games and only pitched 86 innings is really quite something.) It was an abysmal performance, and that lack of success helped the Cubs squander a surprising start, precipitating a midseason fire sale of many other 2016 heroes.
Last night, Arrieta gave up eight runs in four innings. That might have been enough to trigger today’s release on its own, but Arrieta probably ensured that was happening with his actions during a virtual post-game press conference. No one would blame him for being angry or upset at his performance, but he instead chose to ask a longtime beat reporter to take his mask off.
“I’d love you to take your mask off,” Jake Arrieta told a reporter on a video conference after a 10-0 loss while giving an answer about hoping to mentor young pitchers. https://t.co/8m4arcKBdK
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) August 12, 2021
Hey, if you can’t hear a question or understand something over a Zoom call, that’s going to be frustrating. But according to other reporters, that wasn’t the case here; rather, Arrieta was just being an idiot.
He made this comment to @MLBBruceLevine. I heard the audio (which we'll play on @BernsteinRahimi). Bruce was perfectly audible. Zero sound issues or muffling. Arrieta was just being a jerk. Imagine worrying about someone's mask after getting humiliated on the mound like that. https://t.co/yMwPTzYXXJ
— Jay Zawaski (@JayZawaski670) August 12, 2021
And from Mooney’s piece, which offers more context:
While giving an answer about hoping to mentor young pitchers, Arrieta looked at the screen and told a reporter up in the press box: “I’d love you to take your mask off. I don’t think anybody’s around you.”
Anyone who has been confronted in public by someone for just doing the basically responsible act of wearing a mask over the last 18 months or so knows where this is coming from. It really sucks, and it especially sucks because Bruce Levine was in the press box and he’s not a young man. It would be stupid, repellant thing to say even if a 25 y/o reporter was in his own bedroom, because what the fuck does Jake Arrieta know about why someone else is wearing a mask, and what say should he have in that as long as he can understand the question?
Rather, Arrieta just saw someone wearing a mask, which offended him. Levine, for his part, filed a story that in no way mentioned that exchange, and certainly didn’t paint Arrieta in an unfavorable light. If anything, Levine minimized his on-field issues, focusing more on the balance a team faces when a player who has forged longtime ties to many key members of the team and front office is struggling. The question that prompted Arrieta’s mask comment was about how he’s mentored young pitchers, one of the ways he could still find a way to stay on the roster despite his inability to get hitters out with anything close to a reasonable consistency (-2.2 bWAR this season.)
Now, he’s gone, and again while there’s a chance this mask opinion wasn’t even a consideration, it certainly couldn’t have helped him.