Respect for players union plays part in Samardzija’s contract situation
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter June 23, 2014 10:19PM
Updated: June 23, 2014 11:10PM
One of the most often and easily overlooked reasons Jeff Samardzija has refused to agree to the kind of multiyear contract the Cubs are willing to pay is his relationship with the players union.
Some involved suggest his agent seeks a market-setting contract. Others suggest the team has stayed unrealistically low in its efforts to reach a team-friendly price on a five-year deal. And Samardzija has raised the issues of the team’s competitive timeline and his willingness to earn his contract value year-to-year. Any or all of those might come into play.
But when trying to understand why the sides couldn’t come close to an agreement and why the Cubs’ ace is all but certain to be traded in the next five weeks, don’t underestimate his sense of business history and the responsibility he said he feels toward the union.
“The only reason we’re in the fortunate spot we’re in is because of the guys that played before us and how they went about their business,” Samardzija, who grew up in a strong union household in Northwest Indiana, said in a recent conversation with the Sun-Times, “and how the whole free-agency thing started and what it’s become today. You just want to keep that going.
“You want to grow with the game. You always want the game growing, too. The way you do that is you work your butt off and you earn your way to free agency and you go from there.”
It’s not always a popular position. But it’s no less a part of the business of the game than rooftop battles and sign-to-flip free-agent deals.
And the business of the game is about to surpass the $9 billion mark in annual industry revenues, according to commissioner Bud Selig.
That helps explain the six-year, $105 million contract the Cincinnati Reds’ Homer Bailey got this spring — which, in turn, has become a comparison point for Samardzija as he continues a breakout season in which he lowered one of the best ERAs in the league to 2.53 with six competitive innings Monday night.
It’s why an $85 million offer that probably would have gotten a deal done, and kept him part of the core, in the offseason won’t get it done now. That also means a trade, and, possibly, an extended competitive timeline if he turns out to be better than the Cubs can get for the money after he’s gone.
With teams such as the Toronto Blue Jays and San Francisco Giants following Samardzija for a possible shot at acquiring him by the trade deadline, he showed on a night he didn’t have his sharpest command another of his strengths.
After giving up a double and triple to the first two batters he faced, Samardzija stranded the runner at third and pitched out of another jam in the third. He then retired nine of the final 10 he faced, handing a 1-1 game to the bullpen after six innings.
“When he takes the mound, he’s a pretty competitive individual,” manager Rick Renteria said.
If you couldn’t tell when he was pitching, his third-inning at-bat made Renteria’s point — when Samardzija failed to get down a sacrifice bunt with a man at second. And then snapped his bat over his leg, like Carlos Zambrano.
“He wears his emotions on his sleeve,” Renteria said.
Of course, it figures to be a different colored sleeve by August.
Samardzija said he hasn’t heard from the players union about his contract situation. It’s not about pressure or praise, he said.
“I just think it’s kind of expected,” he said. “You’re part of a great union, and a lot of people have your back, and you owe it to them to respect that, respect them and all the hard work that they’ve done for you. You appreciate it for sure.”