Jackson aiming to bring winning tradition to Cubs

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Jackson aiming to bring winning tradition to Cubs

At a charity event in December, Cubs Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins said he thinks he would earn 30 million a year if he was in his prime during today's crazy free agent market.

Edwin Jackson isn't quite worth that -- 52 million over four years, to be exact -- but he was still one of the main draws at the 2013 Cubs Convention.

As Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer look to build the Cubs into a serial contender, they settled for making incremental moves in free agency to help improve the club. But then Jackson came along and the front office felt he was the right player at the right time.

For Jackson, a guy who has put on six different uniforms in the last five seasons, the appeal of a four-year contract was too much to pass up.

"It's always a pleasure knowing you have a chance to have stability," Jackson said Saturday at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. "You don't have to worry about moving around, and also, you get to gel with guys for a long period of time. That definitely helps you guys learn each other and it's imperative to a winning team. It helps you play better."

Jackson, who doesn't turn 30 until September, has already been traded six times in his career and granted free agency twice.

He's been on so many different teams in such a short time that in a Saturday panel with fans, new Cubs TV broadcaster Jim Deshaies actually likened Jackson to "the Kevin Bacon of baseball. But instead of six degrees of separation, you only need three to find a guy who played with a teammate of Jackson's."

Jackson says he has a "collage of jerseys," but may have finally found a home here in the Windy City.

"Chicago is a great city," Jackson said. "For us to be able to come out and try to change the tradition around the Cubs organization, I think it could be a lot of fun.

"My family and I, we love Chicago. Being on the North Side, playing at Wrigley, I can definitely picture myself being here for a long time, having a lot of success and helping bring this organization up to a winning tradition."

Of course, most baseball fans know Jackson has already spent parts of two season in Chicago, pitching for the White Sox at the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011, sandwiched in between a pair of trades.

But there's no question as to where Jackson's loyalty lies.

"I'm definitely looking forward to pitching on the good side," Jackson said Saturday, much to the delight of the fans. "I'm coming from the bad side -- the dark side -- and now I'm on the North Side. This is one of the greatest fan bases in the game and you see the turnout this weekend.

"It's been one of the greatest fan fests that I've been to...I feel great. There's a lot of energy. I'm excited to get the season started and experience it from the home side of things, instead of the visiting side where everybody is heckling me."

Jackson made the All-Star team in 2009 and already has one no-hitter to his name -- which he called the best and worst game of his career, as he also walked eight batters in the process. He carries a 70-71 lifetime record with a 4.40 ERA and 1.44 WHIP over more than 1,200 innings.

He brings gritty playoff experience to a team in the midst of rebuilding, having already won one World Series with the Cardinals in 2011 and appearing in another with the Rays in '08. Jackson was also a key part of last year's Washington Nationals team that led Major League Baseball with 98 wins in the regular season.

But that doesn't mean Jackson's going to be giving any rah-rah speeches in the locker room anytime soon.

"I'm not coming into a situation assuming I have to be a leader," he said. "You don't necessarily have to be vocal to be a leader. You can lead by actions and I'm definitely one of those guys. I'm not necessarily the most outspoken guy, unless I need to be.

"When there comes a situation to provide information, I can definitely fulfill that role. I'm just coming to play and have a lot of fun with these guys and try to win a lot of ballgames."

From top to bottom, Cubs have all the pieces in place, including new deals for Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod

From top to bottom, Cubs have all the pieces in place, including new deals for Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod

CINCINNATI – From top to bottom, the Cubs now have all the pieces in place to make October baseball at Wrigley Field a reality, year after year, with family ownership, rock-star executives and blue-chip players.

“It’s nice to keep the band together,” manager Joe Maddon said, reacting to Friday’s announcement that general manager Jed Hoyer and scouting/player-development chief Jason McLeod had finalized contract extensions, matching up their timelines with team president Theo Epstein’s new monster deal through the 2021 season.

Those architects constructed what’s already a 102-win team, a division champion and the National League’s No. 1 seed, making the Cubs right now the biggest story in baseball, if not professional sports.

The lineup for a 7-3 win over the rebuilding Cincinnati Reds featured two MVP candidates (Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo), a 22-year-old All-Star shortstop (Addison Russell) and marquee free agents (Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Dexter Fowler). The last two games of the regular season at Great American Ball Park will feature Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks making their final cases for the Cy Young Award. 

“It always starts with ownership and then it goes into the front office and eventually gets to us when you have that kind of stability,” said Maddon, who led a stunning turnaround with the Tampa Bay Rays despite all the uncertainty that came with small-market payrolls, a charmless domed stadium (Tropicana Field) and speculation about relocation and contraction.

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“We have a great product on the field,” Maddon said. “We have the best ballpark in the world. Our fans are spectacular. The city itself – there’s no more interesting place to live than Chicago. All those factors play into the success.

“I know in the past the Cubs haven’t been as successful as they wanted to be. But I don’t know that all the different ingredients have been put into place this well.

“So looking ahead, you just want to build off what you’ve done. Last year was a good building block coming into this year. And we want to keep moving forward. Of course, our goal is to play the final game of the year and win it. Under these circumstances, I think it becomes more believable on an annual basis.”

Since Epstein, Hoyer and McLeod reunited in the fall of 2011 – updating their World Series blueprints with the Boston Red Sox – the Cubs are just the third team in major-league history to win at least 100 games within four years of a 100-loss season. The Cubs have now qualified for postseason play in consecutive seasons for only the third time in franchise history.

“We had some good pieces,” chairman Tom Ricketts said. “But the organization itself was not in a position where you could believe that there was sustainability and consistency and success on the field. Obviously, Theo and the guys that he brought with him five years ago kind of took the organization down to the studs and started rebuilding.

“The time and energy to do it the right way has paid off with a team that should be successful for years to come.”

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