Jeff Samardzija has lived through it already so he understands this as well as anyone: Dont believe the hype.
The media has gone from wondering if Samardzija would even make the 2011 team or if he had any minor-league options left to projecting that he will be a No. 1 starter for years to come.
Even if that All-American football background meant Samardzija needed extra time to learn about the art of pitching, it also undoubtedly helped prepare him for being a Cub.
Though talks about a possible long-term extension didnt gain much momentum, Samardzija is now viewed as a foundation piece for Theo Epsteins rebuilding project. The Cubs wrapped up their arbitration cases on Friday with Samardzija (2.64 million, his 2012 salary, plus 125,000 in performance bonuses) and reliever James Russell (1.075 million).
Samardzija hung out in South Florida with his buddies for the BCS title match, though he didnt actually go to the game and watch Alabama destroy Notre Dame. And, no, he didnt see Manti Teos girlfriend either. But he understands how the game is played.
Its Notre Dame, Samardzija said. You understand when you go to Notre Dame, you take on a different role of being under the spotlight. If things go great, its a great place to be at. You get tons of accolades for it. You get all the front-page articles. You get Sports Illustrated. You get ESPN.
But then if something doesnt go well, you pay for that, too. You need to understand if you go to that school, you have to be a responsible, mature adult.
Thats about as far as Samardzija whos probably the best interview in the Cubs clubhouse wanted to go with Teo, the Notre Dame linebacker drawn into a bizarre social media hoax.
You cant really have a comment on it, Samardzija said. Its not really your personal life and its not what Im doing. And on top of that, theres so much speculation. Some people want to believe them. Some people dont. To sit and listen to whats going on, its really arbitrary.
I dont really have an opinion on it until enough information comes out to where you can say who was right and who was wrong. You cant say too much about it (now). Obviously, thats what drives media and everything the speculation. But ultimately you got to understand (and) assume that he made a bad decision and you learn from it. You just hope its not the other side of the coin, thats all.
The perception has swung from Samardzija being a 10 million bust to the marketing department now making him a reason to buy tickets. A breakthrough 2012 season 9-13, 3.81 ERA, 180 strikeouts in 174.2 innings ended when he was shut down in September.
Looking back on it, was that the right call?
Absolutely not, Samardzija said. I want to pitch. Period. But, again, I dont make those decisions. Well answer that question in the future. At the end of this year (and) the year after that, if Im strong and healthy and ready to go, then obviously its going to be a great decision.
I dont ever think when youre healthy not playing is a good decision. I dont care what sport it is, anywhere youre at. You only get so many opportunities to play the sport youre playing. You need to take advantage of every chance you get. But I do understand why they did it and the reason for it. Because Im a reasonable man, I understand thats OK. The thing is we have common ground. We want to win.
As a whole, Im pretty stubborn. But if you get four guys in a room that say this is whats going to be best for our team in the future, then Im going to listen to it.
That attitude is why Samardzija is supposed to be a leader on the next contending Cubs team.