Cubs release former ace Arrieta after rough return to team

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
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CHICAGO – Jake Arrieta won a Cy Young Award and helped the Chicago Cubs capture a drought-busting World Series championship in his first stint with the club. His second go-round was nowhere near as successful.

It ended with his release Thursday.

Arrieta was informed of the decision a day earlier, after getting tagged for eight runs in a 10-0 loss to Milwaukee, Cubs president Jed Hoyer said. The 35-year-old right-hander was 5-11 with a 6.88 ERA in 20 starts.

“Nothing that happened on the mound last night or the other nights in any way diminishes his role in club history,” Hoyer said. “When you look back, I think there’s a really good argument to say he’s one of the more influential people in the history of this franchise.”

The Cubs also placed catcher Willson Contreras on the 10-day injured list because of sprained right knee that Hoyer said is not serious. They selected right-handed pitcher Ryan Meisinger from Triple-A Iowa, reinstated catcher catcher Austin Romine from the 60-day IL and designated left-hander Kyle Ryan for assignment.

Arrieta agreed in February to a $6 million, one-year deal. His return to Chicago had a chance to be a feel-good story, but it ended on a rough note. He was 0-7 with a 9.92 ERA in his final 11 starts.

Arrieta was the NL Cy Young Award winner with Chicago in 2015 and helped the Cubs win the 2016 World Series, their first championship since 1908. He went 68-31 with a 2.73 ERA in 128 starts over five years and threw two no-hitters during his first stint with the team.

He then signed a $75 million, three-year contract with Philadelphia in free agency and went 22-23 with a 4.36 ERA in 64 starts with the Phillies. He had a 4-4 record and a 5.08 ERA in nine starts during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

When Arrieta returned to Chicago, he joined a new-look rotation. The Cubs traded Yu Darvish to San Diego and let Jon Lester depart for in free agency.

He also reunited with David Ross, who caught Arrieta’s second no-hitter and led Chicago to the NL Central championship last year in his first season as manager. Ross said the decision to release Arrieta was tough.

“You hate that one on so many levels for me,” Ross said. “A friend and a guy I’ve got so much to be thankful for that he’s given me. It just stinks. I try to forget stuff like last night, look at what he’s done for this organization, how consistent he has been with the time I was on his team in ’15 and ’16.”

Cubs ace Kyle Hendricks called Arrieta a mentor and said it was tough to see him go.

“The moment I got called up, he kind of took me under his wing a little bit, showed me the ropes, just taught me about the big leagues,” Hendricks said. “I owe him a ton just to being comfortable in this environment, in this organization. And then, everything he did for this organization, his time here. That run he went on, man, it was the most fun to go out there and watch him pitch.”

The Cubs have dropped eight straight and 14 of 16 following Thursday’s 17-4 loss to Milwaukee. They’ve gone from being tied with the Brewers for the NL Central lead after Zach Davies and the bullpen combined to no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 24 to 18 1/2 games back.

Chicago also traded away championship core players Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo as well as star closer Craig Kimbrel before the July 30 deadline. Bryant, Baez and Rizzo had expiring contracts.

“Right now, obviously, we’re playing short-handed,” Hoyer said. “I think that’s very clear. We’re not planning on playing short-handed going forward. We were in fourth place at the deadline. Obviously, at that point we weren’t at the level we needed to be. We made decisions for the future. For the next couple months, we’re gonna have to play short-handed and give a lot of opportunities.”

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.