The walk from Jake Arrieta's place to Wrigley Field, he estimates, is about a half-mile, a trek that takes him past a lot of brick. Along the way, Cubs fans will call out to him, offering congratulations and encouragement -- and this week, they're providing incentive for his forthcoming start in the wild-card game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday. Arrieta is gregarious and well-spoken, very at ease in conversation, and he says he loves the interaction.
The most famous reported byplay between a Chicago baseball player and a fan to date was recorded in the Minneapolis Daily Star in 1920. "It ain't true, is it, Joe?" a young boy is supposed to have said to star White Sox outfielder Joe Jackson when charges of game-fixing emerged.
"Yes, I'm afraid it is," Jackson reportedly responded, although he later denied the exchange took place.
Maybe one of the conversations Arrieta is having with fans in this 2015 season will be immortalized one day and thus supersede the Shoeless Joe legend, because of how far the Cubs might go this October and because of how incredibly well Arrieta is pitching. My colleague Jayson Stark can make a great Cy Young Award case for Zack Greinke, who has been the most consistently great pitcher in the National League from the first day of the season to these last hours.
But what we are seeing from Arrieta in recent months is unprecedented.