Just like a sizeable percentage of the 69 players who suited up for the Cubs this season, Joc Pederson‘s tenure on the North Side amounted to little more than a future trivia. And though he’ll never reach the Shelby Miller-level incredulity of recalling that, yes, that guy played for the Cubs this year, Pederson’s 2021 season will always be best known for the pearl necklace he’s sported throughout the Braves’ run to the World Series.
No matter how things end up, he’s endeared himself to the Atlanta faithful just as he had in both Chicago and Los Angeles previously. And to hear him explain it, the feeling has always been mutual. Pederson didn’t want to leave the Dodgers and he certainly didn’t want to make a quick departure from the Cubs, who he’d hand-selected in free agency because they were a great fit both professionally and personally.
He laid that out in the lede of his recent column in The Players Tribune, where he has previously published other heartfelt pieces.
I wasn’t looking to leave Chicago. I enjoyed playing for the Cubs, enjoyed the city, enjoyed Wrigley….. plus I’d already changed teams last offseason. I wasn’t exactly dying to do it twice in a year. So when I saw Jed’s name pop up on my caller I.D. over the All-Star break, my heart kind of sank a little. We’d been losing, and I’d heard the same rumors as everyone else — that the Cubs were going to be sellers.
Turns out the rumors were true. Jed thanked me for my time with the club, and told me that the Braves had come after me hard. So they were moving me to Atlanta.
Perhaps the most disheartening aspect of the trade, at least in the very beginning, was that the Braves were in pretty much the same position as the Cubs when they acquired Pederson. Atlanta was sitting a game below .500 and was in third place in the NL East, 4.5 games behind the Mets (LOL) and Phillies. Pederson actually feared he’d be flipped again at the deadline and says he was told not to get too comfortable when he first arrived in Atlanta.
It’s easy to look back now and see how things worked out, but the Cubs were just two games below .500 and sat third in the Central when they traded Pederson. The Reds were in second at the time and the Cardinals and Cubs had identical 44-46 records, putting both of them just a half-game behind the Braves. Things, uh, kinda changed from that point.
And then it’s funny — I remember about a month after the trade, we’re a few games over .500 and on a long road trip. And I was playing cards on the plane with some of the pitchers. The plane ride ended, and then from there it’s like, the team has two buses: one for pitchers and one for position players. I wanted to keep playing cards with those guys, though — so I hopped in with them instead. And we’re on the bus, playing cards, talking trash, you know….. when at some point someone asks me, “Wait. Why are you on the pitchers bus?” And I wasn’t really even thinking about it. We were just having a good time, I guess, and I was in one of those moods.
But I said: “Because y’all are the motherf*ckers who are going to win us a World Series.”
Man, it’s funny what can happen when everyone is pulling in the same direction and you get a little late momentum. I’m not necessarily suggesting the Cubs would have made like the Braves or Cardinals and gone on a run to capture a playoff berth had they kept everyone and added more talent, but I’m not not suggesting that either.
Whatever, what’s done is done and now we get to figure out what it means to “spend intelligently” on free agents.
Things appear to have worked out pretty well for Pederson, who’s with his third team in less than a year and is playing in the World Series for the second year in a row after vanquishing one of his former employers. He’s a self-proclaimed “bad bitch” defining baseball fashion statement with his jewelry and bleach-blond hair and defying baseball odds by once again turning the end of the season into Joctober.
Maybe the Braves run out of magic and get trounced by the Astros over the next several days, maybe they win a game or two and put up a good fight before falling. Given how they’ve been playing, though, it might not be wise to count them out. Especially when they’ve got someone like Pederson pumping everyone up.
“We might have had our share of injuries, and slipped below some people’s radars, and taken an unconventional path to get to this stage,” Pederson said.
“But we also just might be those motherf*ckers.”
Narrator: They are those motherf*ckers
Joc Pederson: We are those MF'ers. pic.twitter.com/uwfVWdURya
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) November 5, 2021