After reminiscing about one of my favorite Notre Dame memories involving Jeff Samardzija last week, I got to thinking about the Shark’s decision to pursue a career in baseball rather than the NFL in 2007. Earlier this season I had the fortune of watching Samardzija absolutely dominate the Cardinals at Wrigley Field, and while I am a fan of the pathetic Cubbies I couldn’t help but think I would rather see the Shark donning a Bears #83 jersey instead.
In 2012, his first full season as a starter for the Cubs, Samardjiza got off to a quick 4-1 start with a 2.89 ERA through mid-May (including two no-decisions when he gave up a total of 1 earned run). He was looking like he may have reached the potential the organization saw in him when signing him to a 5-year, $10 million deal after drafting him in the 5th round of the 2007 draft. The Shark followed up by struggling mightily in June, going 0-4 with a 10.41 ERA. After an outstanding effort to beat the Braves on Monday, he now sits at 6-7 with a 4.77 ERA on the season.
What if Samardzija, who is bringing in a cool $2.64 million paycheck this year (I’m guessing that’s a little more than most 2007 ND grads are making), had chosen to play in the NFL instead? At the time he made his decision, he insisted that he picked baseball because of his love for the game and that the chance of injury and the lack of longevity in the NFL were not factors in his choice.
34 wide receivers were taken in the 2007 NFL draft. One of them (Calvin Johnson) is the best receiver in the league today, and 3 others (Dwayne Bowe, Steve Smith, and Sidney Rice) have played in Pro Bowls. Other notable names include Ted Ginn, Steve Breaston, Mike Sims-Walker, Anthony Gonzalez and Robert Meachem. There is no way for us to predict how Samardzija’s career would have turned out compared to his 2007 counterparts, but I’m going to guess it would be somewhere between David Clowney of “Hard Knocks” fame and Megatron of “I’m going to catch anything you throw my way and make a tubby frat boy from Georgia one of the top fantasy football quarterbacks” fame.
From an economic standpoint, Samardzija is unlikely to make the same $132 million that Calvin Johnson just signed for. He also probably won’t be matching Dwayne Bowe’s $9.5 million per season any time in the next few years. But, when you consider that only 10 wide receivers will be making over $5 million in 2012 and 85 pitchers are clearing the same amount (Samardzija is the 154th highest paid pitcher in the league), you start to see that the Shark has left himself much more room to grow financially with sustained success.
Do you think Samardzija made the right choice in sticking with the Cubs after college? Would you rather see him suited up for your hometown MLB team or your hometown NFL team?
*On a very slightly unrelated note, my good friend ‘Osty’ (a Michigan grad, sadly) reminded me about a hilariously awkward situation at the 2007 draft. When the Panthers selected Dwayne Jarrett in the 2nd round, Keyshawn Johnson (who was on the Panthers at the time and was a guest analyst for ESPN) gushed over his fellow USC wide receiver and discussed how excited he was to have the opportunity to work with him and teach him about playing the position at the highest level. Well, unfortunately for Keyshawn, drafting Jarrett meant that 3 days later Johnson was out of a job. Seriously, this is just too good not to watch: