Steve Cishek is definitely frustrated right now. As his former Chicago White Sox teammates were readying for the first round of the Major League Baseball playoffs, he was coming to terms with the fact that he wasn’t going to be out on the field with them in their bid for a World Series title.
Last week, with just four games remaining in the regular season, the 10-year Major League veteran was designated for assignment by the White Sox. Designated for assignment is MLB’s way of waiving a player. When a player is designated for assignment, he is immediately removed from the club’s 40-man roster. This gives the club 10 days to decide what to do with the player while freeing up a roster spot for another transaction, if needed.
Cishek said he was saddened by the transaction by Chicago but was not surprised. With the playoffs looming he noted that the team was bolstering its bullpen with young, hard-throwing pitchers and his downtick in performance this year made him an obvious choice by the management.
For the first time in his decade-long pro career, the Cape Codder was not one of the dominant late inning performers in pro baseball. The 34-year-old said playing COVID-19-era baseball did not allow him to follow his normal routine, which included lots of time in his team’s film room, breaking down his mechanics and delivery. This year the players had to do their own film study on tablet computers, and Cishek said it made breaking things down much more difficult for him, and that was problematic.
“No excuses, though. I needed to be better this year, and I get it. It’s a business, and (Chicago) made a business decision. The timing wasn’t great for me,” he said.
The timing was awful. The deadline to be picked up by another club to make a postseason run was September 15. The White Sox waited until September 24 to designate him for assignment, preventing him from catching on with another one of the playoff contenders.
Cishek has put up fantastic statistics over the course of his career, with an overall earned run average of 2.78 along with 605 career strikeouts and 132 saves. He holds the record for saves by a Miami Marlins closer.
This year, with the season shortened to just over two months of baseball, Cishek got off to a slow start and never quite rebounded. He finished with a 5.40 ERA, allowing 21 hits and 12 runs over 20 innings of work. He was touched up for single runs in four of the last eight outings he had for the White Sox. Last year, for the Cubs, he had posted a 2.95 ERA, and in 2018 it was 2.18. He appeared in 150 games over two years for the Cubs and pitched in 22 this year.
“I just didn’t really pitch all that well this season,” he said. “I knew that there was a good chance that this might happen (late in the year). I was definitely off a tick. Over my career, when things aren’t working I (study) and keep at it until something clicks and then I run with it. The main thing was that I was still off a bit. It clicked a little bit, here and there, but I was still working on it and trying to get where I wanted to be.”
The former star for Post 188 and Falmouth High School said being in the big leagues this year was like no other year he had every experienced. The players were COVID-tested every other day and did not have the ability to enjoy the cities they would visit as they had in the past. The strangest thing, though, was performing in front of empty seats.
“It was really weird without the fans in the stands. I feed off the energy in the stadium, and it just wasn’t the same without that noise and electricity,” he said.
The East Falmouth native said over the next few weeks he will focus on getting his head clear before deciding whether or not to continue his professional career. He needs just a month and a half more of service time to become fully vetted for his MLB pension, but he said even without that time the pension will be ample when he finally cashes it in. With career earnings of more than $35 million in professional baseball, it will not be a financially driven decision.
“I’m not sure right now; ask me in a month or two,” he said with a laugh. “Me and (my wife Marissa) will pray and think about it and decide what’s best for our family. Our kids are getting older, about to start school, and I want to be home as much as possible.”
Cishek said one team he would love the chance to sign with once again is a place he considers home. Sorry, Red Sox fans, it isn’t the one that plays in your backyard.
“We’re finishing a project in Jupiter (Florida), and I’d love to be close to home. It’d be great to play for the Marlins again. That’s the team I came up with, and I’ve got a lot of history there,” he said. “I’d definitely think about that one.”