Jake McCarthy and Succeeding a Franchise Face
It is never easy to succeed the face of the franchise, or an icon, or an institution. Yet it happens. Whether it be a longtime high school coach, a mainstay player, or a band director in a small town following someone who had been there longer than he’s been alive, it happens. No one can stay in one place forever, although some stay so long that it can feel like they will. Somebody had to follow Lute Olson as the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Arizona. Florida State needed to have a head football coach after Bobby Bowden retired. Somebody had to play shortstop for the New York Yankees after Derek Jeter retired. Someone also had to play left field for the Arizona Diamondbacks after David Peralta was traded. That someone, as general manager Mike Hazen said in the post-Peralta trade press conference, is Jake McCarthy.
While Peralta — known affectionately as “The Freight Train” — was not the Hall of Fame-caliber player that Jeter was, he meant just as much to Diamondbacks fans as Jeter meant to Yankees fans. So when McCarthy was anointed by the general manager, that could have put a lot of pressure on him. But McCarthy has handled it well, keeping the same demeanor as he always has. He’s the same Jake McCarthy as before — calm, cool, laid-back, and enjoying the chance to play the game he loves at the highest level.
Jake McCarthy Since the Trade
Since the trade, McCarthy is slashing .304/.371/.357 (17-for-56) with three doubles, eight RBI, five walks, a hit-by-pitch, 6-for-7 stolen bases, and five runs scored in 18 games. This has made for a .328 wOBA and 0.9 wRAA. Since coming back from Triple-A on July 11, he has slashed .308/.371/.357 (28-for-91) with eight doubles, 10 RBI, eight walks, a hit-by-pitch, 13 runs scored, 8-for-9 stolen bases, a .340 wOBA, and 2.4 wRAA in 18 games.
McCarthy’s mindset has helped him focus on his on-field performance. “I don’t really think of it as ‘I’m replacing (David Peralta),’” McCarthy explained. “I guess, literally, I am, since I’m the left fielder (now). But, I understand. He’s been doing this…a lot of seasons. So I knew of David Peralta in Arizona before I was even in professional baseball. I understand what he means to the franchise, what he’s done, the impact he’s made, and, obviously, I have a lot of respect for that. My job is to succeed him in playing left field. I’m simply doing my job to the best of my ability.”
McCarthy also isn’t trying to be something or someone he’s not. He’s simply trying to be himself. “I am not trying to be David Peralta,” he said. “I’m simply trying to be the best version of myself. So I don’t look at it as (replacing him). That’s not the right way to look at it. I’m just trying to do my job, and that’s to help this team win. That’s where the conversation begins and ends. It’s obviously really cool to play the same position as a guy like (David) who’s made that type of impact.”
Meeting David Peralta
One place Peralta made an impact was with McCarthy himself. This happened in McCarthy’s first spring training back in 2019. McCarthy was in minor league camp, backing up a big-league game against the White Sox at Camelback Ranch. “(David) had batting practice and came out to left. He did his round, and I stood behind him, because he was starting in left that day. I was probably going to come into the game for the eighth and ninth inning. He stayed out with me for the third group and was walking me through the types of routes he’s learned.”
McCarthy was referring to Peralta’s time switching from pitcher to left field. He continued, “He was telling me some things Mac (first base coach Dave McKay, who works with the outfielders) taught him when he started playing left field. Not that left field is foreign to me, but he was giving me some pointers. Even at that point — I don’t even think he knew my name, he just saw a younger guy in the outfield. I thought that was pretty cool that he spent five to ten minutes of his day. He could have just gone into the clubhouse, knew he was getting three innings and two at-bats, and called it a day. But he chose to help me out. He was always a good teammate when I was here over the past year, so I wish him the best in Tampa.”
A Touching Tribute
We are all Jake. pic.twitter.com/MtpX193WYF
— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) July 31, 2022
McCarthy gave Peralta a touching tribute when he hit a double hours after the trade had been announced. Upon reaching second, McCarthy looked at the dugout, pulled Peralta’s trademark imaginary train whistle, and touched his chest over his heart.
McCarthy did that gesture from the heart, not for the cameras. He chuckled while smiling sheepishly as he explained the background. “In my first start in left here, he was DHing. I was joking around, telling him I gotta do the train, and when he runs out for the first inning. He was laughing. So I hit a double and he was on third base. I pointed to him and gave him one of these, laughing.” McCarthy did the train whistle motion that Peralta was known for. He continued, “(David) thought that was funny. Then on my next double, I did it again, but he wasn’t in the dugout. I thought, ‘Oh, shoot.’”
Hazen said in the post-trade conference call, “…there’s a new generation of fan favorites that, I hope, are starting right now.” Perhaps one of those is McCarthy. He’s not gunning for that, as he said, but simply trying to do his job.
To put it succinctly, somebody’s gotta play left field. And as McCarthy calmly put it, “It just happens to be me.”