The backlash was immediate. And to a baseball player who has intentionally sparred with opposing fans on Twitter, maybe it shouldn’t have been surprising.
But Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta said his inflammatory tweet (which was retweeted 27,000 times) in the aftermath of the election wasn’t as political as many interpreted it, and certainly not bigoted, as some seemed to think.
“I was simply calling out people that said they were going to leave the country if [Donald] Trump was elected,” Arrieta said. “It’s not a pro-Trump tweet; it’s not an anti-Hillary [Clinton] tweet.
“I don’t consider myself a Democrat or a Republican. I want a president who’s going to do a good job. Whether it’s [Barack] Obama or whether it’s Trump or Hillary.”
That context was lost in the 140-character limit of the forum when Arrieta sent this lone post-election tweet: “Time for Hollywood to pony up and head for the border. #illhelpyoupack #beatit.”
Arrieta, who did not vote, said he was surprised by the volume of response, which was largely negative.
“People were saying I want people deported or I’m an anti-Semite,” he said. “Why would I not like Jewish people, first of all? That doesn’t make sense. I have Puerto Rican blood in me. To think that I would want to deport people is just absurd.
“I feel like my stance is pretty open and honest. It’s not to put anybody down. I was simply calling out people who have a tremendous platform of millions of followers that said they were going to leave the country if Trump was elected. I was basically calling their bluff. If you don’t want to live here, then beat it.
“I’m pretty pro-United States as I think everybody in this country should be if you want to stay here. If not, then I’m sure there’s somewhere else they can go. It was pro-United States. It was pretty simple, I thought. Other people didn’t feel that way. That’s fine. Everybody can have their own opinion.”
The most popular backup catcher in baseball didn’t stay retired long. The Cubs hired David Ross to return as a special assistant to baseball operations.
“He means so much to us,” team president Theo Epstein said of the player who spent the final two years of his career with the Cubs. “He’s going to impact a lot of players really positively in this role, a lot of front-office guys. He’s going to learn a lot and we’re going to learn a lot from him.
“It’ll set him up well to, maybe down the line, decide what it is he wants to specialize in, and I’m sure he’ll thrive in that role.”
Free agent right-hander Tyson Ross, 29, chose to sign with the Rangers over the Cubs on Friday, leaving the front office still searching for starting-pitching depth.
Ross, who is trying to come back from thoracic-outlet surgery after spending almost all of last season on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, signed for $6 million. The Cubs offered at least that much.
“We went 1-for-2 on Rosses,” Epstein joked.
Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.