Friday, October 20, 2006

Weaver Was Supposed To Be In Verlander's Position

Jeff Weaver returns to Comerica Park tomorrow night, and that's what's great about sports.

Weaver, the former Tiger, will start Game 1, facing the fireballer Justin Verlander.

There was a time when the roles were thought to one day be reversed. It was going to be Weaver who was going to someday lead the Tigers to a World Series. It was going to be Weaver whose personality the Tigers would take on -- kind of like a poor man's Jack Morris.

But the Tigers were not a good baseball team for most of the time when Jeff Weaver pitched for them. They were slapstick -- a sadsack group of players, many of whom had no business being in the big leagues. But that's where the Tigers were in Weaver's day: short on talent at the big league level, bereft of hope in the minor leagues. They are that way no longer.

Weaver: tip your hat tomorrow night for #36

Weaver was GM Randy Smith's lone success story -- a homegrown talent who could actually pitch a little. He was, as he still is, fiery and prone to being affected by an umpire's skewed vision of the strike zone. A little Jack Morris in him, after all. But there were too few pieces of the puzzle surrounding him in Detroit, so the losing mounted and so did the frustration. Finally, in an act of mercy almost, GM Dave Dombrowski traded Weaver, to the Yankees, in a 2002, three-team deal.

The Tigers received a big first baseman with a sweet swing and a soft glove. He was to be the cornerstone of the trade for Detroiters: Carlos Pena. They later got a toss-in player. Someone to, basically, even up the bodies. That player, barely out of his teens, was a young pitcher named Jeremy Bonderman.

So Weaver traipsed to New York, had a small amount of success, went to the Dodgers, and then ended up with the Angels. He was roughed up there, and was released. He signed with the Cardinals, and had a bad start in St. Louis. His career was foundering. But he righted himself in the nick of time, and was one of the Cards' better starters in the playoffs. Surprise, surprise.

When Weaver is introduced tomorrow at Comerica Park, doubtless there'll be mostly boos. He's with the enemy, after all. But if you listen carefully, you'll hear some smattering of applause. As it should be.


The 26th Man said...

Great post. It's nice to see that there's still some love for Weaver.

As a Cardinals fan, I was very skeptical about the trade, and his first several starts confirmed those doubts.

But for the past month or so, he's a new man, and he's pitching with purpose again. I hope to ride it as long as possible.

Good luck during the World Series. I don't think the Cardinals have much chance at all, but you still have to play the games.

Greg Eno said...

Thanks for the comment, 26th man. I don't think the Cardinals will win, either, but then again, nobody thought the Tigers would beat them in '68, especially after Bob Gibson's 17 strikeouts in Game 1.

Like you said, you gotta play the games!

Ozz said...

I'm sure you've got some good Weaver stories to share.