COMMENTARY | After six weeks on the disabled list, Los Angeles Angels star pitcher Jered Weaver returns to the active roster charged with the responsibility of saving the pitching staff from the pit of despair in which it resides.
But can one man who only pitches every fifth day really make a difference?
It would be an understatement to say the Angels' pitching staff has been disappointing this season. That's like saying that lately Amanda Bynes has just been "acting weird." Bynes has been in full-blown train-wreck mode the last couple of weeks. And the Angels' pitching has been in full-blown Bynes mode.
In his first game back, pitching against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Weaver looked solid. He went six innings and made their lackluster lineup continue to lack any luster. But then, as with all starting pitchers, he has to wait five days before he can get back out there and help the team.
Or does he? Can his return alone help push the rest of the staff to perform better? Every year, we hear about a player who "carried the team on his back." So, maybe Jered can be one of those guys this year -- if those guys actually exist.
Yes, there are batters who have had offensive explosions for half a season or pitchers who have spent months in a row in the zone, throwing unhittable, nasty stuff. And for every player who has a monster season and gets his team to the playoffs, there's a player who had a monster season and the team ended up in last place.
So, it's really only anecdotal when we say a guy "carried the team" because each team has eight fielders and five starting pitchers who are regularly part of the game and who have to hit and catch and pitch. No one player can do it all himself.
But we romanticize athletic performances and we embrace the "story" because, well, it's just more fun. It's not enough to say, "My gosh, this whole team of players all performed well and collectively won enough games to win their division." We want it to be more special, so it becomes, "[Popular Baseball Player] was awesome this season! He went into beast mode and carried the team to the division crown!"
We start to get elaborate recollections like, "Matt Kemp hit a double grand slam in the bottom of the ninth," or "Doc Halladay threw a no-hitter with a chimpanzee on his back," or "Miguel Cabrera's defense wasn't that bad."
I'm not siding with the stat guys here. I definitely believe in the intangibles -- within reason. Last year when so many people were practically herniating themselves over Miguel Cabrera's "value" to the Detroit Tigers because of his offensive production to end the season, they happily overlooked his negatives -- baserunning and fielding.
I found it odd that in all the stories about Cabrera, hardly anyone mentioned that Prince Fielder was having an equally productive final two months or that the pitching staff ERA was around 2.00 for the last six weeks of the season.
We heard so much about what Miguel Cabrera "means to the team" in a non-statistical way, and frankly that all comes across as just boring baseball clichés. What's he doing in the clubhouse? Giving great back rubs and excellent restaurant recommendations? Does this mean there were a lot of other players who didn't really mean anything to the team?
In 1972, pitcher Steve Carlton won 27 games and carried his Philadelphia Phillies to a last-place finish. Was he not giving out back rubs? Should he have done more to "mean more to the team"?
With all that said, I do believe in the un-staticized contribution in sports. I believe in players focusing, rallying and rising to the moment. One player doing well can inspire others to do well who then inspire other players to do well. That's sports chemistry.
Jered Weaver is probably the best pitcher in the AL West, and he returned in fine form to help the Angels get the win. And then the mediocre Jason Vargas pitched well for the Angels the next night to get another win.
No one can say for sure either way whether Weaver's return was even remotely to blame. Maybe Vargas just got lucky. Maybe (definitely) the Dodgers' lineup isn't very good.
Despite his slightly messianic looks, Jered Weaver is just one pitcher. He can only do what he can do. He can only pitch when he pitches. In the process, he may at least pitch well and ease the burden on the team's bullpen. And he may at most inspire his teammates to focus, rally and rise to the moment.
However, as boring as it sounds, we'll have to see a whole team of players all perform well and collectively win enough games if the Angels want to make the playoffs.
Jed Rigney is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a baseball writer. He is the lead humor columnist at Through The Fence Baseball.
- Sports & Recreation
- Jered Weaver
- Amanda Bynes
- Miguel Cabrera
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Los Angeles Angels