But first, a look back at the past award winners… dim the lights, roll the music, and…
2008 - Chan Ho Park. After six injury-prone and unproductive seasons, including an age-34 season spent putting up a 5.57 ERA in AAA, Park returned to the scene of his former glory, putting up four outstanding months for the Dodgers in 2008 and becoming a vital spot starter/swingman, before faltering at the end of the year. To no one’s surprise, he’s rocking an 8.57 ERA with the Phillies right now.
2007 – Rudy Seanez. Like Park, Seanez returned to LA after years of bouncing around with limited success, yet at age 38 put up a fantastic year, setting career highs in games and innings pitched. Actually, he was pretty decent in Philadelphia last year too, and last I heard he’d still like to pitch. Give the man a tryout!
2006 – Aaron Sele. Coming in on a tryout at age 36 after four solidly below-average years (including three in a row with ERA’s over 5), Sele ended up making the fourth-most starts on the team, contributing 103 innings of league-average performance. It’s actually better than it looks, because at the All-Star break he was 6-2 with a 2.91 ERA, before nosediving down the stretch.
2005 - No award given in protest that the best candidate may have been Scott Erickson.
Which brings us to the 2009 recipient of the “I’m Not Dead Yet, Dammit!” Award, given annually to the over-30 Dodger pitcher plucked off the scrap heap in hopes of recapturing some glimmer of his past glory, even if that “past glory” was never all that great to begin with. Oh, I know it’s just May 6 and it’s only been 9 innings, but A) hey, it’s been a great 9 innings and B) if we award this now, we can avoid having to consider Eric Milton or Shawn Estes for it later.
So ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present to you, Jeff Weaver. Mr. Weaver is more than qualified for this award, having not had a league-average season since 2004, and bottoming out last season by toiling away in the minors all year long – and even failing at that, putting up a 6.17 ERA for two AAA teams. While it’s not a requirement that the recipient be a former Dodger, it does seem to be tradition, which Weaver fulfilled by pitching in Blue in 2004-05. It’s also a requirement that the idea of his signing seems so ridiculous that it’s all we can do to not laugh out loud, as evidenced here:
I’m not going to get too worked up over a minor-league invite, because there’s really no risk involved, but holy jesus was Jeff Weaver awful in 2008. If you saw a pitcher who put up ERAs of 6.07 and 6.22, with WHIPs of 1.62 and 1.53, for his two teams last year, you’d say something like, “Woof. That guy got eaten alive. What the hell is he doing in the bigs?” – and you’d be well within reason to do so. Now, what do you say when you find out that those numbers came in stops for Buffalo and Nashville in AAA?
His qualifications are impeccible, to be sure. But it takes a special breed to be considered for this award – after all, anyone can be a terrible pitcher, and you don’t see us rushing to recognize Brett Tomko and Mark Hendrickson, do you? No, in order to get your name engraved on this fine trophy, you need to rise from the dead and squeeze that last bit of talent out to serve the team when it’s in need, and after a few lousy performances by James McDonald and Eric Stults, yeah, you could say the team’s in need.
Making his first start last night, well, Ken Gurnick, take it away:
Makes sense to Jeff Weaver, who took another step on his comeback-of-the-year journey with a triumphant return to the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Making his first Major League start since 2007 and first for the Dodgers since 2005, he allowed one run on a wild pitch, lasted five innings while striking out six and walking only one.
“He gave us everything we could have expected or wanted,” manager Joe Torre said. “We gave them a couple extra outs and he pitched around that. He couldn’t have been better than he was.”
Combine that with his relief stint last week, and you get a pretty impressive stat line: 9 innings, 1 run allowed (1.00 ERA), and most important: 10 K vs. 2 BB. That’s right, Jeff Weaver is striking out more than a man per inning.
So here’s to you, Jeff, for your small part in helping the Dodgers to the best record in baseball, and enjoy your award. Now keep it up and don’t make us look foolish.