Weaver's departure still confuses Cards
Jeff Weaver's place in Cardinals history is secure. He ensured that with a sensational postseason performance last year that was capped...
Seattle Times staff reporter
JUPITER, Fla. — Jeff Weaver's place in Cardinals history is secure. He ensured that with a sensational postseason performance last year that was capped by winning the clinching game of the World Series against Detroit.
"He'll never be forgotten in St. Louis," said Cardinals outfielder Jim Edmonds.
If ever a player's return seemed like a slam dunk, it was Weaver to St. Louis. His career seemingly adrift when the Angels cut him in June with a 3-10 record and 6.29 earned-run average, he was transformed with the Cardinals under the tutelage of pitching coach Dave Duncan. Counting the postseason, Weaver was 7-4 with a 3.63 ERA in his final 16 games.
The fact that Weaver wound up signing with the Mariners — a one-year deal for $8.325 million, plus another possible $1 million in incentives — still seems to rankle manager Tony La Russa. But not because he believes Weaver was being ungrateful to the team that resurrected his career.
"First of all, everything we did for him, he did for us," La Russa said Saturday. "As far as I was concerned, at the end of the season, we were even. So no guilt trip was dropped on him, no obligation, nothing. He helped us win, and we helped him."
One of the sources of La Russa's consternation seems to be that Weaver wound up signing a one-year deal after his camp spoke of multi-year offers.
"If what he had done here meant someone gave him a contract like what Jeff [Suppan] got [four years, $42 million with the Brewers], or what Jason [Marquis] got [three years, $21 million with the Cubs], and we weren't in a position to do that, I could understand that.
"But to go for one year, I don't understand. I have a lot of respect and affection for him, but I'd be curious about it. In the end, it's his decision."
La Russa also made it clear he suspects that Weaver's agent, Scott Boras, did not properly convey the Cardinals' negotiating stance to his client.
"I would not have been surprised [that Weaver left] if, as his agent was saying, he had three years at all that money. He even said he had four years. If he had taken a deal he couldn't refuse ... but to take a one-year deal, yeah, I'm surprised. But in the end, I'm not positive I can speculate as to what Scott was telling him about what we were saying. That certainly wasn't helpful."
Boras couldn't be reached, but he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last month that it simply came down to the fact that the Cardinals failed to make a "competitive" offer for Weaver.
"The fact is, they weren't even close," Boras told the Post-Dispatch. "Jeff gave St. Louis every opportunity. We let them know what Jeff's market was. Their response was to make an offer literally appropriate for a relief pitcher."
According to the newspaper, the Cardinals' offer was slightly more than a $5 million guarantee plus appearance incentives. It is believed they also presented a two-year proposal.
La Russa and Duncan made several calls to Weaver over the winter to lobby him to stay in St. Louis. Two weeks before Weaver signed with the Mariners, La Russa described him as potentially "the final piece" of their revamped rotation.
"Exactly what I told Jeff was, 'Make sure there's no misunderstanding ... we want you to be part of the competition this year,' " La Russa said. "That's what we told him: 'We want you.'
"I guess he asked Dunc one time, 'Why don't you want to give me three or four years?' and Dunc told him, 'We want you and believe in you, but you've got to come back and re-establish. That, to me, is totally consistent with what Walt [Jocketty, the Cardinals' general manager] and Bill [DeWitt, their chairman and principal owner] said."
Duncan and La Russa both believe that Weaver will be able to sustain with the Mariners his late success in St. Louis.
"I think he had just lost a lot of confidence," Duncan said. "Physically, there were only a couple of little things I thought he was doing that kind of took away from his ability to locate the ball where he wanted to, and they were very simple corrections to make.
"As he threw the ball better, I think he regained confidence. By the time we got to the end of the season, he really believed he could go out there and compete against anybody. He's well aware of the things he had to do, and he should be fine."
"Jeff was very impressive with not just his competing, but his thought process," La Russa added. "I think Dave Duncan is great, but I think there are a lot of people in baseball that are effective coaches and managers, and Seattle has that situation. I think Jeff will do fine."
If Weaver had listened to his ex-Cardinals teammate Scott Spiezio, he would have run from the Mariners. Sprinted, in fact.
To say that Spiezio struggled in Seattle is an understatement. Signed before the 2004 season (three years, $9.15 million), Spiezio hit .215 and lost his third-base job. He then somehow managed just three hits in 47 at-bats (.064) as a bench player in 2005 before the Mariners mercifully cut him loose in midseason, eating considerable salary in the process.
Ever since, Spiezio has been bad-mouthing his Seattle experience. He regained his stroke last year in St. Louis (.272, 13 homers, 52 runs batted in in a reserve role), won a World Series ring and parlayed it all into a two-year, $4.5 million contract.
Spiezio's bitterness over his time in Seattle — which might carry more weight had he not performed so poorly — spilled forth Saturday when asked if he was surprised Weaver left the Cardinals to sign with the Mariners.
"Yeah, I'm very surprised because I told him not to go there," Spiezio said. "I flat-out told him he was going to hate it. I don't know what he was thinking. Based on my experience, he will hate it. He'll hate everything about it.
"It's a pitcher's park, that's for sure. But part of the whole deal here [with St. Louis], we have the fans behind us, we have a front office that wants to win, and teammates that play hard and are team players. None of the above are over there."
• Bobby Madritsch, who opened the 2005 season in the Mariners' starting rotation before he was derailed by a torn labrum in his left shoulder, showed up in Phillies camp last week. GM Pat Gillick said the club was considering offering a minor-league contract to Madritsch, who was waived by the Mariners after the 2005 season and by the Royals after last season. He has not thrown a competitive pitch since the injury.
• Perhaps it was inevitable Matt Stairs, a Canadian from New Brunswick and hockey fanatic, would sign with Toronto as a spot starter and pinch-hitter.
"When I get to Toronto, the first guy I want to meet is Tie Domi," Stairs told the Toronto Sun, referring to the former NHL enforcer.
• Rick Ankiel is back with the Cardinals, still trying to make it as an outfielder. You might recall that Ankiel's once-promising pitching career flamed out over control issues.
He switched to outfield in 2005 and hit 21 homers in 321 at-bats at Class A and Class AA, but missed all of last season after knee surgery.
Ankiel, 27, is slated for Class AAA Memphis at some point this season.
"He's got all the talent to be a star," La Russa told reporters.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.