January 8, 2010

Lead it to Weaver

A “leader” is someone who is known to inspire others. Leaders rise to the occasion and embrace the biggest moments and do not let fear stand in the way of achieving their goals.

Angel Blogger Garrett Wilson of Monkey with a Halo posted on his blog today about the Angels need to replace the leadership of John Lackey; something I whole heartedly agree with. What I disagree with Garrett about is his opinion that the Angels “aren’t going to find that in a rotation populated of players who are all 28 years old or younger with no more than six years of MLB experience.”

Garrett claims “What they need is a battle-tested veteran who commands immediate respect by just stepping on the rubber. How that player performs is almost inconsequential as long as he sets a proper example.”

Again, I couldn’t disagree more.

I see a leader emerging on the Angels staff in the form of Jered Weaver. I laid the foundation for this belief on October 10, 2009 just after Weaver had finished beating the Red Sox in game two of the ALDS in my “Rock on Jered Weaver” post.

In that post I discussed several critical moments in the career of Weaver when he not only emerged victorious, but showed great maturity and the ability to inspire others. One example I specifically wrote about was the game following the tragic death of Nick Adenhart:

I will never forget the first Angles game after Nick’s passing. It was April 10 and Jered was on the mound. He gave up one unearned run and threw six and two thirds innings, while striking out eight Red Sox; leading the Angels to a 6-3 victory. It was an emotional game and Jered Weaver had become a leader right before our eyes. It wasn’t a role he asked for. It was something he was destined to become.

In my opinion, age is irrelevant when it comes to leadership. It’s more a matter of attitude and ability. Leaders are often born of circumstance and opportunity. When Kareem Abdul Jabbar went down with an ankle injury in the 1980 finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, a rookie by the name of Earvin "Magic" Johnson emerged as not only a star, but a tremendous leader. Again, age or being a "veteran" doesn't necessarily have anything to do with being a leader. In Weaver's case, his opportunity has just arrived.

Face it; no one wants to follow a guy who can’t walk the walk; especially this day and age. People don’t want to listen to a winner, they’d rather watch one. Weaver has accepted and met every major challenge in his baseball career. He’s been told his delivery is problematic and should lead to injury. He’s heard through every step in his major league career that the “next level,” be it AA, AAA or the major league level would be a tougher road for him to travel. Experts have questioned how effective he can be as a “fly ball pitcher.” Time and time again, he’s managed to emerge better than people might have expected.

Weaver has more wins than Cole Hamels, Chad Billingsley, Jon Lester, and James Shields; some of which have become or have been projected to be #1 starters and all of which made their major league debut the same year as Weaver. Of those four, only Lester has a slightly better post season ERA (2.57 to 2.61) than Weaver.

I hated to see Lackey leave. I am still somewhat bitter about the whole thing; however, I am gaining optimism and perspective about it as time goes by. Lackey’s leaving will allow for tremendous growth on a staff filled with talent. There is bound to be a new dynamic among this group and I see them growing closer and stronger over time. Are they the next Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux and fill in the blank (Avery/Kile/Hampton, etc.)? I don’t know. What I do believe is that Weaver could very well emerge as the guy who’s most likely to take the reigns as the lead dog of this group.

Garrett concluded his blog today with “Those youngsters are all badly in need of a strong-willed mentor to look up to and the championship hopes of the Halos may very well depend on the pitching staff fully embracing the bulldog mentality to take their games to the next level. I don’t know if the Angel front office realized that when they let Lackey get away but if they don’t find a way to replace his leadership, they are going to find out what a gross miscalculation they made come next season and it won’t be pretty.”

I say it’s time to let these eagles fly. Three of them (Santana, Saunders, and Kazmir) have been all-stars and Weaver should have been one as well in 2009. They know what’s at stake and what they have to accomplish. There isn’t a need for someone else to come in and tell them what they already know; the Angels success will rise or fall on their shoulders. School is out; it's graduation time and the teacher has left the building. Time for the "students" to get down to business.

In closing I just want to say that even though I disagree with Garrett on his opinion about this particular subject; I do think he has a fantastic blog and would encourage readers of True Grich to also pay a visit to Monkey with a Halo; you’ll be glad you did.

1 comment:

  1. As far as John being gone you already know my definition of a lackey. Not sure I agree with Garrett in needing a "has been" leader for our young veterans in our rotation. I believe these four young men will feed off each other to be the king of the hill this year. You know I would like to see Padillia just for the fear factor and when he is not being a head trip he can be a quality pitcher. It might also be interesting to have Washburn back to see three lefthanded pitchers in the starting rotation and if Garrett is correct you have your old man to teach the kids mound composure. Only problem i'm sure he will demand too much money. Right Scott?