To many, Jeff Weaver looked like a washed-up pitcher when he was with the 2006 Angels. To the Cardinals, Weaver looked like the answer to a need.
Ten years ago, on July 5, 2006, the Cardinals acquired Weaver from the Angels for minor-league outfielder Terry Evans.
After a shaky start to his Cardinals career, Weaver became an effective starter in the 2006 postseason and was integral to St. Louis winning a World Series championship.
Since entering the majors in 1999, Weaver had pitched for the Tigers, Yankees and Dodgers before becoming a free agent and joining the 2006 Angels. He had 13 wins with the 2004 Dodgers and 14 wins with the 2005 Dodgers.
With the Angels, though, Weaver was 3-10 with a 6.29 ERA in 16 starts. Opponents hit .309 against him.
The Cardinals, looking to replace Sidney Ponson in their rotation, had dispatched two scouts to evaluate Weaver. Dave Duncan, the Cardinals’ pitching coach, watched video of the Angels’ right-hander.
On July 1, 2006, Weaver, 29, was designated for assignment by the Angels, meaning he needed to be traded or released. The Cardinals were one of eight teams to make the Angels an offer for him.
“We’ve seen the guy pitch a few times … and still feel he has the assets he’s had in the past,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Maybe he hasn’t been using them as best he could be.
“One of the scouts who saw him thought he was using his breaking ball too much and wasn’t using his fastball. He’s got a pretty good fastball and there might be a chance we can make a change that makes him better.”
In an interview with Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch, Weaver said, “Maybe I was throwing too many strikes. I was getting hurt quite a bit on 0-and-2 pitches. I could probably do a better job of expanding the strike zone.”
Bernie Miklasz, Post-Dispatch columnist, liked the acquisition: “Dave Duncan’s overall success rate with fading veterans is superb. That’s why we expect to see Jeff Weaver improve in St. Louis.”
Weaver’s first Cardinals appearance was a start against the Braves at St. Louis on July 17, 2006. He didn’t impress. In four innings, Weaver yielded six runs, including a Brian McCann grand slam, and took the loss. Boxscore
Weaver made 15 regular-season starts for the 2006 Cardinals and was 5-4 with a 5.18 ERA. However, he won his last three decisions, including a Sept. 29 triumph against the Brewers that extended the Cardinals’ lead over the second-place Astros from a half-game to 1.5 games with two to play. Boxscore
Noting that Weaver had been “all but left on the shoulder of a Southern California freeway by the Angels,” Miklasz wrote of the gritty win over the Brewers, “The quality of Weaver’s determination was superior to the numbers on his final pitching line. He deserved the standing ovation that came his way as he departed the mound. In this critical final month, Weaver is 3-1 with a 4.15 ERA. He’s no longer a junker.”
Said manager Tony La Russa after that game: “Weaver was outstanding. The way he competed, you could see him working hard to get the outs. That’s one of the reasons why we like him. He’s a terrific competitor. He really did a good job for us. He did exactly what we needed.”
Weaver carried that effort into the 2006 postseason. Weaver was 1-0 vs. the Padres in the National League Division Series and 1-1 against the Mets in the NL Championship Series.
In the World Series, Weaver got the clinching win in Game 5, holding the Tigers to two runs in eight innings and striking out nine.
After that, Weaver became a free agent and signed with the Mariners.