Good news, bad news: Ben Sheets's contract with the Rangers has apparently fallen through, Sheets's elbow has apparently fallen off. It's reassuring, honestly, to know that Mozeliak and co. were—again, apparently—acting rationally this entire time. This is the end of one of those Three's Company episodes where Jack thinks Chrissy is about to join a cult or kill somebody because of something he heard through the kitchen door, when she is in fact trying to make him a birthday cake. Our long, national nightmare is, if not over, at least cast in a more pleasant light.
The month-long clamor leading up to this is part of the downside of the always-on news cycle that the internet guarantees; what might have been a few newspaper articles about Mozeliak's inaction fifteen years ago became a top story instead, magnified by the laser focus on what pertinent news there is that running a year-round blog/newspaper/TV station demands. There was no new news about Ben Sheets, until yesterday, but there was always—there always had to be, thanks to the nature of the mediums—new discussion.
(On that note, I was glad to see that discussion about Sheets remained more or less civil, if also as tense as can be expected when site-wide dreams of a certain diving 80 mph curveball are unceremoniously dashed.)
Which isn't to say I'm happy about this. Sheets is one of my favorite pitchers to watch, aesthetically, and if all that clamoring had ended in an arbitrarily late signing instead of an arbitrarily late elbow surgery, I'd have happily put off my veiled, nattering sermon about cable news networks until the next time a story gets stretched to untenable lengths. But now, at least, the question changes, and that's exciting in it's own way: the first Chris Carpenter deal started with an entire year on the DL, too.
Speaking of which, is it time to get excited about Chris Carpenter's arm yet? Of course it is—it's February!
Duncan said that team trainer Barry Weinberg told him that Carpenter can have a normal routine in spring training. Carpenter doesn't have to be held back, or handled with extra care. He can throw and get his work in like all of the other pitchers. That's why Duncan is optimistic. Because Carpenter will be ready to go from Day 1 of spring training. No baby steps are needed.
Let's throw this to Dan and Al:
DAN: Well, you know, Al, this is like making that big Spring Training trade, only you don't have to trade anybody!
AL: You know, it really is.
Thanks, guys. I don't think it's possible to overstate how important 20, 25 starts from Chris Carpenter would be to a team that's trying to hide Joel PIneiro and a bunch of fringe-ready prospects in the back of the rotation. It would also mean that the Cardinals' second-largest(!) cash outlay for 2009 wasn't just sitting around the entire year, which would be a major morale boost after the PR nightmare that's set up residence atop this off-season's contractual discussion. A lot of that seemingly onerous, unmanageable Sheets/Ramirez/Lowe ennui would recede if Carpenter goes into May with three wins and the ability to comb his own hair.
Finally, to complete the injured pitcher/great breaking ball trifecta, Tyler Johnson—more importantly, Tyler Johnson's slider—was signed by the Mariners. A minor league deal, presumably healthy to start 2009... I'm not altogether anti-Trever Miller, but what does he offer that Tyler Johnson didn't, besides allowing me the chance to walk away from the TV when he comes in to pitch? Here's hoping T.J. makes the team, because he definitely makes the list of my favorite pitches to watch on TV. Off the top of my head:
- Rick Ankiel's 13-6 curveball
- Ben Sheets's bowling-ball curve
- Tyler Johnson's slider
- Eric Gagne's sinking change
- Rick Ankiel's centerfield fastball