What looked to be
a study in sibling rivalry-brothers bumping each other off the same major
league roster, back and forth-has become something even more interesting. Now
that Jered Weaver is enjoying a history-making rookie season with the Los
Angeles Angels and older brother Jeff is struggling for the St. Louis
Cardinals, there is additionally the matter of birth order to reconsider. Not
only that. This, really, is a seminar on all kinds of family dynamics. Just
what does it mean to be a kid brother these days? What is the role of
competition among children? Who loved whom best?
Also: What the
hell is Jered throwing out there?
This last topic is
the more pressing, certainly the more mysterious. Ever since he knocked Jeff
out of the rotation and clean into St. Louis (the story line going from
Brothers in Arms to O Brother, Where Art Thou? as soon as the switch was made
in June), Jered has been a frustrating puzzle for American League batters. When
he helped shut out the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 18 to improve to 9-0 and equal
Whitey Ford's 56-year-old record for best career start among American Leaguers
(Hooks Wiltse went 12-0 out of the box for the 1904 New York Giants-there's
your major league mark), the 23-year-old lowered his ERA under 2.00 and boosted
his reputation for unflappability. With runners on the corners, no outs in the
seventh and 44,072 people on their feet at Angel Stadium, he mowed down the
Mariners-throwing curves on 3-and-2 counts! He cannot be flapped.
said after the game, laconic in the way required of any shaggy-haired dude
raised in the vast valley north of Los Angeles, "I've got to start thinking
about how to get that 10th win."
success-whether it's a once-around-the-league novelty act or the breakthrough
of an honest-to-God talent (box, page 85)-has, for the moment, eclipsed the
remarkable circumstances of his ascension. It is not often that a player is
shuttled to the minors (after winning his first four big league starts, no
less) to preserve his older brother's spot in the rotation, or that the younger
brother then returns, five weeks later, to usurp the older brother's position,
ultimately exiling him to a different league. It was a delicious situation, for
anybody not named Weaver. "It was rather unique," admits Gail Weaver,
the boys' mother, who was set to enjoy some one-stop parenting in Anaheim, only
to end up having to suffer an awkward moment or two when her sons' careers
started interfering with each other.
In fact, it was
never that awkward, or not as awkward as it should have been. Jered, a prized
prospect out of Long Beach State, was supposed to be cooling his heels on the
farm this year, making up for the time he lost in a lengthy contract holdout
that was finally resolved in May 2005. It didn't occur to the Angels that
there'd be any roster confusion when, last February, they signed Jeff to a
one-year, $8.3 million deal. It did occur to Jeff, who'd just had two middling
seasons with the crosstown Dodgers, that his presence could complicate
conversation at the dinner table when everybody got together again, and he was
quick to clear it with little bro. "I knew that he was going to have a
chance to be in the rotation this year at some time," says Jeff. "I
didn't really want to step on his toes."
He called Jered,
who, of course, was all for it. "That'd be awesome!" the younger Weaver
replied, thinking of the possibility of finally playing on the same team with
his big brother, his idol all those years. Through most of their lives the
six-year age difference had been substantial enough that they'd never really
gotten to know each other. "I mean, he's 16, I'm 10," Jered explains.
"He's going to take me in the car?"
"[My buddies and I] were too cool for that-couldn't have the little brother
around." When their relationship wasn't based on distance, it was based on
intimidation. "I would always have to throw my weight around," Jeff
says. "Always wrestling around, trying to show him who's boss."
Moreover, they had
little in common, not until Jeff blossomed into a dominant pitcher at Fresno
State. He was a late bloomer, making the team as a walk-on (he pitched fewer
than 30 innings in high school in Simi Valley), while Jered was more precocious
(although he was originally a catcher in high school). "Thank God we
started having some similar interests," says Jeff. "Totally."
Once Jeff made it
in the major leagues, beginning with the Detroit Tigers in 1999, followed by a
season-and-a-half stint with the Yankees in New York, Jered became a more
welcome tagalong, visiting him for a week at a time, hanging out at Yankee
Stadium, shagging batting practice. They even went on vacations together,
spending eight days in the Bahamas, their age difference dissolving in their
mutual devotion to baseball. And now that they might have a chance to play on
the same team, well, that really would be awesome.