With 38 different players taking the field for the St. Louis Cardinals over the course of 179 games from April 1 to Oct. 30, it was sometimes difficult to really highlight even the impressive seasons — like that of rookie Seth Maness.
For pitchers, it’s usually the starter or the closer who get all the blogging attention and we certainly wrote plenty about Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal and even Carlos Martinez. All justified, of course. And we did mention Maness, most often with the phrase “double play” used in the same sentence. But it wasn’t quite the same glowing praise — instead usually along the lines of “hey, he did it again!”
An article about a week ago in his hometown newspaper, The Pilot in Southern Pines, N.C., brought Maness to mind again. “‘One of Ours’ Makes the Big Time” chronicled Maness’s year, starting with his major league debut in Milwaukee on May 3 when he threw six pitches, and six strikes, to get three outs — all ground-outs, of course. After that:
The next night proved emblematic of what would become a hallmark of his rookie season. In the eighth inning of a tie game, with runners on first and second, the batter ground into a double play to end the inning. The Cards scored a run in the ninth, and Maness got his first Major League win in his second outing.
Maness appeared in 66 regular season games, throwing 62 innings, and compiled a 5-2 record and 2.32 ERA. He was second in the majors in inducing double plays with 16, just behind Jim Johnson of the Orioles with 17. He also was fourth in ground outs with 110.
As Drew Fairservice wrote about “Magic Seth Maness” on Oct. 22 just before the World Series:
He doesn’t strike out many hitters so the ball is always in play. He predominately throws a two-seam sinker and a change up – pitches that move away from the sweet spot without missing the bat altogether. Maness pounds the bottom of the zone like any good ground ball pitcher should. When he’s up in the zone, he gives up home runs (like any good ground ball pitcher would.) He isn’t the type of pitcher to blow you away with his peripheral stats but this season he really got the job done.
Ah, yes, when he’s up in the zone, he gives up home runs. That too was mentioned in his hometown paper:
One of the most difficult moments in the World Series came in Game Four in St. Louis, when Maness gave up a three-run homer in a tie game that allowed the Red Sox to even the series at two games apiece.
“You have to keep it in perspective,” he said. “It is going to happen. It just gets magnified on the big stage. You have to put it behind you quickly.”
And Maness did put it behind him quickly. His last appearance of the season was in Game Six of the World Series, in the ugly fourth inning that we’ve all put behind us now too. He came in with two outs, replacing Lance Lynn, and threw three pitches — all strikes — to Xander Bogaerts. Ironically, however, Maness struck him out.
But that was late October. Here’s a much better reminder of one of 2013’s mostly unsung Cardinal heroes, doing what he did best at a moment when it was needed most (and to an ever-so-appropriate victim).
Only 37 more days until Maness and his pals report for spring training.
Christine Coleman is the lead writer for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates and like us on Facebook if you don’t already.