The Robert 'Kip' Wells Appreciation Thread

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I would like to tell you all a story. It isn't a great story; hell, it's barely worth telling at all, but this here is my blog, and so I'ma gonna tell it. One of the many benefits of being a professional blogger (along with the lack of sunlight from hiding in the basement all day), is the exaggerated sense of self-importance that allows one to convince oneself everybody cares about what you have to say. You should try it some time; really adds a certain something to everyday life. 

So anyhow, I had a really, really awful day yesterday. It all started with my very first post of the day, in which I managed to completely destroy my own point by screwing up the arbitration rules. A couple respondents pointed out my mistake, I inserted a note, and decided to leave the thing up in order to teach myself a lesson about assuming you actually know something. 

From there, the day just got worse. I had to take my car in for service, and discovered there was more wrong than I had believed. I had to take my grandfather to doctor, and we were there almost four hours. My cat threw up on my good running shoes. And to top it all off, I wrote another article yesterday about Kyle Lohse containing yet another screw up, namely the fact I believed the Cards were still on a road trip. Of course, if I hadn't been trying to type in a doctor's waiting room, I might have noticed my error; sadly, such was not the case. (And thanks to Tom, the most wonderful editor in the world, for fixing it for me.) 

And just when I wasn't sure the day could either get worse or be redeemed, Robert 'Kip' Wells stepped on to the Busch Stadium mound. 

I was running a bit late last night, and so didn't actually get to see the first couple innings of last night's game. In fact, the first thing I saw on my television when I turned it on was Baron von Kippersley himself taking his warmup tosses. "Oh, this is gonna be good," I thought to myself. "I didn't even know the Reds had Kip Wells. Game is in the bag, baby. Sweet." 
He even had good mechanics. Why did it have to go so wrong? - COMMONS.WIKIMEDIA.ORG
  • commons.wikimedia.org
  • He even had good mechanics. Why did it have to go so wrong?
So imagine my horror as I watched Kip Wells begin mowing down Redbird hitters. After the first couple outs, I started to get a bad feeling in my gut. I might have mistaken it at first for the very questionable Chinese leftovers I had for lunch, but no, I knew better. After all, we've seen this story before, haven't we? Sure, Kip went 7-17 in 2007, his one year in a Cardinal uniform, but there were also gems to be found that season, games like his second start of the season on the 8th of April, when he tossed seven innings of one hit shutout ball against the Houston Astros in Minute Maid Park, striking out seven and walking only one. Or the start on the 18th of July, when he shut out the Florida Marlins for eight innings, striking out four and walking two. It's the exact thing which has made Kip so frustrating his whole career: he has one of those truly golden arms, capable of producing some of the most amazing pitches you've ever seen in your life, and yet he's twice led the league in losses, and only once been over .500 for a full season. Part of that, of course, has to do with some of the rotten teams Wells has been on, but for the most part, he's earned those losses. 

After the first inning, I started to get a little worried. That Astros game from April of '07 has always stuck with me, along with the Cards' second shot at Opening Day of '08, when Kip beat Kyle Lohse to ruin what should have been a great start to the season. 

After four hitters, I really began to worry. After five, I started to get nauseous. After six batters up and six batters down, I could feel the evil spell of the Kipper taking full hold. "This can't be happening," I thought. "Please, God, don't let Kip Wells shut us down. I promise to build several churches in your honor, if only you'll save us from a Kip Wells masterpiece." 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is when the real Kip Wells, the other Kip Wells, showed up. He got Khalil Greene on a first-pitch groundout to open the fifth inning, and I was on suicide watch. Then up came Yadier Molina. Yadi worked a full count, then took a pitch to right field for a line drive base hit, and just like that, the spell was broken. 

Kip walked Brendan Ryan on five pitches, moving Molina up to second base. Kyle Lohse sacrificed the runners to second and third, even though if he had just stood there he could have walked as well. Up came Schumaker, and Kip walked him. Up came Colby Rasmus with the bases loaded, and what does Kip do? Walks in a run. Dusty Baker came out, gave Kip the hook, and I finally started to feel okay again. 

So I'm here to give a big, hearty thank you to Kip Wells. You helped make what had been an awful day a little better. Sure, I was scared you were going to turn out one of those occasional flashes of brilliance for a while there, but in the end, you just didn't have the heart to break mine, did you? 

I'm not trying to make fun of Kip Wells, I swear. It probably sounds that way, but I'm really not. Tell you the truth, I was really excited when the Cardinals picked up Kip before the 2007 season. At the time, those two great seasons he had in Pittsburgh in 2002 and 2003 were still only a couple years back; Kip posted a 3.58 ERA in '02, and was even better in '03, with a 3.28 ERA. (That 2003 season was also Kip's only winning campaign; he went 10-9 in 31 starts for a Pirate team that actually wasn't as bad as I remember.) His next couple years were bad, but then again, he was also pitching on a team that defined the term sinking ship. A couple weird circulation issues in his pitching shoulder didn't help matters, and Kip found himself in St. Louis, a Dave Duncan Special if ever there was one. 

That's why that start in Houston really sticks with me, I think; at the time, I was sure we were seeing Wells finally put it all together, and that talent which had always been so apparent was just going to pour out of him. And then, of course, Kip Wells did what Kip Wells always does, and ended up being a big part of why 2007 was such a miserable slog. 

I can't imagine Kip is going to get too many more chances; no matter how talented, he's beginning to reach the age when good pitchers start to take a downward turn, much less guys who have managed to be all potential for more than a decade. It isn't really a sad story, by any means; I'm sure Kip has made enough in his life he'll never have to worry about finances, and he's done it all playing baseball. Not too bad a life, all things considered. But when you watch Kip pitch, even when he's on the verge of sending your Kung Pao shrimp back up, you can't help but marvel at how much potential is still there, and wonder why no one has ever been able to really tap into it. 

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