The Cardinals declined their 2005 option on Woody Williams, last year making him a free agent, and San Diego signed him to a one-year contract for $3.5 million that include some incentives and a 2006 option.
San Diego GM Kevin Towers who had Williams on the Padres' staff from 1999-2001, called trading Williams to the Cardinals "the worst deal I ever made."
Of course Cardinal fans saw the deal that brought Williams to St. Louis in an all together different light. The deal that sent outfielder Ray Lankford, at the time, a shell of his former self and cash to San Diego for Williams was one of the best deals Cardinals' GM, Walt Jocketty ever made.
In his first 11 starts for the Cardinals, Williams went 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA and he was named N.L. Pitcher of the Month in September when he went 4-0 with a 1.13 ERA.
In his second season with the Cardinals in 2002, Williams spent some time on the DL twice with a strained left oblique muscle both times. In spite of his injuries he still finished with a 9-4 record and a 2.53 ERA, and his leadership in the clubhouse was critical in the aftermath of the death of former Cardinal starter Darryl Kile.
In 2003 Williams made a team high 33 starts and won a career high 18 games, finishing with a 18-9 record and a 3.87 ERA. Off to a hot start in 03, Williams was named to the All Star team for the first time and was the first Cardinals since Kent Bottenfield in 1999 (14 wins) to win 12 games before the All Star break.
In his final season with the Cardinals in 04, Williams was 11-8 with a 4.18 ERA. Coming off of off season shoulder surgery, Williams was used very sparingly in spring training and did not reach full strength until about six weeks into the season. Starting slow with a 1-5 record, Williams bounced back to go 10-3 the rest of the way with opponents batting below .239 against him in his final 19 starts.
The fans saw it coming. We saw it coming. Because, it is not just a game, it's a business. The Cardinals for financial reasons declined their 2005 option on Williams. Woody a great teammate and a valuable leader who represents the best in baseball and the best in what it means to be a Cardinal and he was gone, because the bottom line is, while it is a game, it is a business and some days you lose a player like a Woody Williams.
Now it's almost a year later and Woody Williams will be taking the mound at Petco Park in a different uniform, to face our beloved Redbirds. Somehow we will have to find a way, to root against him, at least in this one game.
Game three of the National League Division Series, it's a big game, it could even mean the elimination of the Padres from the playoffs, but big games is nothing new for Williams. He pitched a big game, just last Friday night. In his final outing, Williams pitched three-hit ball over seven innings at Petco Park, to pick up the Padres 81st victory to assure them that at least the Padres wouldn't win the division with a below .500 mark.
Williams is up to the task for game three of the NL Divison series and returning to St. Louis. Williams said "Obviously it will be fun to play in Busch Stadium again" and "hopefully, they know what everyone brings to the table"
What Williams brings to the table is, in the National League playoffs he has a 3-1 record with a 2.81 ERA over five starts, plus he has a 25-8 career record at Busch Stadium with a 2.91 ERA. Fortunately game three will be played in San Diego.
And you wonder why we hated seeing him leave St. Louis?
"I've always loved pitching at Busch," said Williams. "I'd love to pitch there once more before it closes."
Williams finished the season strong, in five of his final seven starts, Williams allowed only one earned run. He is ready for the postseason and the big game as usual.
"I feel like for the last month I've been pitching pretty good" said Williams. "The playoffs are completely different, no doubt about it." With his history in the playoffs, Williams may find himself in the familiar role of in pitching in a major game, with the Padres season on the line.
Williams has an assortment of pitches to get batters out. He has a good cut fastball, which crosses the plate around 89-92 MPH. His cutter is his bread and butter pitch and he has an effective curve ball and a good change up.
His 2005 season record is a little deceptive, he finished the year with a 9-12 record and a 4.85 ERA, but you have to expect him to be better than this record might indicate.
The key to the Cardinals success against Woody, will be to make him throw a lot of pitches. He loses velocity and effectiveness in a hurry and has only gone 7 innings in seven of his 28 starts, this season and did it only twice last season.
He'll give you all he's got while he's out there and that could be just enough for the Padres to come away with a win against St. Louis.
No matter what, it's hard to root against Woody Williams.