In 1981, when Fernando Valenzuela started the season 8-0, Fernandomania spontaneously broke out. This year, after his call-up from the minors, Jered Weaver has started 7-0. And yet, there's been no Jered-hysteria in Anaheim.
Those pundits wondering why don't really understand Fernando-mania. First, there was mystery to Valenzuela. When he first came to the Dodgers, he didn't speak English and used translators to communicate with the Anglo-dominated media. His glance-to-the-heavens-and-close-your-eyes wind-up was like no one else's. He didn't look like a pitcher — he resembled, well, Babe Ruth.
More important, his success in 1981 galvanized an entire community one that felt alienated from this city and its institutions. Fernando-mania was more than just fans' appreciation of a talented rookie on a hot streak: it was expression of empowerment. That's why fans came out in droves to Chavez Ravine (not to mention the fact that the Dodgers took their first World Series title since 1965).
Jered Weaver is a known quantity. He was born in Northridge. He went to Simi Valley High. Some of us saw him pitch at Blair Field for the Dirtbags (still my favorite nickname in college sports). After college, he had a well-documented contract battle involving one of the most famous sports agents in the land. His brother's a veteran big-leaguer who played with both the Dodgers and the Angels.
There's no mystery here: Jered's a brilliant young pitcher, mature beyond his years, with off-the-charts potential. That doesn't translate into mania, hysteria, or frenzy -- even in Anaheim.
Two other points: it's interesting that Weaver, who could pass for a cast member of the O.C., has joined a team that, under the ownership of Arte Moreno, has consciously reshaped its image and signed Latino players (including Bartolo Colon and Vlad Guerrero). And, it's worth noting that in racking up his 7-0 mark, Weaver has beaten Kansas City (twice), Baltimore, Seattle, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, and Oakland. Only Oakland is above .500. Now, if Weaver could swing the bat like Fernando....