The non-waiver trade deadline in Major League Baseball brought change to the St. Louis Cardinals. The trade that brought John Lackey to the Cardinals sent fan favorite Joe Kelly to the Boston Red Sox. The fans were not the only ones fond of Joe Kelly.
Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller have become very close friends. They came up through the Cardinals minor league system together. Both were drafted by the organization in 2009. Both made their major league debut in 2012.
Between the 2013 and 2014 seasons, both pitchers got married. They served as the best man during each other's nuptials. It is safe to say that they had grown quite attached to one another.
But baseball is a business. In the interest of business, the Cardinals sent Kelly and Allen Craig to the Red Sox in exchange for Lackey and minor league pitcher Corey Littrell. The two players that had grown to be best friends were now on different teams.
Baseball is also a funny game. Business may get in the way of friendships, but the "baseball gods" tend to write a new script from time to time. This time, the script puts the two best friends on opposing teams as the Red Sox visit St. Louis. One final twist: Miller and Kelly will pitch against each other in the second game of the three-game series.
Miller takes the mound trying to build on recent success. After being banished to the bullpen, he has returned to the starting rotation with a pair of solid outings. Little has changed for Miller's progression over the last month. Despite Kelly taking the mound against him, it is seemingly just another day at the office.
Kelly will surely have a lot on his mind as he takes the mound. It is a familiar mound, the only one he has ever known as his home stadium until recently. He will face the team that traded him away. He will pitch against hitters that he relied upon for run support. He will look to impress his new employers while also looking to show his former employer what they gave away. Now, he will also try to win a game against his best friend.
According to Stan McNeal of Fox Sports Midwest, he may also be trying to earn an extra $100.
It seems, according to a conversation Miller had with McNeal, that Kelly has thrown down a challenge to his friend. Should either pitcher get a hit off the other, they hitter will receive $100 from the hurler. Neither pitcher is known for his hitting prowess. Cash can be a mighty good incentive, however.
That said, it begs the question of what MLB may think of this activity. A sport that has drawn a hard line against any level of gambling in the past may not appreciate such an agreement. The money exchanged may be rather small, but the principle of the matter stands true. A bet is a bet.
Friendly wagers like this likely happen across the league consistently. Players probably challenge friends around the league to perform well or pay some minor amount. In reality, it does not hurt the integrity of the game at all. The wager is far too small. The impact on the outcome of the game is nil.
Ultimately, two best friends will take the mound against each other at Busch Stadium this week. Both have something to prove. Neither are trying to prove anything with their bats.
At least not to anyone except each other.
Statistical information in this article sourced from Baseball-Reference.com