If you follow Jack Flaherty on Twitter, you know he's a big fan of Heath Ledger's Joker. No offense, Joaquin Phoenix and Jack Nicholson, but the St. Louis Cardinals' renegade young ace is taken with the late Oscar-winning Batman villain.
A pump-up video montage set to The Dark Knight clown of chaos got thousands of views and played well at the end of the season when it was reposted on the social media website. With Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's score blasting through your ears with tiny clips of Ledger's Joker talking spliced with Flaherty highlights from 2018, it was easy to get excited.
Monday night, Flaherty took to Twitter again, using a signature Joker GIF to illustrate beginnings, a fresh start in 2020 for him and the team. At least that's what I thought he was going. Ledger's Clown Prince of Crime leaving a burning hospital behind. Check it out for yourself.
This is Flaherty telling the world he lit 2019 on fire, but that is more ahead. After all, he's only 24 years old. While he will collect Cy Young votes for compiling the best half of pitching any Cardinals pitcher has come up with in decades, Flaherty will be a shoo-in prediction pick for next year's pitching award.
Ledger's Joker tells Christian Bale's Batman that he "changed things," and that they couldn't go back. Flaherty has certainly changed things in the National League Central. He's the best pitcher in the division, and it should stay that way.
That's what happens when you do what he did from early July through the end of September. Let's go through it again to brush off the temple and get nostalgic. Flaherty's ERA was 0.91, meaning he allowed an average of less than a single run per nine innings. He struck 124 batters in 99.1 innings and 15 starts. He allowed just five home runs, 23 walks, and 48 hits. Ruthless.
In other words, Flaherty was an agent of chaos for opposing hitters. They just couldn't solve him, enduring over the course of the winter break.
This may not be true and isn't based on any Flaherty quotes, but I see a lot of similarities between the Joker effect and the young man's work on the mound. Okay, let's take away from murder, robbery, law-breaking mayhem, and all other bad stuff the clown did-and focus on the deeper stuff.
Joker talks about using cheap means to pull off his tasks: dynamite, gasoline, and bullets. Flaherty is performing at a high level for a relatively cheap salary. Just wait until he hits arbitration and free agency. The Cardinals shouldn't let him get there.
Joker talks to Harvey Dent about people freaking out over a threat on the Mayor and not worrying so much about a truck full of soldiers getting blown up. Last week, Flaherty blasted Jeff Passan for being pro-robotic umpires, meaning Passan wasn't looking at the big picture with such a sweeping change.
I wonder if all Flaherty wants is a phone call, and he will be less harmful on baseball bats, batting averages, and overall statistics for National League hitters. Probably not.
He may not harbor any nasty stories about scars, mobsters, and bad girlfriends, but he's doing his part to rid the Central of adversaries every fifth day.
I may be having too much fun here, but Flaherty's love for Ledger's Joker combines my two favorite things in life: baseball and the movies. Ledger's performance stands as one of cinema's all-time greatest performances, and my personal favorite. The man made you feel and root for an evil mastermind.
Here's what I think Flaherty meant by the latest Joker tweet: 2020 is going to be fun when he is on the mound, wreaking havoc. The confidence level is perfect. The sophomore questions died when summer fully got started. He always had a large stack of talent, but he's in control of it now. Forget about 2019. Forward movement was made by the team, but there's more to come.
For the first time since Adam Wainwright's glory days, the Cardinals have an ace. His name is Jack, and like the Joker, he changed things ... forever.
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