When word of a press conference came out yesterday morning, there was a lot of general speculation. Had the club bought out David Freese's arbitration years? Was John Mozeliak a stealthy ninja, settling the Adam Wainwright situation while we weren't looking? It was supposed to be "baseball-related" so that seemed to rule out any off-the-field issues.
It wasn't long before the rumor mill settled, accurately, on Chris Carpenter. When the press conference finally rolled around, Mozeliak and Mike Matheny went in front of the cameras and microphones to announce that Carpenter's symptoms were back and he would, in all likelihood, miss the entire 2013 season.
The news rocked most fans back on their heels. Wasn't it just a couple of weeks ago at Winter Warmup where Carpenter was looking forward to the season to come, expecting some great things? This idea of a setback seemed to come out of nowhere.
Especially since we have the legend of last year. I mean, the man took out a rib to get over the pain and numbness when he threw and was able to come back and pitch before the end of the year. Wasn't that supposed to end all of this? Why are the symptoms recurring now?
The why will have to wait. Carpenter is still going to go through some medical evaluations (just a bit ironic that the Cards announced a new medical partnership last Wednesday, huh?) and see if there's that chance he can return. We know better than to completely rule out Carpenter until his arm is actually detached from his body and the competitor in him isn't going to just easily accept the news.
That said, the last time I remember Mozeliak so frankly negative about a situation was two springs ago, right after Adam Wainwright came up lame in Jupiter. Mo went directly to Tommy John in his comments, not beating around the bush at all. He was correct then and he's likely correct now that we've seen the last of Carpenter in an active role.
If Carpenter is done as a Cardinal player, there's little that the fan base can do but, in the words of Jack Buck, "stand up and applaud." Jack never got to see Carpenter pitch in St. Louis, but he'd have recognized the talent and drive of Carp and probably compared him a lot to another fiery icon, Bob Gibson. As Matthew Leach points out, there's a comfortable space in Cardinal history for Carpenter and we well may not see his like again.
Obviously, the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is out of Carpenter's reach. Just 144 wins, less than 1700 strikeouts, just over 2200 innings, by any benchmark Carpenter comes up a bit short. While Sandy Koufax was able to parley a short career into a trip to New York, Carpenter's injuries were so spread out that it becomes difficult to say he was close. He missed all of 2003, basically all of 2007 and 2008, then almost all of 2012 and now 2013. Five years is a lot of time to be missing when you are talking about the Hall of Fame.
The Cardinal Hall of Fame, though, is a different story. The standards aren't quite as stringent and emotion plays a bit more of a part. There is no doubt Carpenter is a Cardinal Hall of Famer with what he's done wearing the birds on the bat. The driving force behind two World Series teams, a Cy Young award and a runner up, plus some of the biggest moments in franchise history.
The only question about how Carpenter will be remembered is if it will include a retired number. There's only one player, Ken Boyer, who has had his number retired by the organization and not been in the Hall of Fame. Could Carpenter be the second one? Or will his number join the "unofficially retired" list that includes Willie McGee and Darryl Kile? I think that they should put Carpenter up on the wall and start working on the statue for outside the team store, but that may not be the feeling of Cardinal Nation. I'd love your opinion on that in the comments.
Reassessing 2013 (while that does date the article I posted earlier this week, that doesn't mean you shouldn't go buy the UCB Annual!), the loss of Carpenter isn't as daunting as it was last year or would have been in the past. While the team will obviously miss his leadership and mentoring--the club has noted they hope he'll be around the team this year anyway--there are so many young arms that can slide into his spot and give similar results that it eases the blow.
The rotation still has Wainwright, Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook. You would figure this about guarantees Lance Lynn will have one of the other two slots, meaning that there actually will be a competition for that last spot in the rotation. My feeling is that it is Shelby Miller's spot to lose. I don't know that the club would want him in the bullpen all year (they are probably more comfortable with Trevor Rosenthal doing that than Miller) and they'd probably prefer not to send him back to Memphis. Assuming everything is equal in the spring, I think Miller gets the role.
That's a big assumption, of course. Rosenthal will be pitching for that slot as well, plus you have Joe Kelly who has experience making big league starts. It would seem unlikely, but not impossible, for Carlos Martinez to make a bid for it as well. The pitching is going to be a lot of fun to watch this spring. It would have anyway, but even more so now that there's a legitimate competition.
It's going to be very different without the expectation of Carpenter riding over the hill to save the day. Carp's the last link to the great 2004 team (well, save Matheny who is in a different role than he was then) and one of the few (Wainwright and Yadier Molina the others) who was on the 2006 World Series team. It truly is the ending of an era, one that we were privileged to watch.
No doubt we'll talk more on this subject tonight on UCB Radio Hour. Josh Gilliam from Pitchers Hit Eighth will be joining me and we'll also be talking to Geoff Goldman from Fox Sports Midwest about what to expect on the TV side for the coming season. Be sure to check us out--chat room will be open a little before 9:30 tonight!
The BBA has, as a secondary aim, the goal of producing year-end
awards in a similar fashion to the Baseball Writers of America. These
awards can be found at the official site in October with links back to the voters,
ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball