When John Mozeliak gave us all the news in the press conference earlier this week about the health of Chris Carpenter, it hit Cardinal Nation hard. During the announcement, Mo said that Carp feels like he’s letting everyone down….the team, the fans, etc. All I can say to that is nonsense. Carpenter probably gave up the rest of his career when he led us to the World Series Championship in 2011, pitching over 273 innings combined in the regular season and playoffs. That was the most he had ever thrown in his career, and did it at the age of 36. I waited a few days to write this because I wasn’t sure if CC was going to announce his retirement or not, but I hope that Carp stays with the team in 2013 whether he pitches or not, and following are the reasons why I feel that way.
Before getting into the accomplishments of CC on the field, I think it’s important to note some of the things that aren’t talked about as much, but every bit as important to the Cardinal organization for many years to come. The most recent things to stand out are what CC did this offseason with Trevor Rosenthal and Lance Lynn. Carp took Rosenthal under his wing and invited him to stay in St. Louis and work out with him this offseason, a gesture that was also sent out to Shelby Miller, who, for some reason declined. Hearing Rosenthal on 101.1 the other night, it’s clear the message was loud and clear. Rosenthal not only heard the words of CC, but also saw what an animal he was as he worked out with him daily, as Carp led by example. Carp knows Rosenthal has a great chance to be Justin Verlander type on the high end and instead of being a jerk, he passed on his knowledge and gave TR a great map to start his career. Thank you Chris Carpenter.
If anyone hasn’t seen the photos of Lynn that were released the other day, well, here he is…..40 pounds lighter, and ready for a full year as a SP and in tremendous shape. Again, on the radio the other night, Mike Matheny was on and talked about the few simple words that CC said to LL. The words had been said before, but this time they came from Carp. The message was straightforward and to the point from Carpenter, which was “Lance, you have the ability to be a top of the rotation type pitcher for years to come, do everything you can to capitalize on this, so lose some weight and get in better shape to take full advantage of the gift.” It’s almost as if these were the words from Bull Durham where Crash Davis tells “Nuke” LaLoosh “The gods reached down and turned your right arm into a thunderbolt.” According to Matheny, it wasn’t anything LL hadn’t heard before, but it was the first time the words came from CC. So, again, thank you Chris Carpenter.
You always get the feeling that Adam Wainwright and CC are very close. Wainwright often talks about CC with great affection. I think this was the first of Carp’s projects, and that one has turned out pretty good so far. That bulldog mentality with AW is always there on game day. I’m hoping the Cards lock up Wainwright long term so he’ll be around to pass on the things Carp passed on to him.
Now, getting on to the career of CC. My first thought is about the 2004 season, which was the first year Carp pitched for the Cards. The 15-5 W-L record, the 3.46 ERA and 1.13 WHIP doesn’t tell the whole story. Carpenter was shut down in September that year, dealing with the same thing he is now to a lesser extent. As we all know, the Cards were swept by the Red Sox in the WS in ’04, but how much different would it have turned out if he was able to pitch. Replace Jason Marquis in the rotation with CC for the playoffs, and you have Carpenter, Woody Williams, Jeff Suppan and Matt Morris. Would the NLCS have even gone 7 games with Houston? If Carp is up to pitch game 1 of the WS, we definitely don’t give up 11 runs and lose 11-9. Could that have changed the outcome of the WS? We’ll never know, and Boston might not have been denied no matter what, but I don’t think there’s a chance in hell it goes less than 6 games.
In 2005, the Cards lost to the Astros in the NLCS 4 games to 2. The only 2 wins were the 2 games that Carpenter started, games 1 and 5. Playing for $2 million in 2005, Carp won the CYA, going 21-5 with a 2.83 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP.
In 2006, Carp led the charge to the Cards first WSC since 1982, going 3-1 in 5 starts in the playoffs, including 8 shutout IP in game 3 of the WS to put the Cards up 2 games to 1 at that point.
Carp started 4 games combined in 2007 and 2008, and the Cards missed the playoffs both years.
Returning to form in 2009, Carp went 17-4 with a league leading 2.24 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP in 28 starts. Keith Law and Will Carroll were the only two voters that left Carpenter off their Cy Young ballot. Law put Tim Lincecum 1st, Javier Vasquez 2nd and Wainwright 3rd. His reason, “Carp missed 6 starts.” Carrol had AW first, Lincecum 2nd and Dan Haren 3rd. Carrol gives the same reasoning, but it didn’t matter to certain voters in 2005 when Roger Clemens missed 4 starts. The point is, 2005 was very clear in terms of voting….EVERY writer that voted had Lincecum, Carpenter and Wainwright 1,2,3 in some order except these 2 clowns. If Carpenter is even placed 3rd on both their list as he should have been, he wins. This is another classic example of Law trying to make baseball more about him so the talk is centered on him and not the players that deserved it. And, of course, it was. Read here for the obvious for just some of the attention they got after making it about them. There are many others, just type in Law’s name along with 2009 Cy Young Voting in Google.
I’m still waiting for Law to start speaking like Rickey Henderson in the 3rd person. I can’t speak much for Carroll, except to say he’s just an idiot. Look at the stats of Vasquez and Haren, and you’ll know what I mean. One thing you may not know about Law is that he was hired by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2002, and his very first decision was to recommend to GM J.P. Ricciardi to remove Carpenter from the 40 man roster. Law was Special Assistant to the GM at that time. If you remember 2006, you’ll remember that that decision along with a few others cost him his job before he became an analyst for ESPN. So, KL, congrats again, you have your name talked about.
In 2010, Carpenter was great again. Think about this, 2010 is the only year in which Carpenter pitched a full year for the Cardinals and they didn’t at least make it to the NLCS. A dropped ball by Matt Holliday and a blown save by Ryan Franklin later, and the Cards are beat by the Dodgers in the NLDS. For the record, it happens, I don’t blame Franklin or Holliday any more than I blame my dog for barking at me during games during the baseball season. Both Franklin and Holliday are huge parts of the Cards continued success.
In 2011, well, that’s what we’ll all remember the most. Carp goes 4-0 in 6 starts after shutting out Houston in the 162nd game of the year to get the Cards in the playoffs. His classic 1-0 shutout game 5 series clinching win against Roy Halladay and the Phillies will live in our minds forever, as well as his games 1 and 7 wins vs. the Rangers in the WS. After giving up 2 runs in the first inning in game 7, Carp was nails again, gutting through 5 more innings….shutout innings on short rest. Once again, the Cardinals are WS Champs, and once again, it’s Carpenter playing a big role in getting there and helping to win it all. So again, thank you Chris Carpenter.
I was born in ’75, so I never saw Bob Gibson pitch, but I know that no one has been as good as Gibson since Carp. He brought a hockey player’s mentality to the mound and never backed away from a big moment. Nobody will remember that he wasn’t quite right in the 2012 NLCS after rushing back from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery where he had a rib removed. Is it any wonder though that the Cards don’t get to the WS because he was not his normal self? I will always applaud his desire to rush back and try to put the team on his back once again, and, after all, he did win a big game in the NLDS. The Cardinals were playing with house money in 2012, and they just ran into a Giants team of destiny. I’m not sure another pitcher would have tried to even come back like Carpenter did from something so extreme.
So please, Chris, don’t worry about it. You did all you could and then some. You put the team on your shoulders and led the Cardinals back to greatness while on the mound. Cardinal fans and I would only ask that you stay a part of the Cardinal family, continue to help with the young pitchers and try to pass on the desire and mental toughness you had to the kids coming up through the incredible farm system. If you were playing connect 4 you could win in 3 moves. In fact, I think you can take most things said about Chuck Norris and insert Carpenter’s name, so here are a few I like:
Chris Carpenter has a grizzly bear carpet in his room. The bear isn’t dead, it’s just afraid to move.
Ghosts sit around the campfire and tell Chris Carpenter stories.
Chris Carpenter and Superman once fought each other on a bet. The loser had to start wearing his underwear on the outside of his pants.
Chris Carpenter doesn’t flush the toilet, he scares the shit out of it.
Chris Carpenter doesn’t read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.
And finally, a true story with a twist. It has to do with you and Halladay saving that man on your fishing trip in the Amazon after the 2011 WS. According to the reports, an anaconda bit the man in the ass but he was able to free himself before the snake wrapped him up. Instead, the snake wrapped around his motor on the back of his little 14 foot dugout canoe and tore it off the back of the boat. You said you and Halladay were able to flip the boat back over and tow it and the man home to safety. That’s all the information out there, but it’s pretty easy to figure out why that snake let the man out of his grasp….that’s right, he knew Carp was coming.
Thank you again Chris Carpenter, you’re the type of player that makes watching baseball so special. We all know it’s about the money for most players, but it’s very nice to know there’s something more and it goes beyond that with the few players like yourself. Some will say you were too intense, I say nonsense. We live in times where friends and family members are afraid to speak the harsh truth to the ones they love. Look no further than the beginning of each season of American Idol (the only part I watch), where people get up in front of millions of people and make complete asses out of themselves. The correlation here is that you spoke the harsh truth to teammates, some of it is known, some of it isn’t. You led by example and took the time with our budding youngsters. They’ll all be better for it, which will translate to more winning ways for our beloved Cardinals. If not for injury filled 2003, 2007, 2008 and 2012 seasons in which you pitched 7 combined games, you would be headed to Cooperstown. No worries though, you always be a HOF’er in the eyes of Cardinal Nation.