Short and sweet, like the tall striking intimidating #29 always provided in his postgame “grunts”, allow me to fire up a look at the effect of today’s news on the Cardinals. In a nutshell, the season has unofficially begun and has its first casualty. Chris Carpenter.
Chris Carpenter won’t pitch in 2013 because of lingering pain in his shoulder and neck from the nerve injury in 2012. He tried to throw and simply couldn’t. This wasn’t mind blowing news. Carp is a warrior and the most competitive bastard in baseball but his upper body is held together by super glue, spare parts, rib scraps and duct tape. He was bound to fall permanently. It’s a shame but a predictable occurrence. I would have loved one more season of vintage Carp but his body denied me and millions of others of one more thrill. The Cards can handle this without handing Kyle Lohse 12 million. Give Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller or Trevor Rosenthal an opportunity. Save money by staying internal with the issue. One can assume that Carpenter will do the gentlemanly thing and void out his final year of 12 million. He has made enough money, especially while on injury leave. I’m not being a dick by going all bank clerk here but the Cards can’t afford to be sentimental and throw that hail mary toss through rehab or good faith one more time. In 2002, Mark McGwire handed back the final year of his contract due to his bad knees. Carpenter was a soldier and is no thief. If he isn’t going to pitch at his level or at all, help the team by handing it back. That money can be put to use elsewhere, like finding real middle infield depth when Rafael Furcal pulls a muscle and Roger Cedeno’s bandaide comes off. I will miss Carp and can only hope he becomes a coach and stays around the game. He dominated the mound for a solid period of time, won 2 rings, and was a throwback to Gibson. They don’t make them like that anymore so the young guys could use his knowledge, guys like Lance Lynn and Trevor Rosenthal and Shelby Miller. This is a sad day in Cardinal nation but the team can handle this and is equipped for it. This team isn’t allowed an easy ride. 2013 will be no smooth walk. Spring training is a week away but the Cardinals fever has officially begun.
Options For The Team-
*Call Kyle Lohse? My initial reaction is no. At this point, The Cards have to explore their vast depth of internal pitching support. Names like Kelly, Miller and Rosenthal will come to mind instantly. Lohse has either been duped by his overreaching agent or is the victim of a tender offer/draft pick compensation reward. He is looking for work and would love to come back to Busch to get to it. However, his asking price of 12-15 million dollars will be too much. He has lost his pride but still retains a brain. He will still want a 2-3 year deal or at least 15-16 on a one year deal. It’s not worth it with our current count of young arms. We are already paying Carpenter 12.5 million to contemplate his future, Jaime Garcia 7 million to wince and whine and Jake Westbrook 9 million to win 14-15 games tops. Our rotation budget is maxed until Carp either voids his cash or something moves. Such as Mr. Garcia coming up limp in camp and needing surgery on his shoulder. Is Waino’s elbow intact and ready to fire up 200 more innings? How is Westbrook’s oblique? Lance Lynn’s head? These are things to think about if and when they go into effect. Right now, we don’t need Kyle and his weak boy name.
*Joe Kelly. He pitched a lot better than his 2012 record indicates. He recorded several quality starts and got little run support and improved as the season went on. When Lynn caught his second wave of optimism, Kelly was assigned to the bullpen, where he cleaned up several of Lynn’s messes. Kelly can pitch, has a decent arsenal of pitches and the head game to make it. He can fill the spot and provide at least Westbrook results if not better.
*Shelby Miller. The kid came up in September and pitched well, including shutting out a fully equipped Reds lineup on the last day of the season. He fared as good as a wet backed rookie could in the postseason and comes into camp gunning for a role. Right now, a role in the pen is hard to find for a righthander. Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs, Jason Motte and Trevor Rosenthal all return along with Kelly. Miller will be a starter or someone is moving. He deserves a chance to compete for Carp’s spot. I am not declaring him ready to be a force in 2013, but he is ready to throw some ambition against the wall in Jupiter this spring. He will be right there. He is our #1 draft pick and future ace. He can’t be passed up.
*Don’t forget about Trevor Rosenthal. I would like his 102 mph cooker and deadly changeup to stay in a 6-7th inning role, but if push comes to shove and a heat lamp is needed in the rotation, take a look at Rosenthal. I will take 5 innings and 90 pitches full of propane fireball fastballs and knee snapping changeups. Rosenthal started in Memphis and is built for it. He is a deadly weapon and must be utilized in the best possible way. He is a versatile arm.
Lance Lynn will get a spot based on his 18 win offense inflated record in 2012. I can sit with that. We need to find out the answer to his fat husky riddle of a right arm and fragile mind. Carpenter was working on him in his final days in the postseason and has faith in him. That’s like Chuck Norris telling you this young soldier can hunt so I will give Lynn a spot. Right now it’s rolling out like this. Wainwright, Garcia, Westbrook, Lynn and ___. Fill in the blank and get the engine heated. Whether we are ready or not, the car on this 2013 season is firing up soon. In one week, pitchers and catchers report. If I am a young gun like Miller or Rosenthal, this will be the longest sleepless 168 hour stretch of my life. The spring training session just got juicier today.
I will miss Carp. I will be saying that all week. His intensity and competitiveness on a mound was a rarity and hard to find elsewhere. Carp wasn’t like Carlos Zambrano or another dumb hothead. He was a controlled yet caged lion on the mound. A bulldog mentality with a need to strike hitters the fuck out. It was all or nothing to him. Every start was D-Day. You couldn’t convince him different. I will never forget Hanley Rameriz looking like a little kid who stepped on Darth Vader’s boot a couple years ago when he got into hot water with Captain Carp. Rameriz was with the Marlins and did something to piss Carpenter off after he reached base. As Rameriz walked down the line, Carpenter shouted something profane and lethal towards the young player. Hanley looked petrified. Carpenter looked like he wanted to eat him raw and spit him out cold. It was awesome. That was Chris Carpenter. He was cool and humble off the field. A general on it. He didn’t like other ballplayers during the game. He wanted them to fail. He was old school. Old Testament Justice system. I will never forget him ripping off his shirt after defeating the Phillies in the NLDS in 2011. He screamed like a hungry baboon. I will never forget him reaching for first base in game 1 against the Rangers in that same postseason. I will never forget him looking lost after The Giants conquered him again last October. He was blunt, honest and talented. In my mind, he is a Hall of Famer. 2 rings, a Cy Young, serious time period of dominance. He belongs in the Hall. Right now, he needs to call it quits, at least for the time being and help the team out and serve the kids for a season. There will be no Carpenter innings thrown in Jupiter or Busch this year. I really hope there is some Chris Carpenter teaching this spring and season at the ballpark. It’s where he belongs.
Have a good day and thanks for reading.