I am here to talk everything having to do with the Carpocalypse or the end of Chris Carpenter’s career with the Cardinals. I broke it down yesterday, but one is never done until the head is completely clear. Late last night, I felt a stinging pain in my mind. I wouldn’t get to watch Carp pitch again for the Cardinals. That’s like your favorite rock band breaking apart. Your favorite artist leaving the spotlight never to return again for an encore. Carpenter was an artist. He destroyed hitters with arrogance and intensity to go with a devastating array of pitching talent build on sheer will and tons of confidence. He was fucking lion out there. His performance in Game 5 against Philly was epic, but so was the rest of his 2011 postseason and month of September. He recorded 4 shutouts in the final month and a half of the season and postseason. When the Cards made their comeback, they needed their ace to act like a true act and Carpenter was that guy. He pitched unreal for an extended stretch of play. I’ll never forget his swan song in 2011. He was otherworldly good. He shut out Milwaukee and Cincinnati and Houston to clinch a playoff spot. He dueled with his best friend Roy Halladay in Game 5 and prevailed in the tightest of contests, 1-0. After the final out, a grounder that collapsed Ryan Howard’s Achilles and body, Carpenter pumped his fist and screamed like a banshee loud enough that the arch recorded a vibration. That was Carp. Intensity personified. The man lived and breathed pitching but didn’t act like a dick off the field. He participated in charities, gave quirky interviews, talked like a hockey player and turned into one on the field. He is the reason officials don’t let pitchers carry a baseball bat to the mound. He won 10 postseason games. He only won 146 games in his career but he achieved a level of dominance more than a few Hall of Famers can’t claim to own. His HOF credentials are solid only to a certain set of eyes. He won a pair of World Series, and led his team into three of them. He may own 3 rings if he didn’t tear his triceps before the 2004 World Series with Boston. If he starts Game 1 instead of Woody Williams, you just never know. The Steroid Red Sox may not have won the series if Carp had been around. He was a difference maker. He won a Cy Young and could have won another. He broke in with the Toronto Blue Jays and was slammed with shoulder injuries. He was shipped to St. Louis in a dump and trade swap with no guarantee. In 2004, He was a dominating ace. In an interleague game, Carpenter went back and shut out the Blue Jays on one hit, avenging their failure to give him time to blossom in Canada. Their loss was a Cards fan ultimate gain. Carpenter’s only demon was his own body, one that caused him to miss entire seasons. For most ballplayers, they shake their shoulders and sit on the bench. Every game Carp missed, a small part of him broke off. At least that’s what I thought. They don’t make them like this guy anymore. If you are tired of me talking about Carpenter, then leave this page or go read another digestible column about Kobe and Dwight. This is a Cards fan spot.
The Cardinals are losing more than a player. They are losing a symbol of toughness and confidence. Some stories don’t end happy. I was hoping to get one more vintage Carp season. 16-17 wins, 215 innings, 185 strikeouts, 3 shutouts and a postseason appearance. He will be missed because of what he brought to the table. Players retire every year. Carpenter is different. In the grand scheme of things, his career can be trumped by others. Take what he meant to this team for 8 seasons and you have a special player. Word has it that when he called John Mozelaik and Mike Matheny last week, he teared up when telling them those simple words. I can’t pitch. I don’t doubt it because of how competitive he was. He is the rare ballplayer that needs to play in order to feel right. Without him, this rotation looks questionable. Durable and carrying depth but just not as good.
Instead of Wainwright and Carp, you have Waino and Westbrook as your two veterans. After those guys, you get a bag of arms including Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia, Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal and Shelby Miller. Who makes the starting day 5 is a prediction I can’t make now that Carpenter is out of the equation. That’s the effect of a true ace. We have found out before that he would miss a lot of time. We have never heard so bluntly and honestly that he is OUT until now. A quiet winter with the Cards has gotten loud all of a sudden. Who steps in for Carp? If there is a silver lining in all of this, it’s that a crew of young arms will be thrown to the wolves. We will see what Miller and Rosenthal can offer. Joe Kelly will push for a spot. These guys haven’t accumulated a lot of starts or wins but they are intriguing. They aren’t guarantees but they offer promise. With Carpenter, things would have been too easy. Now the Cards are in for a fight in the NL Central. An even deadlier one. The Reds are stacked and won’t back down. The Cards have questions marks and tons of talent. A healthy Cards team just doesn’t make sense.
On The Lohse front. Keep this in mind. There is still time before spring training games start and the season begins. Scott Boras won’t let Lohse sign a one year deal. The Cards can only hand him a one year offer if needed. If they pay him 2-3 years, you can kiss a Waino extension goodbye. If Lohse gets 15-16 million for 3 years, what will Waino want for 4-6? Just saying. The Cards don’t need to go searching down the Kyle Lohse path yet.
I will end it with this. Carp was probably the best pitcher I have ever seen. He was everything you wanted in a pitcher, starter, and ace. He was the captain of the not fucking around crew. His work will be missed. 2013 just got a little less fun.