(BaseballStL) -- Baseball careers seldom end with glory and applause.
Most just fade away to obscurity, done in by declining performance, younger players or the nagging toll that hundreds of games take on a body.
For every player who ends his career like Mariano Rivera, 100 are released or just not offered a contract. Many stay in shape, waiting for the phone call that never comes.
So, it would seem, to be the end of the line for Cardinals pitcher Jake Westbrook.
Westbrook, who will be 36 by the end of the regular season, has been a .500 pitcher his whole 13-year career, compiling a 105-103 record with the Yankees, Indians and Cardinals. Acquired by St. Louis in mid-2010 season, Westbrook has been a steady, if middling starter, continuing his break even career with a 46-43 mark.
With the loss of Jaime Garcia and Chris Carpenter, a greater burden fell on Westbrook’s shoulders and for a time, it appeared he might have the best year of his career.
His April ERA was under 1.00 and he was dominant at Busch Stadium, surrendering less than a hit an inning. His steadiness was a big factor in the Redbirds’ fast start.
But then came elbow problems, something that has haunted him throughout his career and for the eight time, he was placed on the DL. He never returned to form. After the All-Star break, Westbrook is 2-4 with an ERA of 8. But in truth, he’s been far worse than that.
By late August, it became painful to watch. He threw 21 innings that month and surrendered 24 earned runs for an ERA of more than 10. He gave up 34 hits in those 21 innings and two batters an inning were reaching base against him.
September has been most unkind as well. Relegated the bullpen, Westbrook hit his career nadir. In 1.1 innings against Pittsburgh, Westbrook surrendered five runs (three earned) and couldn’t complete even two innings of work. That was not an aberration. As a reliever this year, Westbrook has allowed 12 earned runs is six innings with a WHIP of three, meaning three men an inning are reaching base against him as a reliever.
Where does this leave Westbrook when the Cardinals enter postseason? Sadly, at home, watching the game with everyone else. He should not be on the play-off roster. The Cardinals know it and, in his heart, so does Westbrook. In Thursday’s 15-inning loss to the Rockies, the Redbirds never considered using him until all other options were exhausted.
In major league baseball, that is as close to a message as it gets.
Westbrook’s contract expires at the end of the year when the Cards will owe him a $1 million buy-out. He will not be on the roster next year as Michael Wacha, Tyler Lyons, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly compete for spots alongside Adam Wainwright in the Cards’ rotation.
He probably deserved better.
So do they all.