At 37 years old, Chris Carpenter is well aware his career is much closer to the end than it is the beginning. He realizes every pitch he throws could be his last.
And the Cardinals know this, too.
Yet, with just over 20 more games to go this season the team seems firmly intent on getting their leader/ace back out onto the mound to help them make a push for the playoffs.
I get it. I totally understand it. It makes sense.
I even agree with it. To a point.
Chris Carpenter should only pitch in 2012 if he’s ready, if he’s healthy, if he’s strong. That’s the only way. #29 should not see the field this season unless he’s 100% and nothing less. Not 98%. Not 99%.
Rushing him back even in the slightest puts him at greater risk for the future than he already faces. And when you’re talking about someone who could throw one pitch and be done forever...it’s not worth it.
Having a healthy and strong Chris Carpenter for another 2 or even 3 seasons is far more important than having him for 20 or so more games plus, possibly, the playoffs in 2012.
It’s just not worth it. Sure, his ability on the mound would mean wonders as this team tries to successfully defend its World Series title of a season ago. Sure, he’d be an upgrade over virtually any current member of the rotation not named Adam Wainwright or Kyle Lohse. Sure, the Cards chances of repeating would increase.
But put yourselves in this same position next season. And the season after that. What then? When the Redbirds are battling tooth and nail for a playoff spot in 2013 and 2014 and Chris Carpenter’s long since retired because he was pushed too hard in 2012...slightly increasing your chances of repeating wouldn’t seem like as big of a deal.
I’m not sure folks in St. Louis realize just how much Carpenter means to this organization. He’s the unquestioned leader who attracted the entire team to the field at 3:30 last week to watch him throw a live batting practice session.
When he talks, others listen. When he says jump, others ask how high. He makes others play better simply because he’s there.
The priority here needs to be making sure he’s health enough to pitch at 100% for as long as his body allows him to. Not rushing him back onto the field this season.
If his body is strong enough to do that, great. But that’s still secondary.
Carpenter means way too much to this team. Just ask the other players.