Whether he likes it or not, whether he accepts the responsibilities or not - I’m assuming he will - just about everyone in St. Louis is going to start looking to Adam Wainwright to fill the void left by Chris Carpenter. On the field. Off the field. And everywhere in between.
Sure, the Cards lose a heck of a pitcher who’s got a career 3.76 ERA and .260 opponents batting average. But it’s his leadership that will be hardest to replace.
No one rallied the troops quite like #29 did. No one made teammates better. No one brought an entire clubhouse together more.
Someone’s got to take that job and there’s no one more qualified than Wainwright. He hasn’t been the vocal leader like Carpenter in the past. But maybe, just maybe, that’s because he wasn’t needed to be. And now that there’s a void to fill, he might be the one to step up and take it.
Wainwright’s learned from Carpenter as an understudy just as Carpenter learned when he was young from Pat Hentgen and Woody Williams. And one day when Wainwright is old and broken down - here’s hoping he’s still a Cardinal at that point - he’ll pass the leadership torch to someone who’s young now and just learning. Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal, Lance Lynn - heck even Carlos Martinez or Michael Wacha could be that next guy.
It’s a cycle that’s going to make the Redbirds successful for years to come.
Playing great on the field is only part of the job. But you can’t have a team - or a rotation for that matter - that consists of a bunch of guys who just shut up and play and only think about what they’re doing. There’s got to be that father figure, if you will. There’s got to be that person who’s been there and done that and teaches all the youngsters what it’s like to be a professional.
How else is someone like Shelby Miller going to learn the Cardinal Way? He can’t just be left to learn it all on his own.
Wainwright’s got to be that next guy who mentors the kids and trains them for life in the big leagues. He doesn’t necessarily have to make inspirational speeches like his predecessor did but he’s going to be the one everyone looks to for guidance. He’s going to be the one everyone looks to when things get dicey in mid-July and they’re on a four game losing streak.
Losing Chris Carpenter the pitcher hurts. But it’s not insurmountable. There’s a whole lot of talent in house to make up for it.
Losing Chris Carpenter the leader hurts more. And that’s quite possibly insurmountable. Adam Wainwright might be their only shot at a certified replacement.