There's no telling what the odds are of longtime St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright having a renaissance year at the age of 36 with his list of serious injuries piling up during his 12-year career.
In addition to hoping the Redbirds win the World Series this year, seeing iWainwright shock the world and put up one more big season would be a huge boost.
Baseball fans seem to forget how great players are on the whole when they reach their decline years and struggle to be half the player they once were. Why? Can we really blame someone for getting old? It happens to all of us. Still, I have a magazine I picked up someplace that was printed in 1961. Inside, it has a lengthy piece about how that doddering old fool Stan Musial should just get it over already and retire.
If there is no respect for all that Stan the Man accomplished in his heyday, what chance are the rest of us supposed to have?
Wainwright was truly spectacular before the miles started to catch up with him. And I’ll go further and say that I am continually impressed by his bulldoggedness and ability to get results with smoke and mirrors. He had an ERA of 5.11 last season and allowed a runner-and-a-half to get on base each inning — a recipe for disaster.
The last two years he has been pounded for more hits allowed than innings pitched. Yet, somehow he won 12 games in 2017 and 13 the year before. That’s not coincidence, and it’s not luck. It’s moxie. He manages to stay in the game long enough and hold the other team down well enough to give his team a chance to win. And maybe his teammates are inspired to win one for the old man that causes them to dig a little deeper than when Carlos Martinez is on the hill throwing like Wainwright could a decade ago.
But it’s not pretty to watch. Wainwright doesn’t blow guys away. He nips at their heels until he finds a way to get them to fly out to the warning track. And that’s just not as exciting and confidence-inspiring as it used to be.
From 2009-2014, Wainwright had one of the best half-decades in Cardinals history. He had a 92-50 record over that span, winning 20 games twice and 19 two other times and put together a 2.83 ERA. He logged 1,130 innings pitched and allowed only 1,005 hits and had a roughly 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walks ratio:1,007 whiffs (two more than the number of hits he allowed) and 259 bases on balls.
We’re going to get everything Wainwright has left in the tank in 2018. And I am more worried about his ability to stay healthy than I am about his ability to get the job done. If Wainwright can compensate for the Achilles injury he suffered a couple of years ago to allow him to execute his curveball, that and an 87-mph sinker might be enough to help him to 14 or 15 wins. And that would be a spectacular reminder of how fortunate we have been to watch Wainwright perform since he burst onto the big-league scene in 2006. I still have the ball he signed for me that spring training which reads “Adam Wainwright #70.”
Although he said he doesn’t want to talk about his future — and whether or not he has one — during the upcoming season, let’s not forget about his past. I’m sure people were griping about Bob Gibson being washed up in 1975. But let’s not make the same mistake. When Gibson called it a career, it wasn’t unusual for the best players to spend a decade-and-a-half with one club. But they just don’t make ‘em like Waino anymore. So, we’re unlikely to see anyone like him again.
Let's enjoy it while we can.