Cheap Seats

Anyone still upset about Adam Wainwright's contract extension?

I seem to recall a lot of howling in March that the deal the Cardinals gave their ace Adam Wainwright was too lengthy and too expensive for a pitcher his age.

I wonder if the folks who claimed the 31-year-old hurler's velocity was diminished and that his best days were behind him following Tommy John surgery are still wringing their hands about the deal.

Wainwright dominated the Astros Tuesday night to improve to 12-5 on the season with a 2.30 ERA. If not for a little bit of rough treatment by the bullpen over the last couple of weeks he could easily have a couple more wins and an even better ERA. But the truly impressive statistics put up by Wainwright include the fact that he has better than a 9:1 strikeouts to walks ratio with 126 whiffs compared to 14 free passes and an average of .988 baserunners allowed per inning.

Wainwright didn't just beat up on a crummy Houston team Tuesday night. He basically had an average outing for him this season: 7IP, 5H, 9K, 1BB, 1ER. Yawn.

It looks like the National League Cy Young race is a three-horse derby between Wainwright, Clayton Kershaw and Jordan Zimmerman. Wainwright and Jordan are tied for the lead in wins past the halfway pole at 12. He's first in innings pitched over Kershaw's second and Zimmerman's fifth. He's first in complete games with four to Kershaw and Zimmerman's three and he and Kershaw are tied for the league lead with a pair of shutouts. Kerhsaw's 1.89 ERA is first in the National League while Wainwright's 2.30 is third. 

The only thing the naysayers have left to latch onto is the fact that Wainwright is on the wrong side of 30 years old. But he's got relatively low miles on the clock for a pitcher of his accomplishments. He's only been pushed to more than 200 innings three times in his career so far. His year off in 2011 turned out to be a blessing in disguise not only because he didn't log a single inning that season -- but because his arm was rebuilt to better than new specs and ought to be near the top of the reliability charts because of his surgery.

Wainwright's five-year, $97-million deal is a lot of money by Average Joe Standards. But when it comes to what MLB pitchers can command, it's a relative bargain.

The Yankees paid C.C. Sabathia $161 million over eight years in 2007; The Dodgers gave Zack Grienke $147 million over six seasons last winter; Cole Hamels got six years and $144 million in 2012; Justin Verlander this spring got $140 million over five seasons from the Dodgers. Wainwright's deal doesn't come close to that kind of money. And while those pitchers are younger, the deal given to the Cardinals ace doesn't extend past the point where he is likely to be a very effective hurler.

Wainwright was expected to be the top pitcher on the market this winter. He easily could have commanded at least a third more money and two or more additional seasons had he been determined, like Albert Pujols, to go to the highest bidder.

Wainwright is a 6-foot-7 horse who weighs in at a very fit 235 pounds for his size. As I said before the deal was signed, if there was any pitcher worth taking a gamble on it would be wainwright because of all the reasons listed above: Lack of wear and tear, rebuilt elbow that's good for another 100,000 miles, physical fitness, build. Plus there is the fact that he's never had significant shoulder problems, the biggest concern for a hurler. Wainwright's only issue besides his elbow was soreness in a finger on his pitching had which cropped up about five years ago and, apparently, never came back.

He's the undisputed leader of the pitching staff and a stopper in every sense of the word.