We all know about Chris Carpenter’s temper tantrums last season — the outbursts against Edwin Jackson, Carlos Lee and teammate Brendan Ryan were all well documented. (In case you’ve forgotten the details, Joe Strauss described them all in his article yesterday Chris Carpenter: Mad on the mound.)
Reading that Carpenter got mad at himself on Friday, while throwing a simulated game against several Cardinals minor leaguers, left wondering one thing: is it competitiveness or crankiness when it comes to Carp?
His expectations of himself are always high and he never offers any excuses, which are both traits I’ve always admired about him. “I expect to go out there and do the things I know how to do. If I don’t, it’s unacceptable to me,” he said in the Strauss article. And that’s great, the kind of attitude a team leader should display.
This description of what happened on Friday, however is a little disturbing when it comes to my hope that his outbursts from last year will be a thing of the past.
Carpenter cursed three pitches into the process and slapped at himself before seeing his third hitter. Disgusted at his lack of command, Carpenter stalked to a dugout to briefly sit alone after throwing the first of four 15-pitch “innings.”
Carp didn’t used to act this way before last year, right? Yes, he’s always been intense and described as Bob Gibson-like in his approach. And being “pissed off and wanting to compete” is a good characteristic for the ace of your staff. But being this demonstrative, this emotional — we saw last year that it didn’t really help. Those outbursts weren’t followed by great Carp control pitching-wise.
There is always a fragility involved with starting pitchers. We were reminded of this a few weeks ago when Adam Wainwright was out for the year in the blink of an eye, and it’s something that Carp knows well too given all the surgeries and injuries he’s battled back from throughout his career. “I know it could be gone next year, next week or tomorrow. I’ve faced that a couple times. I know what it’s like to wonder if I’ll ever pitch again,” he’s quoted as saying in Strauss’ article.
He leads the pitching staff, including the minor league pitchers as we saw earlier this spring with Shelby Miller. That leadership comes from both words and actions, which he seems to be aware of:
“I’m here for these guys and to do whatever I can for these guys, no matter who it is, as long as they’re my teammates. If it takes me looking like an ass on the field, I’ll do it.”
But is looking like an ass helpful if it’s a detriment to how you pitch that inning?
Only time will tell what Carp 2011 will be. Of course he’ll still be competitive, but will the 2010 unhelpful crankiness be there too?
At least there was one positive in the article, which is helpful to know. “When I’m on the mound, I’m not the same person. Absolutely not.” That’s a relief.
What do you think: is Chris Carpenter competitive? Or just cranky?
Christine Coleman is the lead writer for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.