First, let me apologize for using this particular picture. Not that I don’t like it — I love it, actually — but I’m using the photo, and thus you, in a way.
See, the most popular posts I’ve done lately are ones that are just pictures of you and your teammates, and your manager, from spring training — most page views, most comments. Plus last October, when I used this picture the day after your absolutely incredible NLDS Game 5 win, that post too was mighty popular.
So, to all of those fans — like the many who’ve shown up here at Aaron Miles’ Fastball in the past and hopefully future by searching “shirtless Chris Carpenter” — here you go. Click on the picture for a larger version. You’re welcome.
Although, actually, my personal all-time favorite picture of you involves a few more clothes. (Hot, indeed …)
Now, down to business.
Except where do I even begin?
I’ll start by saying thank you — for everything you did last season. From the leadership you provided starting in spring training to continuing to persevere when you weren’t getting run support or pitching well throughout the first half and, of course, all those things that happened from Aug. 25 on: your role in “the meeting” that day after getting swept by the Dodgers, going 3-0 in September including that memorable Game 162, the 4-0 October record …
Of your six October starts, the most impressive was Oct. 7 in Philadelphia. The storyline was great, with you pitching against your BFF in a deciding game, and you more than rose to the occasion with a three-hit complete game 1-0 victory. Watching the DVD of that game still makes me a bit nervous, but at least I can sit and enjoy it now — that night I was mostly pacing and watching through the glass of my beer bottle as the innings went by.
And there are two moments in particular I adore from that game. One is here, from the seventh inning when you got Ryan Howard to fly out on a 3-0 count. It’s your reaction after the out — the smile that even Ron Darling commented on. Even in the midst of such a tense game, you were enjoying what was happening.
Then there’s this picture, that immediate moment after the final out before Nick Punto’s had the chance to do his thing. It’s the scream from you that gets me — it just seems so primal, the warrior having just completed a victorious battle and letting out all the stored up emotion.
Oh, yes, emotion. I love that you’re never afraid to show it, good or bad. Well, OK, maybe I don’t always love the bad — there were a few times in 2010 when you seemed a little too cranky, but I understand that’s just who are.
I also love your determination, the inner resolve you have that’s brought you back from so many injuries and pushed you on to excel. During the World Series, when we wrote our “Cardinal We Most Want To …” list, your entry was one I wrote. And, yes, it was meant to be funny — ha ha, he’d just yell at you! — but I was actually serious. A couple years ago, when I was getting back into running and training for a 10K race, you were my motivation. Yes, I would channel my “inner Chris Carpenter” to push me through the rough moments when I wanted to stop. It worked.
A few years before that, I took a writing workshop and the instructor told me a successful writer has to be three things: determined, stubborn and dedicated. It reminded me of you at the time — after all, you’ve been my favorite Cardinal since 2004 — and still does today.
Your dedication to both your teammates and your family is definitely admirable. For a couple years now, I’ve loved reading about the time you’ve spent with Shelby Miller during spring training, even knowing, as you said, he could take your job (although I think you’ll be pitching together). Just seeing the interest you take in your teammates, or future teammates, and their success makes me hope you’ll share that wisdom as a pitching coach when you’re done playing.
Provided that doesn’t interfere with your family life. Some of the coolest moments of the on-field World Series celebration and trophy presentation were seeing you with your kids, plus seeing your daughter in all those trophy presentation photos high above everyone else. What a thrill, for your entire family. And, though I’m not a hockey fan, I actually watched that Blues game you were at along with Tony La Russa and David Freese and loved seeing your son drop the ceremonial puck. He looked like he was having the time of his life, and you looked like an incredibly proud dad.
I could go on and on (and on) but I’ll just say one final thing. I’ve only had the chance to see you pitch in person one time so far. However, it was memorable to say the least. A 99-pitch, one-hit complete game shutout, and over no less than the Brewers on Labor Day 2009. I’m hoping to see you pitch again this season, and the bar is set pretty high to top my first experience. But who better to take on that challenge that you?
So thanks for being you and for all that you’ve done and all that you’ve meant as a Cardinal from 2004 until now. It’s been a pleasure to watch you and cheer for you, and I proudly wear my Chris Carpenter jersey. And, for this year and beyond, all the best — especially the best of health. Here’s hoping you have many more meaningful Cardinals victories ahead.
P.S. Your only flaw in my eyes? Those tattoos. I know others love them, and obviously you do too. I’m just glad that most of the time I don’t have to see them …
Christine Coleman is the senior St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.