Because He’s Going To Be 32 In August

Look, I know. We get attached to our favorite players, and the thought of them wearing another team’s laundry is hard to take. We want our heroes to stay young, wear the Birds on the Bat logo, play for 20 years, and end their careers doffing their hat to a packed, cheering Busch Stadium crowd. But that’s not the way things work, do they?

Our heroes end up playing for a few years, then moving on. For every Ozzie Smith, I give you Willie McGee, Matt Morris, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, Edgar Renteria and J.D. Drew. Okay, maybe not J.D. Drew.

But speaking of Drew, the kid we got in that trade with Atlanta for him?

He’s going to be 32 years old in August.

Branch Rickey had a brilliant strategy — get rid of a player one year too soon rather than one year too late. Easy for him to say; he wasn’t emotionally invested in watching his favorite player on the field every game. He considered baseball a business. We consider it our passion.

Hey, I’m not going to gum up with post with a bunch of statistics proving beyond a reasonable doubt what happens to big league pitchers after the age of 32, especially in the post-steroid age. I’m not going to bring up the overwhelming evidence that handing millions of dollars on a multi-year contract to a pitcher in this game on the wrong side of 30 is a profoundly bad idea. You’re smart, you know all this already.

What I am going to mention is this: it’s quite possible in a couple of years when those injuries start to pile up and he’s someone else’s expensive headache that we’ll be mopping our brows in relief that we dodged that contractual bullet. Why?

This team is about to harvest a bounty of young pitchers which could be the envy of the game. From the recognizable names, such as Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly, to the names to come, such as Michael Wacha, Seth Maness and Carlos Martinez, the organization has built in depth for when a certain percentage of pitching prospects fail to develop. And they’re ready to take over for the proven veterans in the rotation, including one of our favorites.

Because he’s going to be 32 years old in August.

I think there’s another reason why many of us are reluctant to see our right-hander leave. A generation of Cardinals fans came of age in the Walt Jocketty era, where if there were talent in the minors it was quickly dispatched for proven veterans, comfortable under the dugout management of Tony La Russa. For you, if you’re one of them, a team that develops a steady pipeline of young players still is a relatively new thing. I mean, think about it: it wasn’t that long ago that this game was played, and we may forget just how new the habit of looking to within for roster solutions really is for this organization. So it’s reasonable and almost understandable to go to Cards Talk and see the latest trade fantasies exchanging this team’s minor league talent for some other team’s proven veteran.

But that’s not this team anymore.

And if you came of age as a baseball fan in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the idea of players continuing to be productive well into their late 30s is something you expect, rather than what it is, an extraordinary anomaly that distorted the entire structure of the game. Players used to break into the majors in the early to mid-20s, hit their peak around 27 or 28, and start to fade as they hit 30. We’ve gone back to that. It’s the way nature intended.

And since he’s going to be 32 years old in August, just what do you think is going to happen to him? Realistically.

It’s going to be hard to wave goodbye to him after he’s given us so many wonderful memories. And maybe the team might be giving up on him a year or two too soon. But this is the organization now, a younger and more exciting team. Yes, they’ll make their mistakes, and perhaps one might believe a veteran’s presence may serve as a stabilizing force. But considering what our pitcher’s potential market value will be, you have to admit that’s a lot of money to obligate to an intangible.

So as Shelby, Trevor, Joe, Michael and Carlos graduate to the big league team, we’ll cheer for them, we’ll attach our hearts to them. And, someday, we’ll be faced again with the wrenching hurt of watching them get older and move on to more expensive pastures.

That’s what this game is all about; that’s what life is all about. So don’t worry. The Cardinals will make the right decision.

Because he’s going to be 32 years old in August.

7 thoughts on “Because He’s Going To Be 32 In August

  1. Well thought-out perspective.

    For fans, our favorites are worth any price. We never want to see them go. But, as we all learn the hard way, baseball is also a business. And if any Cardinal fans didn’t realize that before, they certainly learned that lesson in December 2011. I trust that, just like last year, John Mozeliak will make the right decision for the team and its future.

  2. No, maybe we shouldn’t. Relying on a rotation of young unproven guys is more risky. And maybe you can’t compare Waino to Carp, but Carp’s injury history is much worse, so I think the odds are on Waino’s side.

    The one you can’t compare to is letting Pujols go. He was never the glue on this team that guys like Waino are. He was just a huge ego.

  3. For every dollar given to a proven veteran who gets a big contract to stay with the Cardinals and be the glue on the team, you can take away a dollar the team has left for a contract offer to another player to keep them from leaving.

    You know, like maybe David Freese.

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