This isn’t the first time I’ve written to you, although it’s been more than a year since my letter and over a month since I included you in my love letter to the whole St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff. Reading the latter one again certainly is ironic and painful — all the talk of a healthy pitching staff and the excitement over seeing you and Adam together again … then, at the bottom, a link to the very next post: Carpenter “Very Unlikely” To Pitch Again.
Which is why during Friday’s 16-10 win over the Nationals it was fun to see the mix-up on MLB’s At-Bat app, which there’s a screenshot of at right. Of course Matt played second base, but seeing your photo and you listed as the second baseman just lets my imagination wander to what you as a second baseman could be like — enjoying tagging out the runners foolish enough to try to steal (you’d certainly have some entertaining comments about trying to run on Yadi — and wouldn’t it be awesome if one of them was Brandon Phillips?), turning the double play, fielding grounders, whipping a throw (well, hopefully you could) over to Allen Craig at first. Hey, if Matt can learn to play second over the winter …
Okay, dream over.
Which means back to the reality that, for me at least, really hasn’t completely sunk in yet just due to timing. Or maybe denial that I really won’t ever see you pitch again.
I traveled for work 10 days in February, leaving for Las Vegas on Feb. 5. Yes, the very day that John Mozeliak made the announcement about your health. It came while I was on a flight to Denver — meaning that when I turned my phone on upon landing, it lit up with texts and tweets and messages with the news. Not that I could absorb it — there was just enough time to walk from one end of the concourse to the other and board the flight to Vegas. Once there, I didn’t really have time to pay attention to the world outside the convention I work on — which included your own press conference on Feb. 11. It took me an extremely long time to even be able to watch the video of you from that day. And, when I finally did — ugh. Can I give you a hug?
It’s foolish to even think about what might have been, but I still have — what would your Cardinals career had been like if you’d been healthy? Because even with the seasons lost and the unsatisfying end of not being able to go out on your own terms, it’s been amazing: 95-44, ERA of 3.07, WHIP of 1.125, 21 complete games, 10 shutouts, the 2005 Cy Young Award. Then there’s your postseason record: 10-4 pitching in five National League Division Series, four National League Championship Series and two very memorable World Series (where your record is 3-0). One career postseason complete game shutout — which is perhaps the best game of your career. Actually, not perhaps. It is, given the situation. (Can I just say, yet again, God bless Nick Punto and his shredding?)
And, though it isn’t necessarily reflected in those numbers, there was Sept. 21, 2012. Thankfully I was at Wrigley Field that day, in the rain and chill, to see you come back and be among that crowd of Cardinals fans cheering your return.
In closing, I just want to say thanks. It’s hard when your favorite player reaches the end, even though it will happen for every ballplayer at some point. And it’s especially hard when it’s not how you wanted it to be. But, as you said on Feb. 11, it is what it is. Plus you do have a future in baseball, as a pitching coach, and I can’t wait for you to get that opportunity to expand the skills and leadership you’ve already displayed even during your Cardinals career.
Best wishes and the best of health to you. I will continue to wear my No. 29 jersey proudly.