Published October 23, 2013
ST, LOUIS – Chris Carpenter was a helpless spectator in 2004 when the Cardinals were swept by the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. Nine years later, the teams are matched up again and he is sidelined with the same nerve-related condition in his pitching arm.
The 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner, who grew up in New Hampshire rooting for Boston, understands this could be the end of his career. For now, though, he's waved off retirement talk and suited up as if he's about to head to the mound to prowl, growl and intimidate — instead of serving as a de facto coach.
"I got over that frustration after my comeback didn't work out. I've enjoyed this role," said Carpenter, who missed the entire season. "I've enjoyed being around these guys and watching them grow and watching this season turn into what it is."
Carpenter is one of several big-name players missing from the game's biggest stage.
St. Louis is also without Jason Motte, Jaime Garcia and Rafael Furcal, roughly $30 million in talent this season out of play. Boston lost both Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey for the year before 38-year-old ALCS MVP Koji Uehara took over as closer.
Carpenter was the pitching standout on the Cardinals' 2006 and 2011 World Series championship teams, going 3-0 in four World Series starts. He three-hit the Tigers in Game 3 of the '06 Series and peaked in the '11 postseason, starting three times for a rotation minus Adam Wainwright, out after Tommy John surgery.
In the NL division series clincher in 2011, Carpenter outdueled the Phillies' Roy Halladay. He then beat the Rangers on three days' rest in Game 7 of the World Series.
Now, the tables are turned.
Wainwright, tied for the NL lead with 19 wins, is returning to full strength in his second year after reconstructive elbow surgery, and he's 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA this postseason entering Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night.
Carpenter masks his misery by assuming the coach/cheerleader/mentor role he's filled so often, in October or any other month. He has missed most or all of six seasons.
"I could have quit a long time ago. I wouldn't change anything," Carpenter said. "I've had a fantastic career and a fantastic time in this game so far, and I've got a lot of time left. It's been a lot of fun."
Carpenter is making $12.5 million this year. That makes him the most expensive sidelined investment in the Series.
Motte had ligament replacement surgery in spring training, not long after getting a two-year, $12 million contract extension. Furcal, making $7 million in the final year of a two-year contract, also didn't make it to opening day.
Furcal missed the 2012 postseason with an elbow injury and when a rehab plan failed he also had ligament surgery.
Hanrahan, a two-time All-Star making $7 million, lasted just long enough to get four saves before having a similar season-ending procedure in May. He's eligible for free agency after the World Series.
Bailey inherited the closer's role, but picked up just five saves before going on the disabled list and ultimately having shoulder surgery. Like Carpenter, he's had trouble staying on the field, missing most of the 2012 season and large chunks of the 2011 and '10 seasons when he was with Oakland.
So, not much to show for the right-hander's $4.1 million salary.
The Cardinals' projected rotation was down two arms when Garcia, halfway through a four-year, $27 million deal, had shoulder surgery in May. Garcia has contributed lately by throwing batting practice to Allen Craig, the rehabbing cleanup man who's expected to open the Series at designated hitter.
A third rotation member, Jake Westbrook, is a healthy scratch making $9.75 million for St. Louis. Michael Wacha and several youngsters emerged while Westbrook struggled with elbow and back injuries and was little-used in September.