St. Louis Cardinals: Adam Wainwright is still “The One”


St. Louis Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright is still the pitcher to fear on this team.

In a recent interview with Bernie Miklasz, Adam Wainwright opened up about the underdog status of the St. Louis Cardinals and how he felt about Jason Heyward‘s remarks about the older core of the Redbirds marking a reason for his departure. In typical Waino fashion, he was respectful while being blunt.

Wainwright, 34, commended Heyward for being a great teammates but suggested that the former Cardinal didn’t feel like carrying the torch for future Cardinals and maybe didn’t feel like being “The One”.

In other words, Heyward wants to follow and not lead, which is fair enough. A lot of great baseball players ride the train, play well, and depart for another train. Adam Wainwright isn’t like that.

He takes pride in being a leader and someone young pitchers and players in general can lean on for advice that goes beyond how to throw a curveball or rest your arm properly. In the most polite way possible, Waino was saying, “Not all baseball players want to be the One but I am.”

Wainwright is one of the best pitchers in baseball, averaging 16 wins, a sub 3.00 ERA with three complete games and 177 strikeouts over his ten year career. He’s won 19 games or more four times and finished in the top 5 for Cy Young voting four different seasons, blocked by the dominance of Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum.

When Wainwright talks, players listen and they download what he says instead of throwing half of it in the recycle bin. More than what he does on the field, Wainwright embodies a leader off the field, leading several charities as well as leading dugout dance sessions and cool fantasy football tournaments.

He’s supremely cordial with the media, talking to them like friends at a barbecue instead of detectives in a dark room. Everything about Wainwright screams The Guy, The Man, and leader of lost souls. He’s an island instead of a boat.

When asked about it at January’s Winter Warmup, I’d put hardcore money down that Waino will tell the droves of media(including myself) the same thing he told Miklasz. He will be respectful of his former teammate turned mortal enemy while also quietly embracing the fight that has been placed at his doorstep.

When I think of Wainwright, I think of Evander Holyfield and Peyton Manning, two athletes who never engaged in blood talk off the playing field while being blunt in their comments. That’s a fine line in popular sports that turn regular people into emotional wrecks living in glass cases of emotion.

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Who was the first person new arrival Mike Leake mentioned when he signed this week? Wainwright. Who did Michael Wacha stick to when he got here? Wainwright. He’s bulletproof on and off the field. This past week’s comments to Bernie were the latest reason why he is the man.

People think Wainwright is broken down or near the end. I disagree. He had an Achilles injury in 2015. His right arm, shoulder and upper body got 3/4 of the season off, resting a valuable appendage for the long haul.

Here’s a guy who compiled a 2.88 fielder independent pitcher mark in 2014 in 32 starts while dealing with a dead arm. He’s older but far from done, ready to take the ball every fifth day(as Waino says in each interview) and be the ace of this rotation, which will sport younger shades the next 4-5 seasons.

Before the 2014 season, Wainwright signed a five year/98 million dollar contract, which was way below market value for a stud ace pitcher. Waino didn’t think twice. He knew where he wanted to be. This was after Albert Pujols left and as Carlos Beltran departed. 

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He was around the same age as Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday with new imports Oscar Taveras and Randal Grichuk coming in. The Cards had reached a World Series in 2013 but every year changes and the Pirates were barking up the Central division.

He could have used the same excuse Heyward did, traveling somewhere else with a younger core. He didn’t do that. Wainwright wanted to be a Cardinal. That was never a negotiation.

He took a contract that is barely more than journeyman Jeff Samardzija received this month. Sure, two years difference but still a marvel when put together.

As Christmas unfolds today and the temperatures still hang around 60 degrees here in St. Louis, be thankful for your family and friends. Take a moment and be thankful for a team and city representative like Adam Wainwright.

He doesn’t just say all the right things and do good by them. He wears each and every comment on his chest and shoulders like a badge of honor.

Adam Wainwright types don’t come around often. They land and take over a town. Some may call this a fluff piece or that I am just being a Mr. Rogers Cardinal type. Those folks miss the point.

This is an article of recognition. When I heard Waino’s comments about Heyward and Leake, I felt at ease instead of screaming, “Well I knew that!”

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Thanks Waino for calming the fears. Like Holliday and Molina, he’s not crying about a stronger Cubs team. He’s ready for the challenge.