It may not be popular, but St. Louis Cardinals’ great, Adam Wainwright should call it quits after his 2019 bounce-back season and ride off into the sunset.
If it were up to him, Adam Wainwright would never retire. I’ve never heard him asked this question but growing up watching the bulldog pitcher, there’s no way this wouldn’t be his answer. It probably won’t happen, but Wainwright should ride off into the sunset after pitching the best season he’s had for the St. Louis Cardinals since 2014.
in 2018, Wainwright got ahead of the retirement questions as during Spring Training, he told all the reporters to go ahead and back off asking before they even started. What happened afterward was a season where Waino only pitched 40 innings and wasn’t good when he was pitching. At the time, the 36-year-old admitted for the first time that he may need to step aside.
This led to the emergence of young stud Jack Flaherty in 2018. 2018 was the third season of the previous four where Waino was either subpar or injured for the whole year and it looked as though he was beginning to look at options for his next step in life. It wasn’t that he lost his winning mentality, his body just didn’t keep up.
During the winter before the 2019 season, the Cardinals decided to bring Wainwright back on an incentive-latent deal for the season to see if he could regain form. Did he ever.
Pitching 171.2 innings for the first time since 2016, Wainwright anchored the back end of the rotation and was above average in his total numbers with a 4.19 ERA. Digging deeper, the ERA was buoyed by a poor road ERA (6.22). The road ERA disguised his amazing 2.56 home ERA where he looked as dominant as he ever did throughout his career.
The big test for me was how he would finish the year, which of course Wainwright did fantastically well and carried that into the postseason.
The strong finish opened questions as to whether or not Wainwright should come back in 2020 at the age of 38.
Russ Robinson wrote a couple of weeks ago that the Cardinals should bring him back, and the team echoed that they wanted to bring him back recently as well.
While Russ decided Waino should come back, let me argue the opposite.
Depending on when you read this, it could quickly become outdated as the first priorities of the offseason are usually the Waino-type deals. Assuming Wainright hasn’t been brought back yet, why should Wainwright decide to retire?
The main thing for me is how he wants to be remembered.
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Right now, the same argument can be looked at for Albert Pujols. The hall of famer no longer has a career average above .300. His MVP years are a distant memory and the image that fans have of Pujols, with each year he plays, becomes more and more an image of a player who is slow-footed, poor defensively, and a shell of his former self.
With Wainwright, between 2007 and 2014, he was a top-flight ace, perennial Cy Young candidate, and All-Star. Before 2019, he had started to replace those memories with years of a pitcher trying to hold on to a career that wasn’t there.
2019 rejuvenated that Wainwright of old who could be trusted in high-leverage situations (at least at home) and I’m sure made fans fall in love with is pitching all over again. If Waino comes back in 2020 and crashes and burns, it’ll tarnish his legacy in my opinion.
The other reason that going out on top is a good idea for Waino is his longterm health. In his career, Waino has dealt with shoulder issues, Achilles Tendon issues, and other health issues. After one last healthy year, his body may not be able to bounce back after a 170 inning season as it used to and he could injure himself in a way that could affect the rest of his life.
Wainwright is an extremely family-oriented man and being able to enjoy time with his kids is (through interviews/Twitter/Instagram) clearly a priority. It may not be as risky as other sports, but life-altering injuries can still happen in baseball. Wainwright being able to put up consecutive 170+ inning seasons is another concern the Cardinals should have too.
Believe me, I want Waino to come back and keep pitching as he did in 2019, but there is a reason why not many pitchers make it to age 39 in the MLB, and other factors need to be considered on both his end and on the Cardinals end.
I believe the Cardinals will sign Wainwright to another deal with probably more guaranteed money than he got in 2019. Again, I hope he comes back and does great, but now more than ever, he needs to think about the entire picture, as do the Cardinals.