Adam Wainwright's issues have been well documented in his final season, but after an agonizing three-month wait for him to secure his 199th career win, Wainwright delivered a masterful seven shutout innings against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium to reach 200 victories. In a year where little has gone right for Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals, this performance and the subsequent postgame reception should be the final time he toes the rubber in his illustrious career.
Wainwright will not receive a better sendoff than the one he orchestrated for his 200th win, and with it coming so late in the season, the festivities after the game ideally celebrated not only No. 200 but also his career. Any further starts would be unnecessary. In the best case, he dazzles again to win his 201st and 202nd games, but there is a real risk of him imploding on the road against the San Diego Padres or, worse, at home against the Cincinnati Reds, which would leave fans to wish that he had gone out on a high note after his best start and one that achieved a milestone.
Instead of letting Wainwright pitch two more games in what is almost certainly a lost season, the Cardinals should look at some younger arms who could help the rotation in upcoming years, such as Matthew Liberatore, who looks to be on the border of being a fifth starter and being in the bullpen.
Wainwright, always a competitor, will undoubtedly want the ball for two more starts, but manager Oliver Marmol should not let Wainwright make that decision. It would behoove Marmol to stand firm and let other pitchers show their stuff as the season wraps up.
It's worth noting that if the Cardinals were in the playoff race, Wainwright probably would not have sniffed 200 wins given his poor performance for much of the season. The Cardinals likely would have moved him to the bullpen or put him on the injured list. So while the playoffs are not realistically attainable, the team's lack of performance this season has bizarrely allowed Wainwright to retire more gracefully than Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols could after the Cardinals' ugly exit in the 2022 National League Wild Card series. (Even Pujols' 700th home run was hit in one of the most anticlimactic ways possible.)
Wainwright has solidified himself as the greatest St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher of all time after the inimitable Bob Gibson, and Marmol needs to let Wainwright walk into the sunset in a manner even the great Gibby couldn't do: with a victory and a flash of the pitcher from the days of old.