Watching Adam Wainwright pitch for the Cardinals is a uniquely painful experience

Adam Wainwright's starts for the St. Louis Cardinals are a somber reminder of our mortality.
Houston Astros v St. Louis Cardinals
Houston Astros v St. Louis Cardinals / Scott Kane/GettyImages

Adam Wainwright's starts for the St. Louis Cardinals are a somber reminder of our mortality.

I have been a St. Louis Cardinals fan since I was about 9 years old. My dad introduced me to them; he's a dedicated fan who watches every Cardinals game he can, and I have followed in his footsteps. I have yet to miss a game this year, but when Adam Wainwright takes the mound, I find myself questioning whether it's worth the emotional pain to watch a former star who's fallen so far.

The roots of Wainwright's issues are threefold: He does not get the same extension on his pitches that he used to, the quality of his signature curveball has declined in both spin rate and break, and he is falling behind hitters more often than in years past. But we can nitpick at the reasons for his ineffectiveness all we want; the point is that it's hard to stomach seeing him struggle so massively. 

I've seen some shoddy Cardinals pitching; I remember Mike Maroth coming over from the Detroit Tigers in 2007. He proceeded to go 0-5 with a 10.66 ERA, surrendering 71 hits in 38 innings with the Cardinals. Watching Maroth start was exasperating because I knew the likelihood of his providing a strong outing was minimal. But Wainwright is different: As Cardinals fans, we've seen this man give his right arm for the team. He finished in the top five in Cy Young Award voting four times. He is one of the best pitchers ever to wear the birds on the bat.

I was not alive to watch Bob Gibson pitch, but the end of his career was probably similarly painful to people who saw him in his prime. Gibson's last season in 1975 saw him go 3-10 with a 5.04 ERA. In his final game, he entered in the seventh inning and gave up a grand slam. That was his last pitch in the major leagues.

A former star athlete always believes he still has greatness in him, and that is contributing to the heartbreak of Wainwright's season. He has pride in his pitching and believes he can find a groove again, but it isn't pleasant to see a dejected pitcher talk to the media about his struggles when he has no idea of how to escape the spiral he finds himself mired in.

The Cardinals continue to sputter in 2023, and the calls to put Wainwright in the bullpen are growing. Whether he pitches out of the bullpen to end his career or he continues to be thrown to the wolves to start every fifth day in an attempt to reach his 200th victory, it's going to be excruciating to watch him in this severely diminished state unless the man who revived his career after making adjustments can find the magic again for his final act.


It isn't fun watching Wainwright’s epilogue, but fans shouldn't lose sight of all he has done for the team and the community. Nobody thinks of the moribund final appearances of Gibson's career when remembering the legend; they think of his dominance of the 1960s and his unparalleled intimidation of batters. Whether Wainwright's future is in coaching or broadcasting or if he will remain at home with his kids, his successes throughout his illustrious years with the Cardinals will be remembered far more than his limp to the finish line. It won’t lessen the pain of this season, but when it's over, we will be celebrating the career of a true Cardinals great, on and off the field.

4 things to keep eye an on for STL as deadline nears. dark. Next. 4 things to eye on