This final walk off the field and into the offseason was longer than usual this season for Adam Wainwright, who had to walk all the way from the Busch Stadium bullpen, not to throw a pitch into the Cardinals playoff series, but to spend that time ruminating. why he didn’t.
He couldn’t let these steps be the last he left on this ground.
He said as much to manager Oliver Marmol as they approached the clubhouse minutes after Philadelphia’s sweep in the wild-card series: “I don’t go out like that.”
“It would have left such a bad taste,” Wainwright explained on Wednesday. “I started out unable to compete. And I live to compete. It drives me crazy that I kicked off the last three weeks of the season in such a way that I wasn’t thought of (to) kick off one of those first two games. Coming out of the bullpen, I already had him in mind.
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Inspired by his frustration, Wainwright agreed to a one-year extension with the Cardinals that was still being finalized Wednesday. The deal will bring the three-time All-Star and longtime ace back to the team for a 19th season – and what the 41-year-old right-hander says will be his final season in the majors.
Despite repeatedly accepting a retirement gift on behalf of Yadier Molina last season, Wainwright deliberately did not join teammates Molina and Albert Pujols in their pre-season retirement announcements. He wasn’t sure and considered the benefit of a quiet exit. Queuing to pick up his children from school on Wednesday, he joked that he may have ruined the Cardinals’ ‘marketing’ by returning after the team orchestrated the trio leaving the field at the same time in the middle of their last regular season. home game together. But the way he left the field – struggling through September, unused in the playoffs – ate it.
He doesn’t know if he wants the “hype” of a final season.
He’s sure he wants a different ending.
“I feel like, looking back now, everything that happened took me back another year,” Wainwright said. “We have unfinished business, you know? If I tell you it’s the last, am I going to have to go through a lot of stuff? My main goal of playing this year is to win and help this team win. Anything that distracts from that is not wanted. Yes, it will be the last. Everyone relaxes. Let me pitch. Let me go out and play. Don’t panic about it every day and let’s see what happens.
Wainwright’s contract extension, which will be around the $17.5 million he earned in 2022, leaves him as the last active player from the Cardinals’ 2006 and 2011 championship seasons. It also gives the Cardinals a full rotation for 2023, although John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations, stressed Wednesday that he will shop for more pitches this winter.
Since scribbling a contract proposal on the back of a napkin to return to the Cardinals after an injury-distracted year, Wainwright has been one of the most reliable and enduring starters in the majors. He was essential to the Cardinals’ success during the shortened 2020 season and steered the pitching team through a rigorous series of double-headers coming out of quarantine. As of 2019, Wainwright is 47-32 with a 3.57 ERA in 105 starts. He is among the major league leaders for innings, ERA and complete games during this period.
And he’s overhauled his entire career – taking it from one that was cut short by injury to one that will grab the Hall of Fame’s attention.
With 195 career wins, Wainwright spoke candidly on Wednesday and said he had his sights set on three big numbers. He would like to hit 210 career wins and be tied for second all-time by a Cardinals pitcher behind lone legend Bob Gibson, then push for three more in order to tie his friend and Hall of Famer John Smoltz.
“The number I’m looking at is 210,” said Wainwright, already second all-time for the Cardinals in strikeouts (2,147). “I just feel like it would be cool to be behind only Mr. Gibson in everything. The other number I think of is (213). Because one of my biggest competitors in everything else out of the field is John Smoltz. He closed three (40) backup seasons. So he has me there. I always remind him that I closed a World Series. If I get over 213, I will have real bragging rights.
Well, he admitted he spotted a place for it on the left-field wall of Busch Stadium, even after adding No. 4 and No. 5 to retired numbers in years to come.
“Fifty is a nice number,” Wainwright said. “It puts the pressure on me. I have to win games this year.
Wainwright thinks he is in a better position to do so than in September, when a superb season deteriorated, and it took him weeks to figure out why. Wainwright had a 2.50 ERA in six starts in August, striking out nearly as many (31) as he allowed hits (33) in 39⅔ innings. In September, his ERA rose to 7.22 in six starts and he allowed 56 runners in 28⅔ innings. He’s lost his last three starts and worked his way out of the Cardinals’ postseason plans and into that long walk from the bullpen. Wainwright initially diagnosed his problem as a “dead arm”, but later review of the video and work in front of a mirror and enclosure revealed the problem was his stride.
His lead foot came in 8-12 inches from his usual landing spot and that truncated his extension, costing him speed, sharpness and familiar movements. He took responsibility for not raising the issue sooner, saying that in the final weeks of the season he failed to maintain his practice of reviewing video of his “click for click” delivery. Mozeliak said the team was obviously comfortable with Wainwright’s conclusion and his planned fix to commit to him for one more season.
A Wainwright isn’t sure he wants to market it that way.
As he said an unidentified teammate texted him that he “deserved the hype” his peers received.
“What the players, the fans and the family have told me is that I have to enjoy it and soak it up,” Wainwright said. “For me, if I went out and played 33 games and then six or seven more in the playoffs and we won the World Series and I had to say on stage – the World Series stage – if I had to say, ‘C’ It’s good to know you. I’ll see you all later. That would be the way to do it for me.
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