When I talk about “making it right” of course, I’m talking about making it “Wainwright”. I’m talking about the 20-game winner with the 2.42 ERA in 2010 and one of the top 5 pitchers in the NL. He’s 6’7″ and 230 pounds of “aw heck”, and he darn well better be the guy standing on the mound of Busch Stadium around 3:15 on Thursday, March 31st, 2011.
This isn’t a knock on Chris Carpenter who has taken the first turn 4 times in the past 6 seasons (2005, 2006, 2007, and 2010). It’s not that I have anything against Kyle Lohse who started the opener in 2008 (well, maybe I do have have an issue with Lohse in as much as he’s no Wainwright). It’s just that it’s about time that the Cardinals acknowledge quite publicly that which has been obvious for a few years now. The Cardinals rotation isn’t headed by “duel aces” or “aces 1 and 1a”. It’s all about Adam Wainwright. He’s the true #1 guy and staff ace, and it’s a mockery of the system to say that Chris Carpenter “took” votes away from Adam in the 2009 Cy Young voting. If you voted for Carp over Adam, then you didn’t really watch the Cardinals play much that year. Sure, the numbers were there for both of them, but Adam’s pitching was far superior, and the opponents knew it. Batting average against, ERA, and all the stats in the world can’t tell you what one look in the opponents dugout during a weekend series often can. The body language of opposing players facing Adam is just different. In many cases, guys reach the plate just hoping in the 1st inning that he doesn’t have his good stuff. In a really good Wainwright start, a batter may only see 1 decent “hittable” pitch in an at-bat. If Adam’s really dealing, that may turn into 1 pitch in 3 at-bats. Carpenter was that way a few years ago, and he’s still darn good. Make no mistake about it. He’s really, really good. However, the cutter isn’t quite as consistent, and he doesn’t keep the ball down quite as well. He doesn’t always hit the corners like he used to, and he gives up a few more fly balls now. He’s still better than all but about 7-8 starters in the NL (at the most), and I personally wouldn’t trade him for most of those guys anyway. Still, this is Adam’s world, and everybody else is just paying rent. It’s about time everybody admitted as much and gave the man his due.
So, let’s start 2011 off properly. He opened 2009 for the Cardinals, but that game was a losing effort, and Adam received a no-decision. That’s not acceptable. The Padres will be in town, and they will probably be bringing a fan favorite or two with them. That’s fine. Just stay focused. Let the man with the 12-6 curve do work.