After 17 major league seasons, first with the Blue Jays and then with the Cardinals, pitcher Chris Carpenter has announced his retirement at the age of 38. One of the best pitchers in Cardinals’ history, Carpenter finishes his career with a record of 144-94, 3.76 ERA, 1,697 strikeouts, and a 1.28 WHIP average.
Carpenter was a top baseball prospect in 1997 when the Toronto Blue Jays moved him up to the major league roster. His first start was on May 12, 1997 against the Minnesota Twins. It didn’t go so well, as he only lasted three innings in a 12-2 loss. It wasn’t until August 19, 1997 when he would record his first major league win against the Chicago White Sox.
He would finish his rookie season with a dismal 3-7 record and 5.07 ERA.
The Blue Jays would move Carpenter to the bullpen in 1998 after pitching a combined 10 innings with a 9.00 ERA. The next three years would be below many expectations, with Carpenter amassing a record of 19-20 from 1999-2000. In 2001, Carpenter did significantly better in the beginning, with a 7-4 record and 3.67 ERA. That success would not last, however, as he went on to lose his next seven starts, to fall to 7-11.
At the end of the 2002 season, the Blue Jays attempted to place Carpenter in the minor leagues, but he refused and became a free agent.
The rest is history…..
He would become a member of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003, but due to injury, he would not pitch until the 105-win 2004 campaign. With a rotation featuring Jeff Suppan and Dan Haren, among others, Carpenter helped St. Louis capture their first pennant since 1987, but he would suffer a biceps injury that would keep him out of the 2004 World Series. The Cardinals would eventually be swept by Boston in the Fall Classic.
2005 would be a defining season for Chris Carpenter. In addition to being named to the All-Star team (and the NL’s starter) he posted a 2.83 ERA, 213 strikeouts, all in 241 and two-thirds innings pitched. When the season ended, Carpenter would etch his name in baseball and Cardinals’ history, winning the Cy Young award, something only one other Cardinals’ pitcher had done before: Bob Gibson.
In 2006, Carpenter won his 100th career game, a 6-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants. Fellow pitchers Jeff Suppan and Mark Mulder both also notched their 100th career wins that year. After barely making the playoffs, but dominating teams in their wake, St. Louis headed to their 2nd World Series in three years. In Game 3, Carpenter won his first ever World Series game, pitching eight shutout innings at the new Busch Stadium. St. Louis would win their first World Series since 1982 that year.
Over the next few seasons, Carpenter would be faced with a barrage of injuries. He only pitched once in 2007 before missing the entire season due to bone spurs, which complications from would eventually lead to him getting Tommy John Surgery. 2008 wasn’t much better, as that year, Carpenter only pitched three total games before being done for the season.
2009 would be his comeback season, not only winning the August “Pitcher of the Month” award for the first time, he would also wind up winning the Tony Conigliaro Award, given to one MLB player who had overcome major obstacles through “spirit, determination, and courage that were tradmarks of Tony,” according to the description of the award.
2011 proved to be Carpenter’s last strong season in the big leagues. He would finish the regular season with an 11-9 record and a 3.45 ERA, as most of his 34 starts that year were no decisions. In the magical comeback 2011 season, Carpenter pitched quite possibly his greatest game (and possibly most important), with a 1-0 shutout of the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 5 of the NLDS.
He would end up pitching in the climatic Game 7 of the World Series, going six strong innings on only three days rest. The Cardinals won their 11th title in what many consider the greatest comeback team in sports history.
Chris Carpenter had an 0-2 regular season record in 2012, as injuries unraveled his season. In the postseason, he also struggled, losing Game 2 of the NLCS and in Game 6 of the same series. The Cardinals would end up losing in seven games.
2013 was his last in baseball. He did not pitch at all at the big league level, and only pitched minor league bullpen sessions as the injuries had finally taken its toll on the 38-year old pitcher. Through the will to play and strong heart, Carpenter kept pushing, and put off questions of retirement from the media.
Today, however, on the same day the Cardinals extended manager Mike Matheny’s contract three years, Carpenter announced officially his retirement from baseball. He provided some of the greatest pitching performances that Cardinals’ and baseball fans alike have seen in the past 20 years, and was a key mentor to pitchers such as Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller. It isn’t sure if Carpenter will gain a position within the organization, but as for being a pitcher is concerned, he is done.
Thank you, Chris Carpenter. For never giving up when times were tough. For all your heart and determination you showed on and off the field, and for being a cornerstone for this franchise over the past 15+ years.
Cardinal Nation will always be thankful for you being a part of not just the organization, but the city of St. Louis.