Recently, a mailbag was commenced on my Twitter page, but I only got two questions. One asked about my favorite live Cardinals game experience and the other asked which Cardinal player I’d like to have a beer with. My fellow Redbird Daily colleague Austin Lamb asked the latter, so let’s have some fun here while the Cardinals slowly bleed out this month.
I’d like to have a beer with Chris Carpenter, the playoff beast who screamed at opposing hitters, teammates, and even innocent insects when they flew near his face in the dugout. He once decimated a man named Brendan in the dugout for grabbing the wrong glove and screamed at a young man named Hanley for not walking to first base fast enough. Every time Carpenter pitched, it was him against the world and the Cardinals were better for it. I miss that bravado. even if the sequel named ‘John Lackey’ was pretty entertaining for a couple years in St. Louis.
Can I talk to you about the man before I tell you why he’s my pick to get a couple brews with?
Carpenter was a pitcher transported from another time. He belonged in an era with Bob Gibson; hardcore athletes who went from the hero a city deserved to the villain they needed in the course of three hours. Carpenter had no desire to hold the ball on a pitching mound for 60 seconds between pitches, and he didn’t use Insta-tweet-face.
He came to St. Louis a pitcher with a broken shoulder and Dave Duncan turned into Howard Stark, making Carpenter a stud on a pitching mound. Or less like Kris Carpenter. How dramatic was the change? Carpenter went from a guy with a 49-50 record in six seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays to one with a 51-23 record in three seasons with the Cardinals. Amazing and unlikely to be seen again.
Carpenter helped the Cardinals win a World Series in 2006 and 2011, his 3-0 record and 2.00 ERA in the World Series standing taller than most accolades. Remember him bulldozing the National League Central in September six years ago? Remember him sliding into first base against the Rangers on three days rest to record an out?
To put it lightly, the 2017 Cardinals could use Carpenter right now. It’s too bad he’s 42 years old and retired due to a body that didn’t cooperate over the course of his 15-year career. They once had to pull a piece of Carpenter’s rib and stick it in his arm. Or maybe it was his shoulder. It all sounds like a 1980’s Nick Nolte action film.
He tearfully called General Manager John Mozeliak to inform him that he could no longer pitch in 2012. His tears probably sounded a lot like Clint Eastwood’s tough guy tears in the movie, In The Line of Fire: muffled with true grit hanging off them. The actual tears were afraid of the guy turning them loose.
Why Carpenter? I loved his nonsense-less approach to baseball, interviews, and his career. He’s a great comeback story. Over the first pint of Oatmeal Stout, I’d ask him about the Duncan effect and how he changed the type of pitcher he was. Over the second pint of Double IPA, we’d discuss those fiery moments on the mound. I want to know what helped him change into a frigging animal out there.
Over the third pint of Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, we would dive into his childhood and teenage years. Did he rock the jean jacket and punch out bullies? Or was he a bully? I want it all and through good beer and conversation, I’d find it all out, pulling on my Dan Rather and Barbara Walters strings to get the job done. Half of it would get printed and the other half would be left to me alone. While Steve Kline would make for a great third wheel, Carpenter is the guy I want to talk to.
“What exactly did you say to Ryan?”
“How many times did you want to drop the gloves and knock a hitter out?”
“How helpless did Nyjer Morgan look in September 2011?”
I’d ask Carpenter about La Russa and his methods, tantrums, and overall guile. He spent the majority (albeit an ill-fated 2012 campaign) with Tony, so there’d be stories. I could order a bottle of wine if La Russa wanted to join.
I miss watching Carpenter pitch. A lot. So asking him over several beers about his playing days, his plan to return, and what made him unique would nearly cure the desire to see him back out on a pitching mound.