Speculation has arose that lightning-rod pitcher Chris Carpenter‘s absence from the St. Louis Cardinals‘ dugout will take away some of the team’s competitive edge. Of course his presence will be missed — especially with the pitching staff — but I don’t believe that the team will be any less competitive without him around.
Remember that Carpenter spent the majority of the 2012 season on the DL — though he still spent a considerable amount of time with the team during home games. Without Carp, the team still was able to remain competitive and the pitching staff held their own — even with the questions about how well Adam Wainwright would handle ‘ace’ status after coming off Tommy John surgery.
The team could have been under major turmoil given that two mainstays in the coaching staff — Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan — were no longer behind them. Add in a new manager — a rookie one at that — and this team could have struggled all year. Not to mention the fact that the biggest star to play in St. Louis since ‘The Wizard of Oz’ left the team for the west coast.
Yet, what ended up happening was the spirit of this organization remained the same. New leaders stepped up in Yadier Molina, David Freese and veteran Lance Berkman. Carpenter did return late in the season and fanned the flames already ignited by the new regime of player commanders.
The team has remained largely unchanged — with a couple of minor exceptions — and I don’t believe they will be any worse off without Carp as they were last year. Obviously a healthy Carpenter would provide a boost to the pitching staff but they don’t by any means need him in the rotation.
Since he hasn’t retired–yet–he could still be a part of the team as a sort of motivator if he chooses to do so. Might not be a bad idea as this could be his last year in professional baseball as a player. But at the same time it might be better for the team to learn to get on without him.
St. Louis will find a way to win this year with or without Carpenter and it won’t be any harder to do so regardless.