There are numerous stories throughout the history of sports of athletes pushing through pain and injury, rising to the moment, to lift their teams up to success. From Jack Youngblood’s broken leg for the L.A. Rams, to Willis Reed’s inspirational return to the court for the Knicks, to Kurt Gibson’s limping home run trot in the World Series…and there are too many to list for NHL players. Fans appreciate those moments when a player leaves everything on the field, pushing through pain, and giving their all for their team. But what happens when a player continues to play hurt and doesn’t help the team but rather costs the team? We are seeing that scenario play out here in St. Louis with Matt Carpenter.
Last week news broke that Carpenter has been playing with shoulder tendonitis all season long. And although his numbers haven’t been exceptional at all this season with a .239 average, 20 home runs, 66 runs batted in; they have taken a dramatic drop recently, which is proving to be disastrous for the Cardinals. The team somehow closed to within three games of first-place entering the past weekend only to be swept by the Cubs and see their season all but officially written off.
The Cardinals poor performance this weekend is not solely Carpenter’s fault but he is the player the team planned on building around. And he is the player that is costing the team when they need production. Carpenter only had two at-bats with runners in scoring position this weekend against the Cubs but what a big two at-bats they were. The first came in Friday’s came in the memorable 5th inning, just after Carlos Martinez singled in a run to give the Cardinals the lead and when Cubs starting pitcher John Lackey and catcher Wilson Contreras got ejected. Carpenter stepped in to face Josh Wilson, who was fresh out of the bullpen and only had eight pitches to warm up. With runners and first and third what did Carpenter do with a chance to build further momentum for the Cardinals? He struck out. This has been a theme for him over the last month, as evident by his second chance to provide a big moment for the team.
His second chance this weekend with runners in scoring position came in Sunday’s game, with Cardinals down 4-3 in the 8th inning Carpenter was in the batters box with bases loaded. What did he do? Struck out. For the fourth time in the game. See the trend? Striking out.
Over the past month Carpenter is hitting just .190 and he has not had a multi-hit game since August 8th. Since that time Carpenter has just 19 hits over 29 games, striking out 33 times. That is right he has almost as twice as many strikeouts as he does hits over the last month of games.
Carpenter wants to play. And fans want players who want to play. But when the player is hurting the team more than helping them, it changes from a player having heart to a player having an ego. Carpenter, and the Cardinals, should be smart. They have options to replace Carpenter right now. It makes no sense to keep running a player out everyday that offers nothing at the plate except striking out. It doesn’t matter his stature in the game, his paycheck, or what he has done in the past. Carpenter is not being a hero for the Cardinals, he is hurting the Cardinals.