Chris Carpenter will not pitch in 2013 and is considering retirement

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The St. Louis Cardinals just announced in a press conference that it is “very unlikely” that Chris Carpenter will pitch in the 2013 season after suffering physical setbacks during his offseason throwing program.

As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported a few minutes ago, Carpenter said earlier this winter that, if he suffered such setbacks, he would not attempt to rehab and come back and would likely retire. That said, Mozeliak just noted that the subject of retirement did not come up in his most recent talk with Carpenter. It’s also worth noting that Carpenter is in the final year of his contract with the Cardinals and is owed $12.5 million for 2013 if he does not retire.

General Manager John Mozeliak said that the issue is continuing numbness and “zingers” in his shoulder and neck, much like what he suffered last year.  Mozeliak says that his role going forward will as a “cheeleader” and a “mentor” but that he will not be pitching.

Carpenter’s career was often brilliant but just as often plagued by injury. Coming up with the Blue Jays, Carpenter missed ample time with various ailments, including shoulder trouble that effectively ended his time there. He finishined his career with the Jays with a 49-50 record in 152 games spread over six seasons. The Cardinals signed him before the 2003 season.

After missing all of 2003 with a torn labrum, he won 15 games in 2004. In 2005 he won 21 games posted an ERA of 2.83 and won the Cy Young Award.  He won 15 again in 2006, finishing third in the Cy Young race, but then the injuries came back to haunt him anew. He made one start in 2007 before being sidelined with bone spurs. While attempting to come back from that he tore his UCL requiring Tommy John surgery. 2007 and almost all of 2008 were a loss.

Back to form in 2009, Carpenter won 17 games, led the league in ERA and finished second in the Cy Young balloting. He threw 235 innings in 2010 and 237.1 innings in 2011, leading the league in starts each year. In Game 7 of the 2011 World Series, Carpenter pitched six innings on three days rest, leading the Cardinals to a 6–2 win over the Texas Rangers.

Carpenter missed most of 2012 following midseason surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He came back in September and pitched in the postseason.  But, in light of today’s news, that may very well be the end.

If it is the end, Carpenter finishes his career with a record of 144-94 and and ERA of 3.76 in 350 games, 332 of which came as a starter. He threw 2219.1 innings striking out 1697 batters while walking 627.  In the postseason he was 10-4, 3.00 with a K/BB ratio of 68/36 in 108 innings. He’s a three time All-Star, a Cy Young Winner and the 2009 Comeback Player of the Year.

Injuries often preclude greatness. It’s not often that you find a player who was plagued by injuries but, those injuries notwithstanding, can still be called great.  I think Chris Carpenter qualifies.  When he was healthy, he was a wonderful pitcher.  If he had remained healthy, we’d be talking about him as a potential Hall of Famer.  Some things, however, are just not to be.

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

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We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.