The Old Man and the C
Honestly, this post is just about the title.
All I know about The Old Man and the Sea, the classic novel by Ernest Hemingway, I learned from reading the Wikipedia entry. I know, I know, one of those Great American Novels but my reading growing up leaned more toward English detective novels and baseball histories. Yet looking at the description of the book, you could imagine it being a bit ominous when applied to the old man of this Cardinals team, Adam Wainwright.
Wainwright, who was named today as the Game 1 starter for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, has been plagued by some lower velocities this spring. The club doesn’t seem to be concerned as Wainwright has termed it coming out of some back spasms he had before camp started. If that was the only issue, and if Wainwright was even five years younger, it might not have raised any concerns. Still, it was a little more blood in the water.
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Last year, the comebacker off the leg against the Braves started the bleeding. Up until then, it looked like Father Time was in a losing batting with the genial man from Georgia. That comebacker, and the alterations it required, made for a miserable September. The sharks of time and ineffectiveness had caught the scent. The spasms this year have only added to those sort of concerns.
Let’s be clear, though, this isn’t the first time Wainwright’s had issues. When he walked off the mound on May 13, 2018 in San Diego there was a significant chance he’d never walk back onto it. Instead, he’s been resilient, fighting back to becoming one of the top pitchers yet again in the league. If it hadn’t been for the terrible September, it would not have been a surprise if Wainwright had garnered Cy Young votes in his Age 40 season.
Hemingway’s book ends with the old man dreaming about his youth. Hopefully this season it won’t be a dream for the someday Cardinal Hall of Famer (and, maybe potentially, a baseball Hall of Famer) but he’ll continue to drop curves and remind us of his youth before he walks off, we hope triumphantly, into the sunset.
The C has done a pretty good job of changing his colors this winter.
Willson Contreras has been remarkable in his transition from Chicago rival to Cardinal hero. He’s said all the things that we as St. Louis fans want to hear, about how he dreamed about joining the Cardinals when free agency became apparent last year. How Yadi sent over a jersey and basically told him to take the legend’s spot on the roster. How the Cardinal organization is a better one than the Cubs. Unless you are the most cynical of fans, it’s impossible not to eat that up and quickly move Contreras from the “hate that guy” list to “defend at all cost” lists.
All that—plus the fact that the spotlight is on guys like Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn, and Tink Hence—has helped overshadow the fact that it’s been a slow start offensively for Contreras, who is just 2-13 this spring and has yet to go deep. The man has more on his mind than hitting, though, trying to get adjusted to a new organization, making connections with the various pitchers, all sorts of things that take precedence over what he’s doing at the plate.
Spring trainings rarely are omens. Dexter Fowler hit .349 with three triples in 2017 after joining the Cardinals, only to not be able to buy a hit when the lights came up. There are things to focus on in this camp, things to ponder and worry about. Willson Contreras is not one of them.