On November 10, 2005, Chris Carpenter was named the National League's Cy Young Award winner. Carpenter was the just second Cardinal to lay claim to the prize, as he joined a club that was occupied by one man. That man's name was Bob Gibson. Gibby claimed the prize twice, with the first coming in 1968 and the second coming in 1970. Gibson found some company in the club 35 years later, as Carpenter posted a 21-5 record with a 2.83 earned run average.
Carpenter had fierce competition for the award, as Dontrelle Willis of the Florida Marlins posted a 22-10 record with a 2.63 earned run average. However, it was Carpenter that had 19 of the 32 first place votes going to him. Willis had 11, and Roger Clemens followed them up with two. The article featured in the picture today documents the road that Carpenter traveled to get to that point. It was a road that involved pain, rehab, and even the questioning of a career that had hardly started before an injury looked like it may have ended it. He had showed promise early in his career in Toronto, as he posted double digits in the win column during three different seasons. However, 2002 proved to be a year that tested Carpenter's will. He had suffered an arm injury, and setbacks thereafter that raised the question if he should go on. The answer was yes, he should go on.
Things got worse before they got better. The Blue Jays brass wanted him to consider working through his issues at the minor league level. It was not something he embraced, so he tested the market, and in December of 2002 Chris Carpenter put ink on a contract that made him a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. The organization was well aware of the road he had traveled, and they were well aware that there would be a long road ahead of him before he was ready to pitch for his new club. Together, they traveled that road, and were rewarded with a triumphant return to the mound in 2004. The hurler posted a 15-5 record for the National League Champions, and was awarded the Comeback Player of the Year at season's end.
The 21-5 season the next year kept the awards coming for the man who came oh so close to calling it quits. He was a Cy Young Award winner who showed that hard work and determination can push you through. He did not give up, and because of that he is the last Cardinal to take home the coveted award. The 2005 season was Carpenter's finest season from a personal standpoint. However, he did win 15 or more games three more times. What he did on the diamond, and in the clubhouse helped bring the Cardinals the title in 2006 and 2011. As we all know Carpenter did fight through injury throughout the rest of his career. The key word to that last sentence is "fight". He kept fighting right up until he could fight no more. From this fan's perspective he is one of the greatest pitchers I have seen on the diamond. His battle to stay on that diamond is quite inspiring as well. When you consider what he went though that Cy Young Award had to mean so much to the man who wore the 29 over the course of nine years in St. Louis.