10 years ago today, the Toronto Blue Jays made a very unfortunate decision. At the time, it was an understandable move, but my golly did it ever backfire on them badly.
On Oct. 9, 2002, 10 years ago today, the Blue Jays released pitcher Chris Carpenter.
Now, as you probably know, Carpenter had a rather nice decade for himself since then. In 2005, he went 21-5 and won a Cy Young Award for the St. Louis Cardinals. In 2009, he was runner-up in Cy Young voting with a league-best 2.24 ERA and a 17-4 record. Oh, and he finished third in Cy Young voting in 2006. He also made the All-Star game in 2010.
Carpenter has missed plenty of time in other seasons due to injuries, but when healthy he’s been among the best pitchers in baseball.
Both elements of Carpenter’s game – his ability and his lack of durability – had already made themselves apparent with the Blue Jays. Toronto thought enough of his talent to make an 18-year-old Carpenter their first round pick in the 1993 draft.
He made it to the majors within weeks of his 22nd birthday. He never really had great numbers in Toronto. However, his numbers were often good – especially for someone who was still developing. In his first full season in the majors in 1998, the 23-year-old Carpenter went 12-7 with an ERA+ of 106. It’s nothing wondrous, but definitely a nice performance for someone so young.
However, Carpenter had trouble taking that next step in Toronto. In 1999, he experienced the first of many trips on the DL. He missed almost all of June due to injury and had to be shut down in mid-September. But at least he pitched well when he was healthy.
2000 was the opposite. He never went on the DL, but he was never any good. In 27 starts and seven relief stints, Carpenter posted an ERA of 6.26 with a league-leading 122 earned runs allowed. Well, hopefully it’s just a growing pain for the 25-year-old.
In 2001, it looked like Carpenter turned the corner with his best season to date. Despite a terrible stretch of dead arm in mid-summer, Carpenter posted an ERA barely over 4 while making every start. That was nice, but then again he was 26 years old and only a little better than he had been at age 23. Was this as good as he would get?
In 2002, it looked like he’d never be that good again. His arm was clearly messed up when the year began and he had a 15-DL stint quickly followed by a stretch on the 60-day DL. He eventually came back but was very ineffective, allowing 89 hits and 27 walks in just 73.1 IP while fanning only 45. He had some rehab stints in the minors and was terrible there, too.
At 27, Carpenter was a bit old to be a prospect, and had a proven record of injury with production that just hadn’t delivered despite his promise. So Toronto cut him.
He immediately took off in St. Louis. It’s easy to say that Toronto got rid of him at the worst possible time, and that’s quite possibly true. There is another angle, though. Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa and his longtime pitching coach Dave Duncan had a tradition of turning around veterans pitchers and getting more out of them than one would expect. That was certainly the case in Oakland, where they had Bob Welch, Dave Stewart, Dennis Eckersley and others. Maybe Duncan worked his magic with Carpenter.
Or maybe it was just bad timing for Toronto. After all, even with Duncan, Carpenter missed almost all of 2007 and 2008. All that can said for sure is that looking back a decade later, Toronto’s decision to cut Carpenter didn’t work out, but they made that decision exactly 10 years ago today.
2,000 days since Jim Thome walks a personal high five times in one game.
3,000 days since John Maine makes his big league pitching debut.
3,000 days since Kevin Millar hits three home runs in one game for the Red Sox.
3,000 days since Ivan Rodriguez gets his 2,000th hit.
7,000 days since Bret Saberhagen admits that he sprayed bleach at reporters from a water gun a few weeks earlier. He says he aimed at Mets employees, not reporters. Gee, that makes it better… Oh wait, no it doesn’t.
15,000 days since Billy Williams hits his only pinch-hit home run.
15,000 days since Houston pitcher Larry Yount is slated to start tonight and make his big league debut. Alas, he injures himself before the game – and he never gets another chance.
30,000 days since Chick Hafey hits for the cycle.
40,000 days since Hall of Famer Mickey Cochrane is born.
1884 Jack Manning becomes one of the first players to ever hit three homers in one game.
1884 John Clarkson, 300-game winning pitcher, hits two home runs in one game.
1886 Rube Marquard, maybe the worst pitcher in the Hall of Fame, is born.
1898 Joe Sewell, Hall of Fame shortstop who is the most difficult player in major league history to strikeout, is born.
1903 Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley is born.
1906 The Hitless Wonder White Sox top the 116-win Cubs 1-0 in Game One of the World Series. Both teams have four hits in the contest.
1910 Ty Cobb sits out the last game of the season to help win the batting title over Nap Lajoie, but shenanigans go on to help Lajoie. The Browns play Lajoie’s Indians and they openly let Lajoie lay down bunt after bunt for infield single. The batting champion will win a new car and the Browns don’t want Cobb to win it. In fact, eight of Cobb’s teammates wire Lajoie to congratulate him on his performance. To avoid controversy the automaker will give both Cobb and Lajoie a new car.
1910 George Stone, briefly a great hitter, plays in his last game.
1912 Game Two of the World Series is called for darkness with the Giants and Red Sox tied 6-6 after 11 innings.
1915 In Game Two of the World Series the Red Sox top the Phillies 2-1 with the winning run scoring in the top of the ninth.
1916 Babe Ruth throws a complete game 14-innning masterpiece in Game Two of the World Series for a 2-1 Red Sox win over Brooklyn. It will be the longest World Series game of them all until Game Three of the 2005 Fall Classic.
1919 The Black Sox openly tank Game Eight of the World Series. Lefty Williams throws batting practice – nothing but easy fastballs over the middle of the plate in such an obvious attempt to lose that he lasts just a handful or two of batters. The Reds win, 10-5.
1920 Dodger pitcher Rube Marquard is arrested for trying to sell World Series tickets to an undercover cop. Oops.
1921 Yankees pitcher Carl Mays fares so badly in his 4-2 loss to the Giants in Game Four of the World Series that is sparks rumors of a fix. He goes fine but then falls apart completely. Fred Leib, who later serves on the Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee, says this performance is what kept Mays out of the Hall of Fame (and not the more infamous moment of his career, when he threw a fastball that killed Indians shortstop Ray Chapman).
1925 The Cubs draft Hack Wilson from Toledo in the Rule 5 draft.
1928 Babe Ruth hits three homers in Game Four of the World Series for a 7-3 Yankees win over the Cardinals.
1934 The Cardinals destroy the Tigers 11-0 in Game Seven of the World Series for a Gashouse Gang title. Fans in Detroit shower Cardinals leftfielder Joe Medwick with fruit after he has a hard slide on a Tiger infielder.
1940 Joe Pepitone is born.
1944 Diminutive infielder Freddie Patek is born.
1946 Brooklyn release aging outfielder Joe Medwick.
1950 Brian Downing, early weight lifter and fitness enthusiast, is born.
1956 Brooklyn tops the Yankees 1-0 in 10 innings in Game Six of the World Series to force a Game Seven. The Dodgers get just four hits today. It’s the game after Don Larsen’s perfecto, too.
1957 The Yankees force a Game Seven by beating the Milwaukee Braves 3-2 in Game Six.
1958 The Yankees, who once trailed in this series three-games-to-one complete their comeback over the Braves, winning Game Seven 6-2. The hero is Bob Turley with a long relief outing. The Yankees get four runs in the eighth to take the game.
1961 The Yankees clinch yet another world title in one of the least competitive games in World Series history, a 13-5 bashing of the Reds in Game Five. The Yankees scored a ton in the first inning to put this one away early.
1964 Houston releases aging second baseman Nellie Fox.
1966 Baltimore completes their World Series sweep over the Dodgers by winning Game Four, 1-0. It’s their second straight 1-0 win. The Dodgers failed to score in the last 33 innings of the Series.
1968 The Tigers score 10 runs in the third inning of Game Six in an easy win over the Cardinals to force a Game Seven.
1969 Sparky Anderson, who served as a Padres coach this year, is named the new manager of the Cincinnati Reds. He’ll do well in his new job.
1969 Former infielder Don Hoak dies at age 41 from a heart attack while chasing car thieves.
1972 Dave Bancroft, Hall of Fame shortstop, dies.
1972 The Pirates top the Reds 3-2 in Game Three of the NLCS. Pittsburgh gets the tying run in the seventh and the winning run in the eighth.
1973 The A’s top the Orioles 2-1 in 11 innings in Game Three of the ALCS.
1973 Cincinnati tops the Mets 2-1 in 12 innings in Game Four of the NLCS. The Mets get just four hits all game.
1974 For the second straight Oct. 9, the A’s top the O’s 2-1 in the ALCS. This time it’s Game Four, and Oakland gets their two runs despite having just one hit all game. Baltimore has only five hits.
1977 The Yankees top the Royals in Game Five of the ALCS to claim their second straight pennant. The Yankees score once in the eighth and thrice in the ninth for the win.
1981 Frank Kuraczea Jr., a jerk of a Yankees fan, attacks umpire Mike Reilly at third base during a game.
1982 The Cardinals comeback to top the Braves 4-3 in Game Two of the NLCS. St. Louis gets a run in the bottom of the eighth to tie it and score a walk-off run in the ninth for the victory.
1985 Toronto tops the Royals 6-5 in 10 innings in Game Two of the ALCS. It’s 4-4 after nine innings.
1988 The Dodgers beat the Mets 5-4 in 12 innings in Game Four. In this game, the pitcher-depleted Dodgers have Orel Hershiser pitch in relief to end the game.
1988 Toronto signs amateur free agent Carlos Delgado.
1996 It’s the game that made Jeffrey Maier (in)famous. He reaches into the field to catch an in play ball, and the umpire falsely calls it a home run. The Yankees top the Orioles 5-4 in 11 innings.
1997 Cleveland scores three times in the top of the eighth for a 5-4 win over the Orioles in Game Two of the ALCS.
1999 The Yankees finish a dominating sweep over the Rangers with a 3-0 win in Game Three of the ALDS. Texas scores one run on 14 hits in all three games. In the 1998 ALDS, the Rangers scored one run on 13 hits in another three game sweep at the hands of the Yankees.
1999 The Mets top the Diamondbacks 4-3 in 10 innings in Game Four of the NLDS.
2001 Curt Schilling throws a complete game three-hit shutout for a 1-0 Arizona win over St. Louis in Game One of the NLDS.
2004 The Yankees top the Twins in the ALDS (again), with a tight 6-5 win in 11 innings. In the 21st century, the Twins have taken Texas’ old job as Yankee LDS whipping boy.
2004 It’s Lima Time! Jose Lima throws a complete game five-hit shutout for the Dodgers in a 4-0 Game Three win over the Cardinals.
2005 The Yankees rally for a 3-2 win over the Angeles thanks to one run in the bottom of the sixth and two in the bottom of the seventh. Each team gets jut four hits in the game.
2005 It’s one of the most memorable LDS games ever as Houston tops the Braves 7-6 in an 18-inning marathon. Roger Clemens comes out of the bullpen to win in relief.
2009 The Yankees do what they do best in the 21st century postseason, rip the hearts out of the Twins. They score two in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game 3-3 and then win 4-3 in 11 innings in Game Two.
2010 Tony Gwynn announces that he has cancer.