Well, just in case everyone wasn't already bummed enough about the whole Albert-Pujols
-is-leaving-after-the-season storyline for 2011, we now have the news that Adam Wainwright
, ace of the Cardinals' staff and eternal Cy Young runner-up, has left spring training camp in Florida and is headed to the doctor to have his elbow examined.
What does a Wainwright injury mean to the Cardinals in 2011, you ask?
In a word: everything.
If it comes to pass that Adam Wainwright has to have Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow, there's a very real chance the Cardinals' season is over before it even began. This team was built to rely heavily on one of the most imposing starting rotations in all of baseball; take out the anchor of that group and things get mighty ugly mighty fast.
The rotation will still feature Chris Carpenter, himself a former Cy Young winner and not exactly a slouch by any means, as well as Jaime Garcia, who finished third in the Rookie of the Year balloting last year. Unfortunately for Cardinal fans, Garcia is coming off a season which saw him post a new career high in innings pitched and could count as a red flag, and Carpenter, well, Chris Carpenter's shoulder is held together by children's wishes and three staples. It's a little worrisome.
Bumping Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse both up a spot (and don't think I didn't have to just fight down the bile typing that statement), the fifth starter's spot suddenly comes open. I have to think the ancient and possibly incontinent Miguel Batista becomes the favourite to fill it. Not exactly an exciting proposition.
My real fear here, though, is that this will lead to the front office making a panic move sometime during the season and trading away, say, a Shelby Miller for a moderate upgrade in this year's rotation. The Cardinals have too much riding on being able to fill in their team with affordable talent in the next few years to be making such rash decisions; I can only hope cooler heads prevail if this thing does turn bad.
For the moment, though, we should all just cross our fingers and pretend the Cards didn't just fall behind the Milwaukee Brewers and Reds both.
Get well soon, Adam. We all need you way too much for you to be hurt.