My true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.
Today marks the 16th anniversary of one of the most iconic trades in St. Cardinals history. On December 13, 2003, Adam Wainwright became our partridge in a pear tree, a gift from the one and only Walt Jocketty. Jocketty brokered a deal with the Atlanta Braves that would change everything for the 22-year-old Georgia native and the St. Louis Cardinals.
The organization took a gamble with Wainwright and every single person who follows the game of baseball knows that the gamble paid off.
His MLB debut was on September 11, 2005 against the New York Mets at 24-years-old as a reliever. He only pitched in two games during that season – ending with an ERA of 13.50. It wasn’t pretty, but things began to look up quicker than anyone expected.
With the incumbent closer Jason Isringhausen undergoing season-ending hip surgery, Wainwright was pushed into the role of closer. Saving two crucial games in September, he would help his team hold off the Houston Astros, winning the National League Division in 2006. Closing out the final game of the World Series, Waino struck out Detroit Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge on a slider, sealing his fate in the heart of all St. Louis fans.
In 2007, he moved from the role of closer to the starting rotation, a spot that he still owns going into the 2020 season. He finished the season by leading the club in almost every pitching category: games started, innings pitched, strikeouts, and wins. 14-12 win/loss record with a 3.70 ERA. The 14 wins propelled him into history, leading the franchise in wins as a first-year starter. His 2.71 ERA after the All-Star break was third-best in the National League. Adam Wainwright was going to be something special, everyone knew it.
Despite signing a four-year deal in 2008, the season didn’t treat Waino very well. Suffering a strain in his right hand middle finger, he missed 2.5 months of the season. He had a total of 20 starts with a 3.20 ERA. On August 19, 2009, Waino pitched a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers for 5.5 innings before Orlando Hudson broke it up. His next start, he pitched eight shoutout innings. In October, he won the Players Choice Award as the NL Most Outstanding Pitcher. He went on to win his first Gold Glove that November.
His first All-Star Game came in 2010, he pitched in one inning. He was once again in the running for the NL Cy Young Award, finishing second behind Roy Halladay. 2011 brought Tommy John, causing him to miss the season and the iconic World Series win against the Texas Rangers. He earned his second World Series ring.
His career continued to be one of the most striking careers in the history of the Cardinals. Despite Tommy John, he threw his first complete-game shutout since 2010 on May 22, 2012 against the San Diego Padres. In 2013, he became the first pitcher in baseball since 1900 to have 28 strikeouts and zero walks in his first four starts of the season. (Slim Sallee established the franchise record exactly 100 years earlier.)
Once again, he would end the season in the top of Cy Young voting in 2014, finishing third. He won the Hutch Award in 2015.
In 2016, he pitched a three-hit, complete-game shutout against the Miami Marlins. He did not allow a hit until the sixth inning to Adeiny Hechavarria. Wainwright would increase his season total of RBIs to 18, the highest total for all pitchers in the designated hitter era since 1973. In 2017, he passed Bill Doak for fifth place in wins for the Cardinals with 145 – the same day, he became the only active MLB pitcher with multiple seasons of 10+ RBI. He also won his first career Silver Slugger Award, the first pitcher to win since Bob Forsch (1980 and 1987) for the Cardinals.
The 2018 season looked bleak, spending most of his time on the disabled list. But the clock began to turn back time since 2019 began. Uncle Charlie signed a one-year, $2 million contract extension with his beloved birds.
During the 2019 season, he picked up his 150th win against the Milwaukee Brewers. He went 14-10 with a 4.19 ERA and 153 strikeouts. His last appearance came in relief of Dakota Hudson during the NLCS blunder against the Washington Nationals.
Uncle Charlie wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet, signing a one-year contact for the 2020 season with the Cardinals. The contract included a full no-trade provision and is for a guaranteed $5 million with incentives. He can earn another $5 million in performance bonuses.
Each year, Waino comes back better than ever. And that is why he is our first gift on the 1 days of Dugout Dishmas.