Adam Wainwright deactivated his Twitter account, presumably because of the unsparing vitriol directed at him by the usual mob after his futile showing against the Cubs on Saturday.

Waino has abundant, affectionate support among Cardinals fans that appreciate all that he’s done for the franchise and in the community. But vile nastiness is a standard part of the Twitter realm for public figures.

Sad to say, the hostility aimed at Wainwright was nothing out of the ordinary; it was to be expected. But Wainwright is a sensitive guy, and he’s had a wonderful and enduring relationship with St. Louis fans, so we shouldn’t fault him for reacting after getting stung. He made a smart choice to turn the Twitter machine off and take a break from being the target of personal attacks. Who needs that?


May 23, 2023; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright (50) walks from the mound leaving the game against the Cincinnati Reds during the sixth inning at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports


That said, I think there’s a lot more to this. Wainwright was dejected – maybe even despairing – after the Cubs thrashed him for 11 hits, two homers and seven earned runs in just three innings and 19 batters faced. Based on the Game Score formula at FanGraphs – with a mark of 50 being average – Wainwright walked off the mound with a Game Score of just 2.

That represented Wainwright’s worst start since June 17, 2017 at Baltimore, when he had a minus 10 Game Score. But he was tormented by a painful elbow condition in 2017 – an injury so severe, it made Wainwright contemplate retiring. Instead, he battled through the pain, healed up, and reclaimed his “ace” status.

The start in London left Wainwright sad and shaken. He’s a warrior-competitor who confidently believes he can conquer any challenge. But he’s 41, well on the way to 42, and can’t beat the clock forever. Time always wins.

To most accomplished athletes, such a realization can be upsetting and depressing. In Wainwright’s case, he hoped for a joyous final season before retiring. In his 2023 farewell, he would defy the aging curve and pitch well, the Cardinals would have another successful season, and he could walk off under happy circumstances.

This cruel 2023 has been the opposite of that. Wainwright doesn’t have a strikeout punch or a sharp swing-and-miss component; that part of his arsenal is gone, and his average fastball velocity is down to 85.3 mph. As clever and resourceful as Wainwright is, he can’t trick and fool the hitters forever. They don’t chase as many of his pitches out of the zone, and the strike-zone contact rate against him this season is just under 90 percent.

Batters know they’ll get something to hit and can tee off. This season opponents have jumped on Wainwright for a .348 batting average, .385 onbase percentage and a .574 slugging percentage. He’s allowed hit at an alarming rate of 13.7 per nine innings. There is nothing fluky about that. In all three categories, those numbers are the most damaging against Wainwright in a season since he became a starting pitcher in 2007.

Wainwright has a 6.56 ERA in nine starts this season, and a 6.81 ERA in his last 15 starts since September of 2022.

There’s no escaping any of this. And if this leaves Wainwright frustrated, angry and downhearted, the roiling emotions make him human. It hurts even more when a pitcher cares so intensely about delivering his best for a team that faces a desperate climb out of last place in the division.

I have to think that a significant part of Waino’s distress is knowing that he can’t be the pitcher that he wants to be, and he’s coming to grips with that. This can’t be easy for him.

We know that because history tells us so.

The immortal Bob Gibson had a 5.04 ERA in his final season, 1975, so Waino isn’t alone. Actually he’s in good company.

One of my personal baseball heroes, three-time Cy Young winner Jim Palmer, had a 9.17 ERA for his Orioles in May of 1984. He was 38 and faded. Palmer rejected the team’s suggestion of a “voluntary retirement,” and the O’s promptly designated him for assignment. Palmer was convinced another team would sign him, but no offers were forthcoming. Seven years later, at age 45, Palmer attempted a comeback with Baltimore but didn’t make it out of spring training.

A declining Steve Carlton shook off a plea to retire in 1986, so the Phillies released the four-time Cy Young winner during a news conference that left team president Bill Giles in tears. (Carlton didn’t attend.) Lefty bounced around for short stints after that, a vagabond journey that had him pitching for the Giants, Guardians, White Sox and Twins. Carlton’s ERA over his final three seasons was 5.72, but he wouldn’t succumb to the obvious. When the Twins let him go during the 1988 season, Carlton insisted he still could pitch at an above-average level, chose to ignore reality, and stubbornly waited for another opportunity that never came. His famous slider was gone, and so was he.

This is how it goes for so many name-brand ballplayers. This was best described by all-time MLB stolen base leader Rickey Henderson, who hung on until age 43.

Said The Man of Steal: “I haven’t had the time to say, ‘I’m retiring.’ But baseball says, ‘You’re retired.’ ”

Gibson was offended when manager Red Schoendienst pulled him from the rotation in early July of ‘75. Gibby had a 6.30 ERA in the final six starts of his career, but still considered himself to be the team’s top starting pitcher. In the last game of the season, working as a reliever against the visiting Cubs, Gibson was hammered for five earned runs in his final inning as a Cardinal.

“I had reached my absolute limit in humiliation,” Gibson wrote of that day in his post-career book, Stranger to the Game. “I said to myself, ‘That’s it. I’m out of here.’ ”

The top two two starting pitchers in Cardinals history are Gibson and Wainwright. The greatest of the greats can have a hard time letting go, and it’s a story as old as baseball itself. If Waino doesn’t improve, what will the Cardinals do? Manager Oli Marmol is in an agonizing spot, but he’s embraced this because of his respect for  Waino. Unless there’s a legitimate injury concern, I’d be stunned if Oli pulls Wainwright from the rotation.

The Cardinals are 4-5 in Wainwright’s starts — which isn’t awful considering how bad this team is — and Marmol could use that to justify Waino’s ongoing presence. But let’s understand something here: in the four winning starts with Wainwright, the Cards averaged 9.25 runs per game.

The right-hander needs two more wins to reach 200 in his career. Depending on the timing, and how long this could go on, the quest would raise other questions: what’s the priority here? Then again, it’s not as if the Cardinals are overstocked with quality starters. In a best-case scenario, Wainwright will come up with a few more of the relatively decent starts that he summoned in recent road games against the Rangers and Mets. That would cool things down.

This is rather messy. It’s a sensitive situation. Wainwright can easily avoid the venom from the Twitter snakes. But as he nears the end of the line, he can’t avoid major-league hitters. That’s the unpleasant truth.

Thanks for reading …


Bernie invites you to listen to his sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at or the 590 app.

Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

Listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast on the Cardinals, featuring Will Leitch and Miklasz. It’s available on your preferred podcast platform. Or follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Sports Info Solutions, Fielding Bible and Baseball Prospectus.

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.