Chris Carpenter, the Comeback Kid


Carpenter, shortly after being shot by an opposing player. He went on to throw 6 2/3 shutout innings later that day.
  • Carpenter, shortly after being shot by an opposing player. He went on to throw 6 2/3 shutout innings later that day.
Chris Carpenter was named yesterday the National League Comeback Player of the Year by Major League Baseball. It shouldn't come as a shock to anyone, of course, considering Carpenter missed almost two full seasons after having Tommy John surgery in 2007, then returned this year as a Cy Young Award contender. 

Still, it isn't easy to fully appreciate the full import of what Carpenter accomplished this season. With this award, Carp became the only player to ever win the Sporting News' Comeback Player of the Year Award and MLB's Comeback Player award in two separate years. (He won TSN's award in 2004, the year before MLB began giving out such an award.) 

More importantly, it's almost unheard of for a player to return to such a high level of performance after missing substantial chunks of time not just once, but twice in a career. When Carpenter had shoulder surgery in the early part of the decade, before he ever joined the Cardinals, it was thought he might never pitch again. Not only did he pitch again, he did so at a remarkable level, winning the Cy Young in 2005. Then, after missing almost two full seasons with elbow problems and nerve issues in his shoulder, he comes back and pitches at just as high a level in 2009. Whatever else Carpenter may accomplish in his career, even if it all blew up tomorrow somehow and he never set foot on a mound again, he has done something almost no pitcher has ever done in the history of the game. Guys simply don't come back from multiple, catastrophic arm injuries and dominate. It just doesn't happen. 

So congratulations to Chris Carpenter, and let's hope this is the last time he ever wins an award for making a comeback. 

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