Adam Wainwright, Tommy John, and the Five Stages of Grief

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote a book called On Death and Dying in 1969. In it, she details the five stages of grief, which would become the Kübler-Ross model: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

Really, I’m not so shallow as to equate the loss of Adam Wainwright to Tommy John surgery with actual death or tragedy. However, in the baseball world, Wainwright’s absence leaves a gaping hole where hope and optimism used to be for Cardinals fans.

Couple it with the prospect that Albert Pujols could be playing his final season in a St. Louis uniform, and you’ve got yourself a case of legitimate baseball grief. Writers around the web are already stating that the “Cardinals have lost Wainwright for 2011. And that could increase the possibility of losing Pujols by 2012.”

Denial.

This worked for about a day. Wainwright was flying back to St. Louis to meet with team doctors, and Tommy John surgery wasn’t a certainty. Yet. I continually held out hope that somehow Wainwright would be back before the end of the season. Rest and relaxation can work miracles sometimes.

Anger.

Jonny Gomes’s supposed “Wainwright gone, Wainwright gone” musical lyrics would anger anyone. Supposed, because he claims that it was a misunderstanding; Gomes said, “I would never wish an injury on anyone.”

I really didn’t need a member of a rival team to gloat about the Cardinals’ misfortune. Really. Didn’t. Need. It.

Bargaining.

This is where it got interesting.

Young Roger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) prayed to God in Angels in the Outfield (my favorite movie growing up) and said, “I’d really, really like a family. My dad says that’ll only happen if the Angels win the pennant – the baseball team, I mean. So, maybe you could help ‘em win a little. Amen.”

Although Roger didn’t make any deals with God in exchange for wins, he did prey on the Almighty’s compassion with a heartfelt plea for a family.

Other fans, however, can take bargaining for wins and championships to an extreme, such as promising to make out with old women or run naked through the streets.

Me? I was willing to, um, praise Hank Steinbrenner for the stellar job he’s doing as co-chairman of the Yankees. Communism/socialism comments included. Grief knows no bounds.

Depression.

And then, you’re just left with sadness. Futility. Hopelessness. An entire season down the drain. Done before it even started. Albert certainly won’t stay now.

This is where I drowned myself in fermented red grapes.

Acceptance.

I’ve reached this point. I promise, I really have. It may have taken a few days, but I eventually got here. Like @2real4youz said during Wednesday night’s #SSsports chat, we “have a great organization and have the braintrust to overcome stuff like this.”

Dave Duncan is a miracle worker, and the duo of Duncan and Tony La Russa have done more with much, much less. The Cardinals, somehow, always find a way to compensate. Whether it’s turning to P.J. Walters or Adam Ottavino (I really hope not) or getting someone like Jake Westbrook via trade, like they did last year, the Cardinals are a well-managed organization.

At the end of the day, St. Louis still has Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, and Kyle Lohse. Oh, and that guy named Albert Pujols. Not bad for a team that everyone has written off. This is where Duncan and La Russa do their best work.

I still have faith.


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