ST. LOUIS — Sometimes even great isn’t good enough.
Ask Adam Wainwright. In four of the past five seasons he’s pitched, he’s been great. This past season was no exception.
Despite dealing with a sore elbow much of the season, Wainwright started the All-Star Game, won 20 games for the second time, set a career best with a 2.38 ERA and made 12 starts when he worked at least seven innings without allowing a run.
But all that wasn’t enough to take home the pitcher’s top prize.
To absolutely nobody’s surprise, Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw won his third NL Cy Young Award on Wednesday night, this time collecting all 30 first-place votes. Wainwright finished third behind Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto.
Wainwright received seven second-place votes and 23 third-places to 23 seconds and six thirds for Cueto. It was the fourth time Wainwright has finished in the top three. He finished second last year, when he garnered the only first-place vote Kershaw has not received over the past two years.
Though Wainwright, 33, does not hide how badly he wants to win a Cy Young, he knows how difficult it is — especially when you pitch in the same league as Kershaw.
"I know what I do on the baseball field is pretty good," Wainwright told me earlier this season. "Eventually, if I keep being myself, one of these years might be good enough. Maybe they’re not. All I know is if I continue to go out and do what I know I can do and work as hard as I can, take the ball every fifth day, the numbers will be fine."
Appearing on the MLB Network telecast with the other finalists, Wainwright admitted that his struggles in August were related to his balky elbow.
"The rough patches I had throughout the season can be attributed to health," he said. "Had some floaties (bone chips) in the arm that get in the joint and they cause lack of mobility, some lack of movement and don’t allow you to finish your pitches like you always might."
Wainwright, who was NL Pitcher of the Month in September, credited the Cardinals’ trainers and staff for helping him to find "a way to fight through it to the end." He underwent what was described as a cleanup surgery after the season but is expected to be ready for spring training.