Forget the death of the 300-game winner. That sentence was handed down long ago. If Yankees nemesis Justin Verlander can't get there -- and he'll sure try, but he probably can't -- then it's quite possible nobody ever does again and the Hall of Fame standard must be shifted.
But as Adam Wainwright, a St. Louis icon but a not-quite-good-enough-for-Cooperstown righty struggled his way past the 200 wins marker on Monday night, he entered a club with very few remaining outsiders knocking on the door. Instead of popping champagne and igniting a celebration, presumably he and Clayton Kershaw (209 and counting) just solemnly bumped fists and mourned for the days of 130-pitch, arm-snapping slogs.
As Joe Posnanski laid out in his Tuesday morning newsletter reveling in Wainwright's accomplishment, Yankees ace Gerrit Cole leads the 32-or-younger wins leaders across MLB with 143 victories.
Once you head past Cole, the future 200-game-winner possibilities thin out quicker than Section 334 in September at Citi Field.
"Gerrit Cole, 32 years old, 143 wins- Joe Posnanski, JoeBlogs
Aaron Nola, 30, 90 wins
Kevin Gausman, 32, 87 wins
Michael Wacha, 31, 86 wins
Michael Pérez, 32, 84 wins
José Berrios, 20, 83 wins
Eduardo Rodriguez, 30, 80 wins
Julio Teheran, 32, 80 wins
Marcus Stroman, 32, 77 wins
Alex Wood, 32, 76 wins"
Yankees ace Gerrit Cole: When will he pass 200 wins? 300?
Cole's 50-win lead on his compatriots isn't an anomaly, nor is it a reflection of the right-hander's superiority (though he is, uh, better than all those other guys). It's a reflection of the Yankees' ace possessing the old-school tenacity of a Verlander or Max Scherzer and entering MLB right before the baseball world tripped over the edge and started yanking pitchers at the first sign of disaster.
After all, it's mathematically advantageous to pull a tiring starter in favor of a rapid succession of fresh relievers, historic clubs be damned.
The philosophy obviously seeped into the game before Cole's rookie season, but it is ironic that No. 45 debuted in 2013, just a few months after the Washington Nationals changed the game forever by restricting Stephen Strasburg's high-stress innings -- not by removing him from a tough start, but by outright eliminating him from the postseason before it even began.
Of course ending Strasburg's season early wasn't the only protective measure in place for the game's pitchers. And of course, in the end, taking away those valuable innings from Strasburg didn't do much to prevent long-term injury complications; those, eventually, come for us all (if we pitch). But it is quite ironic that, when Cole first toed a big-league mound, at a time when Wainwright already had 89 career victories (June 11, 2013), the restrictions that would soon limit those who came after him were just starting to settle into the mainstream.
And so Aaron Nola, a relative bulldog who debuted in 2015 and has largely been healthy, has 53 fewer wins in two fewer seasons. Marcus Stroman, who certainly has a similar "finish what I started" mentality, has just 77 victories total. The game these pitchers have entered deserves most of the blame for the forthcoming blank slate, and -- just barely -- Cole belongs to a different generation, and is managed as such.
Pitcher Wins matter less than they ever have, but the security of that knowledge doesn't change the fact that these win totals sting the eyes. Hopefully, Cole can continue to defy the odds and reach another stratosphere so traditionalists have one final arm to marvel at.