'I'm still here doing it': Lynn back to prove doubters wrong

February 22nd, 2024

This story was excerpted from John Denton’s Cardinals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

JUPITER, Fla. -- knows precisely what you thought of him 13 years ago when he broke into big league baseball and how most figured his chances for a long career were unlikely. Yet, he’s still here.

He heard the talk about how someone with his temper, with his refusal to relent and his blunt honesty would ultimately lead to him having a brief stint at the Major League level. He’s heard the snide remarks about his long hair, shaggy beard, paunch midsection, tattoos and sleeveless shirts. And yet, he’s still here.

Heck, Lynn even hears you now, whispering that the Cardinals were foolish to bring him back at 36 years old, especially after surrendering an MLB-most 44 home runs in 2023. And yet, he’s still here, looking to extend a career that has never included a losing record over a full season.

“Over the course of your career, you get a lot of different people with a lot of different opinions about you … and a lot of them never played [in MLB],” Lynn said with the cutting wit that he’s become known for. “It’s fun to listen to them talk about something they never could do, or never did.

“I can say I’ve proved a lot of people wrong, but actually all I’ve done is do exactly what I set out to do a long time ago. And I’m still here doing it.”

As most diehard St. Louis fans will remember, the 6-foot-5, 270-pound Lynn broke into the Majors with the Cardinals, and evolved into an integral part of the franchise’s 11th World Series title with his starting and relief pitching during that epic 2011 postseason run.

Lynn compiled a 72-47 record with a 3.38 ERA in six years with the Cardinals, but some of that time was filled with squabbling with managers Tony La Russa and Mike Matheny, and the front office for its unwillingness to give him a long-term contract extension. He didn’t know at the time, but the famed “Cardinal Way” taught Lynn much of what he still holds sacred about baseball.

“I will tell you, the ‘Cardinal Way’ from when I showed up to what it turned into were two totally different things. Now, it’s getting back to what it means to be a professional between the lines and being a good teammate,” he said pointedly. “What matters most is how you play the game and how you take care of the person next to you. When I came up it was Tony La Russa and [former pitching coach] Dave Duncan, and you showed up and competed to win every day. You play hard and you take care of the guy next to you, and that’s all that mattered.”

Lynn still considers some of the best leaders he’s ever been around in baseball -- Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook -- pitchers that he was with in St. Louis. As a child, he learned to be blunt when giving his opinions, and that directness was sharpened around a staff where honesty always played.

“Unfortunately, that’s how I was raised,” Lynn said. “With my dad, if you’re going to say something, say the truth and mean it. That’s how I was taught. If you want me to answer the question, I’m going to tell you what I think. I’m OK with being wrong sometimes and accepting when I’m wrong, but I’m also going to give you what I think.”

It was that gritty, tough-minded nature the Cardinals sought when they worked to remake their pitching staff this offseason. Less than two weeks into Spring Training, veteran pitchers Sonny Gray, Kyle Gibson and Lynn have already had a noticeable effect on others with their vocal leadership.

Doubt him if you must and question why he’s still pitching, but Lynn is still here. And he’s out to prove that he still has plenty of fire left to give the Cards.

“I think we can kill two birds with one stone,” he said with a wry smile. “I know I still have the ability to pitch as well as I have over my whole career, and I also can help the Cardinals get back in the playoffs. That’s all it’s about for me.”