#TBT: Remember These Arguments?

As you know, or at least you should, right now I’m in the middle of doing my annual project where I solicit folks’ opinions on different players, the team, etc.  (And if you haven’t done the Cardinal Approval Ratings yet, you really need to do it!  We’ve got 65 of the 100 input goal and just over a week left to get the rest!)  While I typically am looking for numerical values on this, I do have a section for comments.

Last week, a fellow named James filled out the form and left some comments.  My intention is not to disparage James at all–I sincerely appreciate the time he took to give his input and, while I am going to discuss his opinions, I have a general idea where he’s coming from, even if I completely disagree with that location.  So don’t take this as mockery because that’s not what it’s intended to be at all.  Everyone’s entitled to their opinions, of course.

However, James’s comments took me back in my mental time machine.  Let me share them with you.  These were copied directly from my spreadsheet, not touched by me at all.

once again the St Louis cardinals have proved how cheep they are. The fans put out all the money and the St Louis management spends it on them selves in stead of high quality player. I personally think the fans should boycott the team by not attending games. If St Louis management does not want to put a high quality team on the field the fans should not participate in their lack of concerns for the fans.The team has gone down hill since Tony, and Albert left. currently there are at least 6 teams in the national league better than St Louis . What does St Louis do? Put at the best a middle tear team on the field. Charge the fans outragious prices to watch triple a and double a players in the majors. If the truth be told I wonder if that is why Tony and albert left. cardinal management is just money hungry not willing to put truly good players on the field; but they seem to be very happy to charge what ever it takes to make the owners richer. It will be 20 years and probably new ownership before the cardinals are once again a team to be proud of. Right now I have to believe the team is virtual- just spin and hype. I remember being 6 year old and listening to the cardinals on the radio. I will not do the same this year.

I hope at some point there is a team owner and manager who wants to win the world series each year. That are willing to do their best to make this happen. I don’t believe the cardinal management is any where near this point. The team appears to be going down hill. I believe it will be many years before they have the true respect of their pears.

in my mine I have to wonder if you are not paid to hype the cardinals. not tell the complete truth and not tell the truth about the quality and capability of the team. I have to wonder if it is such that you can not speak truthfully of the lack of a quality team on the field.

thank you for allowing me to speak freely.

Reading that, I was immediately taken back to the late ’90s, perhaps right after the turn of the century.  The Cardinals, as you remember, struggled after going to the playoffs in 1996 and didn’t return there until 2000.  They then made three straight playoff appearances but couldn’t reach the World Series.  Many complained that Bill DeWitt’s wallet wasn’t open far enough or that Walt Jocketty (who was GM at the time) wasn’t able to get the right players.  And, of course, there were many shots thrown at Tony La Russa as well, saying he couldn’t win the big one, that his overmanaging style hurt the team in the playoffs.

If you were there, you remember those comments.  They didn’t stop with a World Series berth or, honestly, not completely with a World Series title.  In fact, the first multi-part project I tackled while writing this blog dealt with folks bad-mouthing ownership and that was after the 2007 season.

There are always going to be those that aren’t completely satisfied, of course.  Back in the pre-World Series days, there was a significant portion of the online community called The Faction (at least, they were most often referred to in that manner) that couldn’t wait to run TLR out of town and if DeWitt went with him, so much the better.  These are the guys that pooled their money to have a “Fire La Russa” banner flown over a spring training game.  We’re talking serious folks.

Perhaps I’m in an insulated rose-colored-glasses circle, but I don’t see much of those kind of comments these days, which is why James’s remarks took me aback.  I really didn’t think there was anyone out there that would argue with four World Series trips in a decade, with two titles, with only four seasons where the games ended when the regular season calendar did since there was a 19 at the beginning of the date.

It’s interesting to me that James feels the team has gone downhill since 2011, even as they have just completed a fairly historic fourth straight trip to the NLCS.  I’m wondering how a middle-tier team has won the division the last two seasons.  I’m not sure which six teams James would put above the Cardinals–I’d say you could make a case for the Nationals and the Dodgers, maybe the Giants since they are defending champs, we’ll have to wait and see how the new-look Padres come together–but even if there were six (which, as you see, I would take issue with) that doesn’t mean the Cards are a middling squad.  There wouldn’t be much of a gap at all between them and the top team in the majors, no matter how you did the rankings.

Sports Illustrated gave them a B for their offseason, including items like “well-managed payroll”.  That’s not a code for being stingy, though.  I mean, if the DeWitt family was “money-hungry”, would they have signed Jon Jay to a longer extension than necessary, an extension some believe is an overpay?  Would they have gone so deep with Lance Lynn on his new contract?  Wouldn’t they have just stuck Stephen Piscotty in right field instead of making the trade for Jason Heyward?

Perhaps the stingy part is left over from the Albert Pujols negotiations?  Yet this club didn’t just leave Pujols out to dry, not engaging him at all.  From all reports, they were willing to give him $210 million, the largest deal ever for a Cardinal.  It’s not their problem that he took a larger offer from the Angels, a deal that many Anaheim fans might be regretting already, much less when the back half of the deal comes through.

Throwing money at a problem rarely solves anything.  We can look to government for myriad examples of that.  While the Cards maybe could have broken the bank to sign Max Scherzer, why should they when they have capable pitching already on the roster?  Maybe it’s not as experienced, but it’s 1) got high upside, 2) only going to get better, while you could argue Scherzer will soon start declining and 3) are already here, costing you nothing.  Being a wise steward of your resources–spending when you should, not at every possible opportunity–is the way to run a franchise.

Maybe that’s why “St. Louis Cardinals” and “model organization” wind up so often in the same sentence.  And it’s not just fawning local coverage (though I’d say that the local coverage is just fine on pointing out flaws on the club), but it’s folks like the New York Post, Grantland, and Sports On Earth.  A good portion of baseball fans have felt the envy and turned it to hate for this club, which is a darn good way to know you are doing something right.

It’s interesting that James believes that the current management doesn’t want to win the World Series each year.  You’d think if that was the case, we’d not seen moves like this past season, when John Lackey (a fairly expensive guy, at least last season) was acquired for two home-grown (read cheap) players in Joe Kelly and Allen Craig.  Why do you make a move like that?  It’s not for the long-term future.  It’s not to reduce payroll.  It’s to be in a position to win.

Billy Beane once said that his magic (well, he may have used another word) didn’t work in the playoffs.  Getting there, getting to that three-week crapshoot when one bad start or one missed ball can be the difference between moving on and going home, that’s what shows what teams are made of.  The Cardinals continually get there.  They are doing it right and giving themselves a chance to make it deep into October.  That’s all you can ask.

I mean, if the Cards hit Barry Zito like they should have, they at least go to the World Series in 2012.  Assuming the same ’13 results, that’d be three straight years in the Series.  How is that not wanting to win every year?  Are the players just winning to spite ownership?  Are DeWitt and John Mozeliak just not smart enough to figure out how to lose those games?

I’m pretty sure St. Louis has the respect of their peers, James.  After all, there are numerous cases where other GMs have complemented the team and the way they go about things.  Even Commissioner Selig noted it when he came through not long ago.  Factor out the “speak nice to the locals” if you want, but there’s still kernels of truth there.

And no, I’m not paid to speak well of the club.  Would that it were so!  Save for the once-yearly trip to a game, the Cards have never compensated me or any other blogger for our opinions.  I’ve also known them to invite folks fairly hostile to them online to their annual blogger events.  They aren’t at all trying to squash dissent or criticisms on line.  At least, if they ever have, I’ve not heard of it.  I feel like I would have.

I don’t know why James believes there’s not a quality team on the field, when there is a rotation that’s in the top 10, maybe top 5 in baseball, a lineup that has home run hitters up and down it (though we’ll have to see if they produce like they should) and a pretty shut-down bullpen.  It’ s not perfect, but it’s a far sight better than most any other squad and there are a whole lot of fans that would love to switch spots with us.

Again, that’s James’s opinion and I can respect that he believes it and most likely has reasons of his own to back it up.  I personally feel like we’ve moved past those excuses and rationales into a golden age of Cardinal baseball, which given their history is really saying something.

I know I’d rather be living in this present than much of the Cardinal past.

Next Post:

Previous Post:

 

Archives

Subscribe to The Conclave via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9,843 other subscribers