Okay Cardinals Nation, it’s time we addressed the elephant in the room. I have waited for several weeks to talk about this because honestly, I was not sure how to appropriately put this into words. I think I have finally found the right term. The St. Louis Cardinals are fundamentally and philosophically broken. This is the most decorated team in the history of the National League and it is broken from the top down. For three years this team has missed the postseason. For the last two years we have watched a division rival celebrate a postseason berth on our own field. This has to stop.
The problem starts at the top. Bill DeWitt, Jr. recently stated in a news conference that it is the organitazion’s goal every year to make the playoffs. Playoffs?! You wanna talk about the playoffs?! I’m sorry, but as a fan that doesn’t cut it. That’s where the problem begins. Every year the goal should be to make it to the World Series and win a championship. Just getting into the playoffs and hoping for the best is not good enough.
This statement is very telling as to how the Cardinals front office has been operating in recent years. They have put together teams in order to simply make the playoffs. This has resulted in a “this is good enough” approach that, in fact, has not been good enough. The Cardinals front office is playing scared. They are too afraid to dive into the deep waters it takes to win it all. The Cubs aren’t afraid. Neither are the Brewers. Both teams have been more aggressive than the Cardinals in both free agency and the trade market. The standings are reflective of that.
Gone are the days when a homegrown Albert Pujols is carrying this team. All that is left is the supporting cast with no superstar. Oscar Taveras was supposed to be the next superstar, but tragedy struck and it‘s been downhill ever since. To be perfectly clear, lack of a superstar is a symptom of the real issue, not the issue itself. The issue itself is an organizational philosophy of bottom feeding and bargain hunting in the hopes of looking smarter than the next GM. It worked this year with the signing of Miles Mikolas, and to an extent with Bud Norris. Every other signing or trade has been a flop. Thank you Brett Cecil, Greg Holland, and Luke Gregerson for making my point. Same goes for you Chasen Shreve.
For the last few offseasons we have heard the front office talk about payroll flexibility. It’s time to flex it. The front office needs to move from being scared to being aggressive. The only way to fix this problem is to change philosophies. A wholesale change is not what I am advocating though. What I am advocating is for the front office to stop letting the market dictate what it does. The front office should be dictating the market.
Count me among those calling for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. I do not believe that we have to sign one of them though. There is no excuse not to, but it isn’t the end of the world if the Cardinals choose not to. That is, if the front office moves aggressively and goes to the market instead of waiting for the market to course correct to them. Let me show you what I mean.
Offense was a problem this year as well as defense and the bullpen. Injuries to the starting pitching staff left our young pitchers gassed at the end of the year. Let’s say the Cardinals don’t intend on signing Machado or Haper. In that scenario they should move quickly and do something like this:
sign A.J. Pollock, Josh Donaldson, Patrick Corbin, and Andrew Miller and trade from the current 40 man roster to acquire additional bullpen help. Is that the big, sexy move we’d all like to see? No it isn’t. It is aggressive though. It might even be the smarter play.
If there is a player out there that makes this team better then go get him. Pollock and Donaldson immediately improve the defense and the offense. Granted, both are huge injury risks. When healthy though, they are All-Star caliber players. Corbin is a more than capable lefty starter. This year he finally looked like the pitcher he was prior to Tommy John surgery. It’s also likely that all three could be signed for roughly what it would take to sign Harper or Machado. Andrew Miller is an obvious no brainer for a team lacking a true lefty out of the bullpen.
Again, I like the idea of Harper in the outfield. The Hair Flip Brothers would be a fun brand of baseball to watch. I’m okay if that doesn’t happen though. What cannot happen is for this front office to have another offseason where they say, “The market was fluid. We explored our options and didn’t see anything that really made sense as a good fit.” That would be yet another failure that will further break this organization. Yes, the Cardinals are broken. They are not unfixable though. It’s going to take a bold shift in philosophies to a more calculated aggressiveness this offseason. That is what‘s needed to fix this team, but based on recent history I won’t hold my breath. You shouldn’t either. You’re up Mr. DeWitt.