Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Get Well Card


The last time the St. Louis Cardinals finished a season below .500 was 2007, ironically the year I got into collecting. It was the year after their World Series win, expectations were high, there were minimal moves to retool the team, and with the rise of the Cubs, they sunk to third in the division. Despite Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina and Jason Isringhausen all being on that team, and all in good form as well, the Cardinals were a sub-.500 team. Things, somehow, did not come together.

And that's honestly how I'd describe 2023 as well. This is not a barren Cardinals team. Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Miles Mikolas and Willson Contreras still handed in peak seasons, and the youth movement continues to spit out people like Jordan Walker and Masyn Wynn. But the luck was not there. Contreras had his cold couple of months. Walker had his hitting streak but not much else, and was basically only up in the majors as an act of goodwill after a while. Montgomery and Flaherty had great performances but both left. And even as this youth movement has begun to dictate the direction of this team, we're looking at all of Dylan Carlson, Alec Burleson, Tyler O'Neill, Brendan Donovan and Nolan Gorman on the IL right now. It is kinda nice that the three contracted hitters are all still healthy, but there's gotta be more to this team that those guys. 

The Cardinals will not only end the season below .500, but they'll end it in last place, which hasn't happened since 1990, back when they were still in the NL East and Joe Torre was brought in as manager. I am not thinking Oli Marmol will be back next year, but I said that about Pedro Grifol and he's obviously back for 2024. Really, the Cards have had a solid string of great managers since 1996, from LaRussa to Matheny to Shildt, and Marmol is just a very okay manager that isn't quite as good as his predecessors. 

The only contract that seems to be expiring next year is Adam Wainwright's. Everybody else is sticking around I think, though somebody like Dakota Hudson or Tyler O'Neill could be cut to conserve space. The object, then, is to make a team that succeeds despite a lot of these players still being in the mix. There has to be a balance from the veteran contracts and the younger guys chomping at the bit for starring roles, and if a natural medium is found, with a lot better luck and healthy, they could be right back in the swing of things.

Granted, I'd rather that not happen, as this year was a lot more interesting with the Brewers and Cubs going at it. But if anybody could spring right back into the race, it's the St. Louis Cardinals. 

Coming Tonight: He'd always been a suitable outfield piece, but now that his team's a contender he's looking a ton better.

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