No news is good news to start St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training
The St. Louis Cardinals opened camp for pitchers and catchers Feb. 18 and had their first full-squad workout Thursday in Jupiter, Fla. So far there hasn’t been much of note to come from any Spring Training activities, and that’s a good thing.
At this point last year the Cardinals had already grabbed headlines throughout the country for two major reasons. First baseman Albert Pujols showed up to camp after shutting down contract negotiations with the team, and starting pitcher Adam Wainwright blew out his elbow on the first day.
This year everything has been more low-key, which is slightly amazing since the team is the defending World Series champions.
That’s not to say the team’s Spring Training isn’t full of storylines. Catcher Yadier Molina is approaching a contract situation similar to what Pujols experienced last year, and the team has a new manager in Mike Matheny. Both of those situations will get plenty of attention as the season approaches and probably throughout most of the season, but not much is going to happen to either of them anytime soon.
Molina and the Cardinals still have a ways to go in contract talks that have thus far been inconsistent, at best. Although people will be interested in what Matheny does throughout Spring Training, managers don’t often do many noteworthy things until it comes time to make roster decisions late in the spring.
Instead, Cardinals camp has opened quietly and all of the on-field action has been positive. Lance Berkman provided the grandest entrance to Spring Training this side of Pujols when he arrived Thursday with a mustache worthy of professional wrestler Sgt. Slaughter.
We’ve seen teams invent some interesting hairstyles in the name of team loyalty and a late-season push. For example, the Tampa Bay Rays sported Mohawks for their stretch run to the World Series in 2008. If the Cardinals are in a tight battle late in the season, might they grow rally mustaches?
These are the days to have fun. This is the first week the team has been together since it won the World Series in October, and they still have another week until actual Spring Training games begin. Once March 5 rolls around and the Cardinals take the field against the Miami Marlins, they should be close to game shape and the ever-interesting position battles will begin in earnest.
Fair or not, that is also when fans will begin evaluating Matheny. Former manager Tony La Russa used the Grapefruit League standings as motivation. He wanted the Cardinals to leave Florida on top. Whether Matheny takes the same approach is yet to be seen, but this is a veteran team with core players who know how to prepare for the regular season.
The Cardinals haven’t had a headline-grabbing Spring Training to this point, but early spring headlines usually aren’t very positive.
There is a saying that a bad Spring Training means a good regular season. That might not be 100 percent the truth, but a Spring Training without many newsworthy events usually means a smooth transition into the regular season for potential playoff contenders such as the Cardinals.