A little less than a year ago, I wrote about how if Albert Pujols didn’t sign an extension with the Cardinals, that they’d still be just fine. The St. Louis Cardinals have a very rich and storied history, and one person does not make or break the team by themselves–this isn’t golf. They won before Pujols came into the fold, they’ll win now that he’s gone, and lucky for us, they won a couple times while he was in St. Louis.
That’s the thing, fans, about rooting for the name on the front of the jersey before rooting for the name on the back — your allegiance should remain with the team. I’m not saying you can’t remain a fan of an individual, heck, we all do it. Sometimes it’s hard to be a “team first” fan, let’s not kid ourselves. Easy to see Matt Morris leave? Not at all. Right move for the ballclub? Sure was. Anybody throw a “Yippee, we finally got rid of Ryan Ludwick” party at the 2010 deadline? Nobody in St. Louis, that’s for sure! Curious what he’s done since? The Pirates let him go, if that tells you anything. I wrote about that too, actually, and since the time of that article, he’s declined further.
But, dude. Seriously. This isn’t just one player we’re talkin’ about here. The Cardinals have parted ways with::
- Their future Hall of Fame manager of sixteen years, who led them to the World Series three times, including two Championships.
- Their future Hall of Fame first baseman of eleven years who <fill in the blanks of all the things that make him one of the greatest players ever to play the game>
- Their pitching coach, who may very well be the first-ever pitching coach to get into Cooperstown
- Their Vice President, master of scouting & player development, and 71%* of the reason Jocketty left (both of whom now compete with the Cards in the National League Central)
- One of the most resepected bench coaches in the game today. Think bench coaches don’t matter? How about the fact that it took Jeff Luhnow all of one month to bring Pettini over to Houston?
- Dave McKay, whose first base coaching career was more than just raising a son to have cup of coffee in the major leagues and reminding (now hitting coach) Mark McGwire to “touch first” on the night of September 8, 1998.
On the other hand, it’s the “name on the front” argument. This team has been around for a long time…like, 1892 “long”. Sidebar: The cubs most recent World Series Championship took place one Tony LaRussa Cardinals era (a new measurement of time) after the Cardinals were brought into existence. An organization that’s been around that long, with a winning history is strong enough to withstand significant personnel losses, though it may not be without “feeling it” at least a little bit.
Look, I’m not here to blow smoke you-know-where. But no one can look at the major pillars of this team that have been lost over the past couple of months, and expect the smoothest of transitions, now that they’re gone. One, maybe two of those positions turn over during the off season, and sure, maybe the continuity remains in tact for the most part. Let six of the most important people in your franchise roll out, and see if you don’t find yourself asking rhetorically if you’ll need “Vaseline or Preparation H?”.
I’m not saying I fully expect a #12in12 season or anything (of course, I’d be ecstatic, should it come to fruition), but given the new chemistry & dynamic in that clubhouse, I’d deem a return to the postseason a “successful season”. Let’s face it: Depending on the outcome of some scheduling of postseason games, wildcard slots, and other various factors that impact the situation, the Cards should be expected to reach the 2012 playoffs. A World Series Championship repeat may not be a realistic expectation, but to miss the playoffs in a division like the National League Central, particularly when A) you’re the defending World Champions; and B) There may be a 2nd Wild Card playoff spot coming into play this year…there’s little excuse not to see October baseball at Busch again this year.
*Totally pulled this number out of thin air. It’s based on nothing at all.