St. Louis Cardinals: Fan Pressure is Good Pressure
The St. Louis Cardinals have historically been a team of great success. Much of this might be attributed to a solid organization of “next-man-up” players in the past. With 2016 looking less like the past, the MLB squad needs pressure to make diamonds.
A good team is made up of great talent. Great talent is built from many years of hard work and dedication. The 2016 St. Louis Cardinals have players of great potential and talent, for sure, despite the ups and downs experienced this season. I am left to wonder, then, why these potential talent powerhouses continue to show mediocre performances.
These thoughts came to me thanks to all the twitter banter about dealing with frustrations with the St. Louis Cardinals. Sure, I too am feeling the frustrations as I shared last night during the UCB Radio taping. This team should not be the kind to show this mediocre performance.
This all got me thinking about the World Series Champion teams of the St. Louis Cardinals. These past teams were filled with talented players for sure (read: Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen) but they weren’t top-to-bottom shut-the-door guys. Each team that won the World Series for the Cardinals present as a team: a combination of good and great players working together for one goal.
So what made these past teams better (if that is even the right word) than the 2016 squad? I think the answer is complicated in its simplicity: these past teams felt pressure. The pressure felt came from other teams being as good or better (but not out of reach), their own sense of sportsmanship, and/or the pressure from guys climbing the ranks.
In the World Series years, the St. Louis Cardinals were up against formidable foes for sure. These past World Series teams faced immense challenges from the likes of the Pirates to the Dodgers to the Rangers and even to the Astros (when the Astros inhabited the National League Central).
2016 has some great teams (I swallow hard when I admit that the Cubs are a great team) but these teams are just not as close in proximity to the Cardinals as the teams of the past. Therefore, it can be assumed that this year’s St. Louis Cardinals are playing more a game of golf (one played against one’s self) than a game against formidable foes.
Does this diminish from the battle that is taking place in the Wild Card race of 2016? Absolutely not. On the contrary, I feel that this season’s St. Louis Cardinals should focus MORE on the battle taking place with the opponents than in any looks elsewhere. I feel, moreover, that the Wild Card battle is where the pressure to succeed can and should be found.
Let’s look at sportsmanship as a pressure. Does this team exhibit the makings of internal sportsmanship to the degree of wanting to win each and every day? I want to say yes. I want to say that, yes, but I’m not convinced of it. When Kolten Wong was batting just three nights ago he appeared to be intimidated to the point of tears at the plate.
Why? Don’t athletes approach each at-bat as though there is no one better than them at that moment?
On the positive side of things regarding sportsmanship, we have seen moments when this team has gelled. Look at the moments with Carlos Martinez splashes a home run hitter. Look at the moments when a Zach Duke yells into the outfield to congratulate and thank a Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty for making a dazzling catch.
Bottom line: the St. Louis Cardinals of 2016 need to capitalize upon and build upon this internal sportsmanship. The Cardinals need to embody the teams of old. The Adam Wainwright of old needs to assert himself as he did recently when he stated that he wanted to silence the twitter critics: that was the fire we should see in order to win.
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And what about organizational pressure? In the years of old the St. Louis Cardinals had young guys rising like Yadier Molina and many others who applied pressure from the AAA ranks of Memphis. This season, on the other hand, the organization had little pressure applied to the MLB ceiling from players who just aren’t quite ready.
Who are these players? Let’s first move the obvious guys who broke through the ceiling: Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver. Now, let’s simply list a few guys who likely will apply pressure next season: Carson Kelly, Harrison Bader, and David Washington. Keep your eyes on these guys in spring and next season but this season they just don’t have the stuff of pressure.
Lacking pressure from the minors has- perhaps- allowed the major league guys to lay back on their heels a touch. Perhaps. A team that has minor league pressure, like the World Series St. Louis Cardinals teams, has reason to maintain a high level of performance to keep their jobs. The 2016 squad is absent this pressure.
So what does this all mean? Where am I going with this? I love seeing the fans on twitter apply copious amounts of pressure on a team they love. I love seeing fans attack their beloved manager on one night because of his bone-headed choices and then laud him on another night. I love seeing a player say that he took to the diamond to silence his critics. This, my readers, is good pressure to me.
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So, to all of you who read us, and to all of you who comment, and to all of you voice your pleasure and displeasure on Twitter and Facebook and sports radio: keep it up. If this 2016 St. Louis Cardinals is lacking pressure from anything other than the fans, then we fans must be the force that pushes them into the postseason. Let’s keep our voices chained and see if we can urge this team to October!