The 2020 St. Louis Cardinals season will surely be full of surprises. Looking forward, what headlines might we see during the upcoming year?
With the St. Louis Cardinals, some things are inevitable from year to year. Fans will fall for a hard-playing newcomer, Yadi will refuse to rest, management will cry poor, and a series of enticing trade rumors will come to nothing.
Looking at 2020, it’s a good possibility that nothing will change, but it’s not all bad.
Here are 20 headlines you can count on in 2020:
Shildt sticks with struggling veterans. The reigning NL manager of the year has two highly-paid old guys, Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler, who appear to be in decline. While not as vet-smitten as his predecessor, Mike Matheny, Shildt will be tempted to give Carp, Fowler, and Adam Wainwright every chance to succeed — even if they scuffle for much of the year.
Jack Flaherty hurls gem, gets no decision. Pitchers’ win-loss records aren’t that big of a deal these days, but Flaherty deserves a lot more Ws than he gets. The young ace has a 3.20 ERA and an outstanding 1.058 WHIP over two-plus seasons, but his record is just 19-19. Despite his fine pitching, he’s averaging just one win for every 3.5 starts.
Cards not hitting the panic button. Wouldn’t you love it if a GM or manager actually said, “We’ve lost five in a row and, yes, we’re panicking! We might not win another game all year!”
Club continues search for closer. With Jordan Hicks out till midseason (recovering from Tommy John surgery) and Carlos Martinez back to the rotation, the Cardinals will need someone — Giovanny Gallegos? John Brebbia? — to fill the closer role through spring and early summer. Strong setup men aren’t always right for the ninth-inning role, which might mean various hurlers trying out for the job.
Fans upset with announcers. Redbird followers tend to think that Joe Buck and others are rooting for the Cards to lose. And not everyone’s in love with FOX Sports Midwest’s Tim McCarver and Jim Edmonds.
Reyes injured, out for season. While nobody wants to see this, we’ve got to brace for it. The hard-throwing prospect has had three straight injury-shortened seasons, pitching just seven big-league innings since 2016. 2020 may not be different.
Goldschmidt homers, makes reluctant curtain call. Is any current Cardinal as attention-shy as Goldy? The first baseman appears embarrassed when he circles the bases and downright pained when the crowd demands he step from the dugout to acknowledge their cheers.
Cards outraged by opponent’s bat flip. The Redbirds have been historically touchy about opponents “showing them up.” Maybe they’ll ease up a little this year.
Bader shines in outfield, struggles at plate. The magnetic center fielder has been so good with the glove and so shaky at the plate over his three-year career. Bader needed a .313 August to push his average over the Mendoza Line a season ago and still finished with just a .205 average. His fielding and first-rate base running make him a major asset — if he can just hit a little.
Former Cardinals thriving in AL Lance Lynn (Rangers), Luke Voit (Yankees) and Marco Gonzales (Mariners) all had career years in 2019, and Tommy Pham (Rays) was very good as well. Chances are at least one of these four will excel again in 2020.
Rookie makes debut, gets standing O. Cards fans are itching to see hot-prospect outfielder Dylan Carlson make his big-league debut, but they’re sure to cheer any farm-system call-up.
Shildt considers resting Molina more. He’ll consider it, sure, but Yadi hates taking days off, and that’s unlikely to change — even at age 37.
Cardinals show interest in (on-the-block superstar). There are always stories linking the team to Nolan Arenado, Mookie Betts or some other standout. The Redbirds pulled off a deal for Paul Goldschmidt a year ago, but most often the rumors lead nowhere.
Shildt defends intentional walks. Only the Marlins intentionally walked more batters in 2019 than the Cardinals, who issued 41 IBBs. More and more teams are forgoing the intentional walk, led by the Astros, who issued zero last year. Shildt did have some success with the IBB. Jenifer Langosch of mlb.com reported that the Cardinals “allowed a run after an intentional walk 29.3 percent of the time, the 10th lowest such percentage in the majors.”
Cards make commitment to ‘continuity.’ Meaning they’ll keep on doing things the way they’ve always done them, which might be good. Or not.
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Cardinal standout an All-Star snub. The Redbirds were the only eventual playoff team to have just one All-Star a year ago — shortstop Paul DeJong. Complaining about All-Star “snubs” is a midseason rite for media and fans.
Cards whiff 15 times in loss. St. Louis batters totaled 12 or more strikeouts on 29 occasions a year ago, including five games with 15 and one — the 19-inning affair in Arizona on Sep. 24 — with 25 Ks. The team is loaded with high-strikeout regulars, including Goldschmidt (166 Ks a year ago), DeJong (149) and Fowler (142).
DeWitt decries team’s high payroll. In August the owner told the St. Louis Dispatch, “The reality is this year we’re seventh in payroll. And (we’re) 11th in local revenue. The commentary that this is a wildly profitable business is misguided and wrong.” Maybe. But according to celebritynetworth.com, St. Louis is seventh in the majors with a worth of $2.1 billion, with that amount having risen by more than 1300 percent since William DeWitt Jr. bought the team in 1995.
Cards stand pat as trade deadline passes. In recent years, president John Mozeliak has been loath to make significant deals to bolster the club for a late pennant push. Is that going to change? We’ll see.
Playoff tickets go on sale. The Redbirds ended a three-year playoff drought a year ago. Here’s guessing they’re still playing in October of 2020.
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No matter how the rest of the offseason goes, the 2020 season will be here quickly. Confidence may not be high now, but the Cardinals are going to be in the NL Central race and have a good chance to win it. Give it time.