The St. Louis Cardinals had mostly the same identity for the majority of the 2010s. In the 2020s, will the team’s identity change?
Change can always be weird. When the decade that just ended began, I was 11 years old and didn’t really understand the weight of any change. Now at almost 21, it feels weird as I’m sure it does for many others but I now have a full decade of Cardinals history (that I can fully remember) under my belt. There’s no other way to say it, the St. Louis Cardinals had a very successful 2010s.
The interesting thing about the decade was that the Cardinals were the only team to not have a losing season and with one World Series at the beginning of the decade, their team identity was relatively similar all decade. Except for a dip in 2016-2018 years of the decade with their defensive prowess, the Cardinals were mostly a team that relied heavily on their pitching and defense.
All decade long (with 2010-2012 being slight exceptions), the Cardinals weren’t known for their offensive prowess. They had some good years for sure, especially in 2010 and 2011 when Albert Pujols was still here, then in 2012 with five starters with over 20 homers the offense was great. Other than that, there weren’t many years where the Cardinals were a feared offensive team.
On the opposite, there were very few years where the Cardinals weren’t feared for either their starters or bullpen. That can be attributed to Adam Wainwright, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, and now Jack Flaherty among others.
As we move into the new decade, there will be change and lots of it. In the 2020s, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina will retire. These guys have been a part of the team collectively for 14 years and have been the guys you think of when someone mentions the Cardinals. Not having them on the team is a scary thought.
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Fans see the same bulldog mentality that Wainwright has in Jack Flaherty, and Wainwright seems to be passing his torch to Flaherty which is refreshing. Sadly though, nobody will be able to replace Yadier Molina. The Cardinals have other options at catcher coming up, but it will be really hard (impossible) to replace Molina’s knowledge, leadership, and talent behind the plate.
More than just these two stars retiring, the continued integration of Paul Goldschmidt into the Cardinals culture will also be an interesting change in the 2020s. He is signed until 2024 and had a fine year, but he still seems like a player being integrated and the fan love for him will only grow into the next decade.
Within three years, the Cardinals are going to have Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong, Dexter Fowler, Jose Martinez, Wainwright, Molina, and Carlos Martinez all qualify as free agents. Of this list, I could see a couple being retained, but that is a significant portion of the starting lineup that will be gone.
So will the Cardinals be the same type of team in the 2020s? With Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson just coming into the league, you would have to think that they (especially Flaherty) will lead the rotation for at least a good chunk of the decade.
The way I will put it is, if John Mozeliak is the President of Baseball Operations and Mike Shildt is the manager, I would expect the gameplan to be similar and the talent brought in to continue to feed that gameplan. However, major shifts in the style of MLB could change that.
The Cardinals have thrived off of the pitching and defense method but in certain periods of the game, that wouldn’t have won games for you. The reason there may be a change is because of the signs we saw in 2019. Homers were at an all-time high and the MLB could keep leaning that way, turning the league into a homer-fest. We don’t know.
What the World Series taught us this year is that no matter how many homers are being hit, great pitching will stop that so I would bet there aren’t major shifts in the Cardinals strategy.
Everything could be different 10 years from now, but we won’t know until we go through it and look back. Either way, I look forward to continuing to watch and learn about this team and the game. I want to wish everyone a happy new year and a sincere thank you from myself for reading and supporting this blog, we are nothing without you.