St. Louis Cardinals Debate: Theo Epstein versus John Mozeliak

Theo Epstein has resigned from his position at the top of the Cubs organization. With his body of work done, who would you rather have running the St. Louis Cardinals?

The past decade saw a change in the NL Central. No longer could the St. Louis Cardinals beat up on the lovable harmless Baby Bears like they used to. This was largely due to the improvements the Cubs got as a direct result of Theo Epstein’s decisions at the helm of the team.

Epstein took over the Cubs in the winter after the 2011 season after spending the previous decade with the Red Sox. Right away, he took the Cubs into a tank. The three-year tank resulted in a wave of amazing talent that Epstein spent money and traded the farm to add to and in the end, got the Cubs their curse-breaking World Series in 2016.

Often times, Cardinals fans ride the roller coaster of the year to year performance of the team. It isn’t easy to take a step back and realize that for all their warts, we are all lucky that the Cardinals have won as they have in the past two decades.

The Cubs were on the path to a similar winning tradition with some saying they were on the way to a dynasty as early as 2015. Looking at them now, it’s clear their dreams of a dynasty are gone. At this point, you can’t argue that the Cubs are in a better spot now than when they hired Epstein.

In the past nine seasons, Theo has spent a lot of money. Starting with the $184M he gave to Jason Heyward in 2016, he has handed $126M to Yu Darvish, $38M to Tyler Chatwood, $21M to Brandon Morrow, and finally $43M to Craig Kimbrell in 2019.

Along the way, he traded Gleyber Torres to New York for half of a season of Aroldis Chapman, Eloy Jimenez to the White Sox for a disappointing Jose Quintana, and many more trades that depleted the farm system.

In 2020, the year the Cubs need to cut salary, all of these contracts are coming to a head just as their core of Kyle Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, and Willson Contreras are all due raises in the later stages of arbitration. In the face of this horrid financial situation for the team, Epstein has dumped the problem on Jed Hoyer.

In the end, Epstein has left the Cubs the exact same way he left the Red Sox: with no farm system and a bloated payroll. Some (Cubs fans) would say it was worth it for the excitement of one World Series and the thrill of signing the biggest free agents, but Theo Epstein’s way of running a team is not sustainable. He has shown it time and time again.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals have been boring and consistent, being in the playoffs or close every year without signing any big free agents.

Now, we can get to the main question here: would you rather have Epsteins’ method or John Mozeliak’s?

When asking Cardinals fans who they’d rather have, the vote was split 42-58 in favor of Theo at the time of writing.

It’s easy to be wowed by Epstein’s flare and full charge ahead way of doing things, but the brightest flames burn the shortest.

Ben Frederickson broke down the debate between the last nine years fantastically in an article with the St. Louis Post Dispatch this week.

There isn’t really a debate about which team was better over that span. In the past nine years, the Cardinals lead in every single category except for World Series wins. In the end, it just comes down to what you want as a fan.

Would you rather make the playoffs consistently and know that it just takes one year of getting hot to win it all? Or would you rather a team lose 377 games in a four-year span before winning 381 and one World Series over the next four before crashing back to Earth?

For as bad as fans view the Cardinals right now, they have hope when it comes to payroll flexibility and upcoming talent in 2022. The Cubs are going to have to break the hearts of their fans and cut ties with key members of their core just to keep functioning this winter.

Cardinals fans are spoiled. With the amount of complaining and anger that can be found on Twitter when the team is winning, I can’t imagine what it would be like if the Cardinals were to lose 95+ games for three or more seasons.

At the end of the day, the Cardinals have won consistently for the entirety of his tenure here, specifically in the past nine years. The Cubs’ flame burned brighter than the Cardinals’ did for a few years, but at this point, the Cubs are headed for a downturn that the Cardinals aren’t headed for.

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The poll is still open until late on Friday, but I wouldn’t expect it to flip. Theo Epstein is a great salesman and did a great job of rallying Chicago behind the Cubs. However, the team is right in the middle of a hangover with the worst still to come.