One huge New Year’s resolution for the St. Louis Cardinals
By Matt Graves
The St. Louis Cardinals have a big year ahead. It is just the beginning of 2021, but by the end of the year, the team needs to get things figured out.
In all of my 21 years as a St. Louis Cardinals fan, I am not sure that I have been through a time where the fanbase has been more dejected than now. Sure, 8-10 year old me had no idea how anyone felt in the late 2000s, but at least the team had a big name like Albert Pujols.
Not that the Cardinals are alone in this, but 2020 was a perfect storm of bad things for the hometown team. The roster has been in flux for the past few seasons on the offensive side, and all of a sudden, gate revenue dropped to zero for the year.
The one consistent thing for a long time that has allowed the Cardinals, a small-ish market team to consistently sit in the top third of payroll has been fan attendance. This drop in money coming in has coincided with the large contracts given out to a few players who, within the year, will no longer be on the books. Put it all together with the challenges everyone has faced every day for 2020 and you end up right where fans are right now.
As an eternal optimist, I can be happy that the team has made the playoffs for two straight years, but there are still clear problems with the team.
However, it’s a new year. For many people, turning the calendar to 2021 will hopefully bring on the hope of a new year, even if it felt just like any other day. For the St. Louis Cardinals, they need to make (and keep) at least one important resolution.
In 2020, the Cardinals need to do some soul searching. They need to figure out what they’ve got, once and for all.
This started about two years ago when the Cardinals had a ton of outfield depth. Guys like Oscar Mercado, Tyler O’Neill, and Harrison Bader were all either at the upper levels of the Minors or they were playing sparingly in the MLB. It was at this time that the Cardinals began the mantra of, “we want to see what we have.”
This was especially true in the winter before the 2020 season when the plethora of outfielders led to the Cardinals dealing Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena for Matthew Liberatore. Now, the team doesn’t seem to be in any position to make huge additions to the outfield, and they still don’t exactly know what they’ve got in Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas, and Dylan Carlson after such a short season.
After the 2021 season, the Cardinals have a ton of money coming off the books. Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler, Andrew Miller, and potentially Carlos Martinez could all be gone. This coincides with the expected arrival of prospects like Nolan Gorman, Zack Thompson, and Liberatore.
More from St Louis Cardinals News
- Cardinals: Paul DeJong – The Downfall We Should Have Seen Coming
- Cardinals: Could Jesse Winker be the left-handed bat St. Louis needs?
- Cardinals: New payroll numbers makes Wainwright signing questionable
- Cardinals: Latest updates on rumored catching targets for St. Louis
- Cardinals: Tyler O’Neill not going anywhere this offseason, report says
The picture is clear to see, 2022 is going to be the year where the Cardinals will be back on the rise, especially if gate revenue returns for the majority of 2021 and things can get back to normal. If 2022 is the year of the next wave, the next push, it cannot be understated how important it is for the Cardinals to figure out who is in and who is out.
For most of the second half of the 2010s and in 2020, the Cardinals have been a team stuck in between. Good enough to contend, but not good enough (or lucky enough) to find their way into the World Series. 2022 is the year to change that, but only it isn’t possible if the team doesn’t know what they have.
There is a chance that Tyler O’Neill is a Joc Pederson type who hits 30+ homers a year for a team. There is also the chance he’s no more than a fourth outfielder. Lane Thomas could fall into a ton of different ranges too. Tommy Edman needs to show whether or not he’s the player he was in 2019 or who he was in 2020. Harrison Bader needs to show if he can be the player he was in 2020 over an entire season.
These are just some of the many player situations that the Cardinals need to evaluate and ultimately make decisions on going into 2022. If the team is awful in 2021, then at least the team has an answer.
If the Cardinals go into 2022 without figuring out these things, they will continue to be stuck in limbo. It is that simple. There is a good team hidden here, the team just needs to unearth it through playing these players more. In my eyes, that is the most important thing for 2021.