Losing is frustrating. It's what makes the St. Louis Cardinals stand out among other organizations throughout baseball history. They value having a competitive product on the field, which is evident in their 11 World Series Championships (second most in MLB history), and constant success throughout the years.
But in some ways, their sustained success may have caused them to be too stagnant in their ability to stay ahead of the curve in terms of managing an organization in today's game. No club, especially one that does not reside in a huge market, can sustain success without excellent leadership that is both visionary and strategic compared to its competition.
While clubs like the Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros, Tampa Bay Rays, and Los Angeles Dodgers have been aggressive in their pursuit of changing the game, the Cardinals have been more conservative. You can't overlook their acquisitions of Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, but it's clear they have not pushed the envelope enough in recent seasons to keep up with the new class of baseball.
Many had questions surrounding the club this season, and yet management pushed forward, believing in the "model" that has led to success for so long. While their pitching struggles were predictable, the level to which their staff imploded was historic. Things spiraled from there, and the 2023 season became unsalvagable before the midseason mark.
But oddly enough, maybe the disaster that just unfolded was the best thing to happen to this organization. When the club continues to pump out 88-95 win teams and is constantly making the playoffs, it's easy for management to convince themselves a few tweaks here or there will position them better for the following season.
The Cardinals have not had a losing season since 2007, and now they have one of the worst records in baseball. For as bad as this season has been, the team is still brimming with young talent, has All-Star level veterans leading the lineup, and a farm system that remains exciting, even with the recent youth movement. Typically when teams fall off like the Cardinals have, it's the sign of an aging team in need of a major rebuild. That is not the case here.
I believe it's possible to hold the front office accountable for this season while also believing they can learn from their mistakes, not only getting the ship back on track but making systemic changes that will be needed to go from a fringe contender every year to a powerhouse in the National League. The front office's actions will speak louder than their words this offseason, but I believe the disaster this season has been will lead to real changes that fans have wanted to see for years.