A return to Whiteyball could reinvigorate the Cardinals' offense

The St. Louis Cardinals are sputtering on offense to begin the year, but a return to the style orchestrated by the great Whitey Herzog could get the team humming again.
St. Louis Cardinals
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The St. Louis Cardinals of the 1980s were, in many fans' opinions, the most exciting team to step on a baseball field in their lifetimes, and much of the thrill could be attributed to the unique strategy of manager Whitey Herzog. Under Herzog, the Cardinals eschewed the home run, focusing instead on putting pressure on defenses with speed and line-drive hitting. This style of play, known as "Whiteyball," guided the Cardinals to three pennants and one championship in the decade.

The Cardinals in 2024 are scuffling offensively early in the season, ranking 28th in the league in home runs and 24th in batting average. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado are unlikely to turn the clock back to their salad days, as their formerly elite power seems to have dissipated to this point. After Herzog's death on April 15, the team could pay the ultimate tribute by adopting a version of his wildly successful style of baseball.

The Cardinals would require buy-in from the front office if they were to pivot to a different brand of baseball, but it wouldn't necessitate a complete roster teardown. The Cardinals have a few pieces already in place for a return to Whiteyball: They lead the league in sacrifice bunts, and they possess some speed in the forms of Masyn Winn and Victor Scott II.

Despite the Cardinals' seemingly yearly pledge to steal more bases, they have only swiped five bags, which ranks 27th. Some of that is likely tied to the team's struggles getting on base, especially those of Scott, who rates as one of the fastest players in the league but is hitting a minuscule .089. The Cardinals will need to squeeze some production out of Scott if they want to induce headaches in their opponents the way Herzog did.

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost ripped a page out of Herzog's handbook during the Royals' run to the World Series in 2014 and 2015, showing that a modern version of Whiteyball was still relevant. The game has undergone massive shifts since that time, and Whiteyball might not appear to be realistic in today's homer-happy environment, but with new rules and larger bases encouraging steals, there could be a place for Whiteyball 3.0.

The season remains young, but with the Cardinals' offensive nucleus showing signs of its age, the team could embrace and amplify the skill set of some of its young players while complementing them with similar types from outside the organization. It may take some tough moves, such as flipping Goldschmidt at the trade deadline, but there would be no better way to honor Herzog than to let his legacy permeate throughout the organization's ideology.