A year after preaching patience, how long can the Cardinals have that tune again?

Last year, the front office continued to ask for patience. If the Cardinals don't have a strong April in 2024, how long can we be patient?
Feb 19, 2024; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol (37) talks to reporters at
Feb 19, 2024; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol (37) talks to reporters at / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball is a weird game. Take the 2023 St. Louis Cardinals and the 2019 Washington Nationals as examples.

On May 6th last year, the Cardinals were 10-24, and the front office remained steadfast in its commitment to this team, preaching patience to the fan base and asking for more time. They would end up finishing the year 71-91. last place in the National League Central.

On May 19th of the 2019 season, the Nationals fell to 19-31, the fourth-worst record in all of baseball. The club did not make any major coaching or roster changes at that time and ended up winning the World Series that year.

Sometimes the struggles really are just a rough patch, and other times they are a sign of things to come.

The 2024 Cardinals are in the shadow of that 2023 team though, and the concerns thus far from their skeptics remain consistent with the things that plagued them last season. Poor starting pitching and an inconsistent offense. At what point do we take the club's performances as a sign of things to come, and when do wait and see what happens?

So far, the Cardinals are 3-3 to begin the year, dropping three of four against the Los Angeles Dodgers and taking the first two games of their series against the San Diego Padres. The Cardinals really should have split the series with the Dodgers, and had they, I think the slightly optimistic tone fans have right now would instead be filled with a lot more excitement.

The Cardinals' month of April is a difficult schedule, but after completing this west coast trip, things are a lot more manageable than beginning the season against the Dodgers. For the rest of this month, St. Louis faces the Marlins and Phillies at home, then another west coast road trip to face the Diamondbacks and Athletics, followed by a home series against the Brewers and Diamondbacks, and rounding the month out on the road against the Mets and Tigers.

Sitting at .500 right now, things are looking okay for the Cardinals. But should they begin sinking further and further below .500 like they did last April, how long can fans really be patient with this team?

The short answer is not very long. The long answer: It's complicated, but last year's issues have eroded the trust needed for a fan base to "be patient".

Let's address the long part of this. First, like I pointed to with the Nationals earlier (and there are other examples in recent MLB history of teams starting off terribly, then deciding to fire a manager, make some trades, or sometimes even do virtually nothing) that end up getting their seasons back on track. But for every one of those examples, there are a lot more teams that start the season poorly and also finish the season poorly.

But there is another layer to this that needs to be addressed. The Cardinals didn't just start slow last year or play like a sub-.500 team, St. Louis had one of the worst records in all of baseball through the first week of May and had dug themselves a hole so big that patience was out the window.

So, say the Cardinals start the season 9-21 after they finish up their 30th game of the season at the end of April. That's a horrible beginning to the season, and although it's possible to overcome that poor start, it's highly unlikely and patience is not a statement they can preach to their fans.

But let's say the Cardinals start the year 14-16. That's a bad start for sure, and it raises a lot of question marks about this team, and fans would rightfully be upset about the way things have started, but being two games below .500 at the end of April is not a death sentence for this team.

It feels like I'm cheating a bit to say that however long the Cardinals have to tell people to be patient depends on how bad of a start it would be, but it's true.

Now, there's also the element of "how it looks" that could cause even more concern for fans, or make the record not feel as bad as it could be. Let's say the club is only a game or two under .500 at the end of April, but the rotation is a dumpster fire and there's no help on the way - that's probably just as bad as being 10-20 with decent pitching. We've already seen you cannot sustain winning baseball when the pitching is just horrendous.

But on the flip side, if the team is 12-18 but the pitching actually looks a lot better than we expected, but the offense just keeps sputtering or random small injuries are keeping people out of the lineup, then it's easier to believe it can get turned around because the strength of this team is not performing like it should be. That would be concerning for sure, but it's a lot more believable that bats like Nolan Arenado, Nolan Gorman, Paul Goldschmidt, Willson Contreras, Jordan Walker, Brendan Donovan, Lars Nootbaar, and the rest of the lineup will figure things out, than if the pitching just looks horrendous and the front office wants you to believe it will get better naturally.

Regardless, the fact that we are even having this conversation is a problem in itself. The Cardinals should not be a team that we are worried about if they can even be competitive in this division. The front office and ownership should be doing everything they can to make this team one that can at least give the Dodgers and Braves a run for their money, but as of right now, the ceiling for this team seems to be a club that can win the NL Central but has almost no path to a deep playoff run.

Many fans are rightfully concerned that this team will implode again like it did in 2023. I believe they've done what they needed to do in order to be a playoff team again in 2024, but I'd be naive to say that there's no chance the team doesn't come off the rails again this year. If John Mozeliak and the Cardinals' brass ask you to be patient this year, use your discernment to see just how bad of a situation are they in. Is it conceivable that things turn around? Then maybe a little more patience is fair.

But the Cardinals cannot maintain that tune for very long, and I hope they know that.