There were many aspects of the 2023 St. Louis Cardinals' season that were disappointing. From the team's record, lackluster player performances, and clubhouse issues, it seemed like everything that could go wrong for the Cardinals last year did go wrong.
Katie Woo of the Athletic discussed the challenges that she faced covering the team this past year (subscription required). She stated that it was very tough to cover and write about the Cardinals after the Trade Deadline. The team had sold, so what more was there to say about the lost season?
"But there were some really tough days, especially in the early months of the year. I think back to the first half of the season: the terse postgame news conferences, the awkward silences lingering in the clubhouse after yet another loss, the careful phrasing of pointed questions that were going to elicit a harsh response regardless."- Katie Woo, The Athletic
There was an air in the clubhouse that started as shock and ended in complete disappointment according to Woo. Veteran players were shell-shocked, young players were trying to remain dedicated, and the team was a corpse of its former self. Oliver Marmol even went so far as to call out players for selfish behavior.
Not only did Cardinals' President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak need to rebuild the starting rotation and bullpen this offseason, but he also needed to correct the various issues in the clubhouse. There was a certain fire and drive that was lacking this past season. Veteran leaders who could ignite a fire in the clubhouse were needed.
Mozeliak set out this offseason to add not only quality depth pitchers who could pitch deep into games and be healthy, but he needed to find pitchers who could inspire a clubhouse. With the additions of Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, and Sonny Gray, Mo seems to have accomplished both goals.
These pitchers were all in the top 25 in baseball in innings pitched. Gray finished second in Cy Young voting. Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson are multi-year veterans who have plenty of experience on winning teams. Both Lynn and Gibson live near St. Louis and are familiar with the area. Lance Lynn is known as a fiery personality both on and off the field.
John Mozeliak touched on the benefits of signing Gibson and Lynn in a phone interview with Katie Woo. Mozeliak stated "The purpose of (signing Gibson and Lynn) was three-prong. One is that they are experienced. Two, they eat innings. And three, I think they'll help the clubhouse culture." In all of their stops, both Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson have been known as fantastic leaders in the clubhouse.
Sonny Gray's signing was the icing on the cake. Gray, a top-end starting pitcher, provides quality innings, strikeout potential, and a drive that this team needs. In his welcome interview yesterday, Gray spoke very highly about the culture and history in St. Louis.
Sonny Gray went on to discuss the competitive drive that he wants to bring to the starting rotation. He discussed on multiple occasions that he approaches each at bat as a competition--he and the catcher against the batter. That competitive drive has been evidenced throughout his career.
"Winning is something that I love to do. Creating a pitching culture, working with other pitchers on a staff, pushing each individual pitcher on a staff to get better, that's something that I truly, truly enjoy. "- Sonny Gray
Gray then went on to say that the additions of Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson provide a pitching culture in which each person will push the other to get better. They'll share advice and tidbits of information in the dugout; they'll work with each other on off days to improve their pitches; they'll inspire others to perform to the best of their abilities.
John Mozeliak sought to revamp the starting rotation not only in talent this offseason but also in culture. With the additions of Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, and Sonny Gray, he has accomplished that task. The Cardinals don't appear to be finished just yet; more moves could be on the horizon. At the moment, however, the starting rotation is significantly better than last year's rotation.