The 7 biggest issues that led to the demise of the St. Louis Cardinals

Over a decade ago, the Cardinals were the class of Major League Baseball. Oh how the mighty have fallen, and these 7 issues are at the core of their demise.
Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages
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#3 - They fail to maximize their own bats while other organizations find a way to unlock them

In what started out as a nit-picky frustration with the Cardinals' front office has emerged into a full blown meme joke that the rest of the league is in on.

Even Mozeliak joked about it this past winter, saying Tyler O'Neill would "probably get MVP votes" after they trade him. Well, it looks like a self-fulfilling prophecy already, and is just another example in a long list of Cardinals hitters who have left St. Louis and been unlocked by another organization.

  • O'Neill had a rough falling out with the Cardinals over the last two seasons. He was an MVP candidate in 2021, so it was clear the talent was there. Well, the Boston Red Sox have brought that back out of O'Neill, as he's posted a .981 OPS so far in 2024.
  • Randy Arozarena was only given 23 plate appearances in St. Louis and went on to win American League Rookie of the Year, ALCS MVP, and an All-Star nod with the Tampa Bay Rays.
  • Adolis Garcia was let go for nothing by the Cardinals and has gone on to make the American League All-Star team twice and won ALCS MVP honors last season en route to a World Series title with the Texas Rangers.
  • Marcell Ozuna came to St. Louis fresh off an All-Star campaign, but they acquired him knowing he had a hurt shoulder. Ozuna posted a .777 OPS in St. Louis, far from what they had hoped from him. Since leaving St. Louis for Atlanta, Ozuna has posted an .843 OPS and leads all of baseball in home runs and runs batted in so far this season.
  • Lane Thomas couldn't figure things out during his short tenure with the Major League club in St. Louis, posting a .625 OPS in 84 career games. He was then shipped to the Washington Nationals for rental starter Jon Lester and has posted a .747 OPS with his new organization.
  • Richie Palacios was really good for the Cardinals in his short sample size in 2023 but was shipped out by the club for veteran reliever Andrew Kittredge. Kittredge has been great for the Cardinals so far, but Palacios' 143 OPS+ in 2024 and six years of club control could make that trade age poorly.

It's not just the fact that the Cardinals have let bats go who have gone on to have success elsewhere, it's that the bats they do keep are not finding the game kind of success. Jordan Walker is back in Triple-A for the second time trying to find his swing again. Nolan Gorman looks lost at the plate. Brendan Donovan has not been himself in 2024. Lars Nootbaar still has the flashy underlying metrics, but the results are not there. Dylan Carlson finished top-3 in Rookie of the Year voting and was a top prospect in baseball, and now he's a below league average bat who is a fine defender.

Believe me, I have so much confidence in Walker, Donovan, Nootbaar, and Gorman as players. I'm not calling them cases of failure by any means. But when the trend right now is their young bats underperform based on the talent and promise they have, and other bats go on to maximize their potential, that is a huge issue.

It makes you wonder what Carlson will look like when the Cardinals eventually move off of him. Will he find his swing again and join that long list of former Cardinals? How long will it take Walker, Nootbaar, Donovan, and Gorman to get things back on track?