Fans of the St. Louis Cardinals abroad have to be feeling both disappointed and frustrated about how their team has struggled mightily this season. But it’s no wonder why the Cardinals have slipped so far. What is really astonishing is how fast they've slipped to the cellar of the weakest division in all of professional baseball.
Players haven't been performing up to par, the coaching staff has displayed lapses in being able to manage games in order for the team to succeed and the front office hasn't performed to the Cardinal standard in the past two seasons. I’m not necessarily ranking these from most to least but putting the blame squarely on these three factors equally.
Players Inability to Perform
Back in 2020, President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak was at a crossroads with the team and its talent. He elected to go with players like Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader, Dylan Carlson, Paul DeJong, Dakota Hudson, and Alex Reyes among others, and decided against keeping players like Randy Arozarena, Adolis Garcia, Sandy Alcantara, Lane Thomas, and Edmundo Sosa.
As we now know the results now, Tyler O’Neill, when healthy, is a productive player but the truth is he can’t stay healthy. A two-time gold glove winner, O’Neill can mash the ball but still to this very day struggles with laying off the off-speed pitch. To date, O’Neill has played in just 29 games this season while being on the IL with back issues since May 5.
Bader was a crowd favorite because of his all-out style of player, especially defensively, but could not quite turn the corner at the plate and had problems staying on the field with St. Louis. He also had problems with the inability to lay off breaking balls. He was ultimately sent to the New York Yankees in exchange for Jordan Montgomery. To date, Bader has spent more days on the injured list than he has on the field with the Yankees.
DeJong has prospered in the field where he is arguably one of the best defenders at shortstop but had his worst season at the plate in 2022 where he hit a paltry .157 while spending more time at AAA Memphis than he did with St. Louis. So far in 2023, DeJong has produced 12 home runs and 27 RBI while hitting .240 in 200 ABs with the Cardinals.
Carlson has never lived up to expectations, leaving many to wonder if he ever will, much like past phenoms like Colby Rasmus and J.D. Drew. Carlson has dealt with numerous injuries since 2022 (hamstring strains, thumb sprain, ankle sprain) and, much like O’Neill, just can’t seem to round into form until another injury sets him back once again. Carlson has yet to show why the Cardinals drafted him in the first round of the 2016 MLB draft and was once at the top of the St. Louis Top 30 prospects list in 2020.
Pitchers Dakota Hudson and Alex Reyes have never panned out with the Cardinals choosing to allow Reyes to walk in free agency. While Hudson just never seemed to put a complete season together, the former #1 prospect in the St. Louis farm system Reyes couldn’t stay off the IL. Many in and around the organization thought Reyes had the type of stuff that comes along in a pitcher once every 50 years, the now former St. Louis pitcher just couldn't stay healthy. Now a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Reyes is back on the 60-day IL after having his second shoulder surgery.