May 19, 2024

The Athletic conducted an April 2024 poll of executives throughout Major League Baseball to evaluate the greatest front offices in the game today. When the music finished, the St. Louis Cardinals were left without a chair after failing to receive a single vote from their colleagues.

While this may come as a surprise to some casual fans, a feud has been growing between the fanbase and ownership over roster construction and the franchise’s broader operational strategy.

The Athletic asked 40 MLB executives with “experience as the primary decision-maker for a team, either in the past or present” to rank the best five front offices. Their top pick received five points, while their fifth and final pick received only one.

The Los Angeles Dodgers (284 points) and Tampa Bay Rays (258) dominated the field.

Despite the tiny sample size, the outcome from league counterparts is a revelation for the historically prominent St. Louis Cardinals organization.

 

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The ‘Cardinal Way’ of Doing Things

St. Louis has a lengthy and illustrious history stretching back to the late 1800s, including a successful run of winning baseball for much of the new millennium. The organization welcomed the emerging analytical dynamic that began to permeate the sport in the early 2000s.

The Redbirds’ increased emphasis on an analytically driven business model helped to transform baseball.

The Cardinals implemented Sabermetrics into their regular pillars of scouting and development, resulting in a constant streak of homegrown talent and a successful on-field product that reached the World Series four times, winning twice.

With key players like Jeff Luhnow and Sig Mejdal leading the analytics revolution, and Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa in the dugout, the Cardinals set an ideal standard for winning baseball. Previous architect Walt Jocketty deserves credit as well.

The Inevitable Winds of Change

While nothing lasts forever, the Cardinals managed to avoid tanking or a major rebuild while remaining relevant year after year. After all of the aforementioned names had moved on or retired, the squad continued its winning ways for the next few seasons.

In 2017, then-general manager John Mozeliak was promoted to president of baseball operations, and fellow Cardinals alumni Michael Girsch took over as general manager. Randy Flores, a former Cardinals pitcher, is already the team’s scouting director.

For one of the world’s greatest baseball cities, the majority of the recent decade has been one to forget in many respects.

As lifelong St. Louisan and nationally respected journalist Bernie Miklasz stated in a March 2024 column on Scoops Sports Network, “Since 2015, the Cardinals are 5-14 in the playoffs and have only won once in a postseason round. Not only that, but 17 MLB teams have won more postseason games than St. Louis in the last nine years. Ugh.”

Miklasz also mentioned a before-and-after reality that the Birds on the Bat are currently experiencing.

“The Cardinals have won more regular-season and postseason games than any other National League team since the beginning of 2000. And no National League franchise has made the playoffs more than St. Louis (16) in the last 24 seasons,” he added.

“[Now] the Cardinals are more distant and displaced from their glory-days run under chairman (and owner) Bill DeWitt Jr,” observed Miklasz. “They seem a lot closer to the mediocrity of Cardinal teams from the 1950s, 1970s and the late 1980s and early 1990s.”

Miklasz also shared the fundamental concern about a pattern that appears to have taken root.

“With the Cardinals becoming more irrelevant in the biggest month of the baseball season – that would be October – it’s fair to wonder whether they can climb back, get on the big stage and stay there for more than a couple of October days,” the writer wrote.

Make no mistake: St. Louis is a baseball community that expects more than just a winning record. Brief October appearances or complete exclusion from the postseason have become intolerable to the die-hard fanbase.

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