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UCB Roundtable: How will the Cards’ team identity change?

During the Don Tony years, the club took on a distinctly American League, offense first identity. Jocketty had a big hand in bringing in the occasional veteran, but Tony’s control and influence was clear. Some fans loved the “slug it out” approach, but others begged for more defense. Still more fans clamored for a sabremetric-based roster constucted using “advanced statistical analysis.”
Tony ignored the begging and the clamoring and did his thing.
Now, Matheny is the head man. At WWU, I asked him about how the identity of this team could change in the next few years. He said, in short, that he would work with what was there…but he saw the Cardinals as a pitching club. For the last 16 seasons, the Cardinals’ pitching has been desperately reliant on a pitching coach no longer in the Cardinal dugout, allowing Jocketty and Mo to dumpster dive for pitchers and still contend.
QUESTION: With TLR, Dunc, and Jocketty no longer in place, and Mo, Matheny, and Lilly in control…and Pujols out of the picture…how do you see the identity of this club changing this season and over the next 5-10 years? Consider Mo’s interest in growing prospects rather than purchasing veterans (like Jocketty), Mo’s interest in database inclusion, Matheny’s defensive prowess as a player, Matheny’s training under TLR, etc.

– Kevin

I do think we’ll see the club skew younger over the next couple of years. I’m excited by the possibilities of the 2014 team I already see taking shape. Matheny is the perfect guy for those younger players. I also think Matheny is a pitching guy (as opposed to TLR’s offense-first philosophy). I bet we’ll see Matheny lean on his starters more than TLR, with fewer pitching changes. Fortunately, Matheny has some great arms on the team right now, and he also has some power arms coming in the next two or three years. Coupled with the improved player-development system grooming these pitchers (thanks, Jeff Luhnow!!!), we should see a Cardinals team that resembles the pitching-rich/pitching-reliant Braves teams of the nineties. And they did pretty well for themselves, as I recall.

Ray DeRousse

I think the identity of this ballclub changes more in the next 5-10 years due to the departure of Luhnow more so than anyone else.  I hope MM’s right about this becoming a pitching ballclub–the offense-driven approach worked in recent years (hit my daughter’s weight, or go home), but long-term sustainability is more difficult to achieve sometimes that way.  “Waino & Carp, and pray for the tarp” is a solid start–pitching & defense, pitching & defense, pitching & defense, right?  I think now that Albert’s gone, we’ll see the pendulum swing back towards NL-style ball, as it’s not quite as deadly to steal in front of your #3 hitter and open first base.  Things change when you’ve got a no-doubt HOF power threat in the lineup everyday.  I’m hopeful that the ID of this team over the next 5-10 is one the fans will embrace, but I’m more about results than I am how the fans respond.  I can tell you this much, with 5 of the first 58 draft picks this year, an awful lot of this team’s 5-10 year future is riding on Kantrovitz & Mozeliak’s approach to the draft!

– Dathan Brooks

Some of the identity of the club might depend on what happens in baseball in general.  If the National League is forced to adapt the DH (which would be terrible), you may have to see this team go toward a more offensive focus just to keep up with the other teams that are adding another hitter into their mix.

Without such a tragedy, though, I agree that it looks like we are trending toward a pitching-rich organization with enough firepower to compete.  I don’t think this is ever going to be San Francisco, where they need to win a lot of 2-1 games, but it’s possible last year’s offensive explosion was a high water mark.
I also agree that this club is going to get younger over the long haul.  Berkman may be gone after this year, Beltran perhaps just here for two.  Already you are seeing Jay, Craig, and the bullpen corp, but then you add in Miller, perhaps Matt Adams, Carlos Martinez…..

Which means that the window on this club isn’t likely to close anytime soon, which is a great identity to have!
Author, C70 At The Bat
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The team is definitively making a youth movement, evident by shorter contracts for veterans while younger players are progressing.  Also evident in the trades they are making to acquire players that can help immediately and provide draft pick compensation as well.

Pitching will be a focus, to an extent.  I think you can see a balanced team developing if you look.  The players that are in position for long term deals: Yadier Molina (I hope, though my heart is over-ruled by my mind), Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, David Freese, Allen Craig, and Shelby Miller.  There’s some pitching, some defense, some offense and some intangibles in that group. 

The team, in my opinion, will ensure they have a strong top two in the rotation, but they are going to keep some pop in the lineup and some gold on the field. 

Exciting times indeed…

Bill Ivie
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Good question, and it brings me back to another era of Cardinal baseball that could be the model for the type of team we are about to see: the mid 90’s.

At that point, the team was a hybrid of both the farm-based talent that made up the pre-TRL era, and the free agent, offense based acquisitions that he so crucially brought into the fold here.

It was also a team that had both a balance of talents, both young and veteran and heavily implored a mixture of young arms (Morris, Ankiel) and vets (Benes, Stottlemyre). In the lineup, there was also a variety
of different types of talents, and few true sluggers that mashed our way to victory. Strategy was everything, and in th upcoming years, strategy in run creation is going to become even more of a premium
(and by upcoming years I mean the one starting in month or so as well).

There will be a much heavier influence of talents from the system that make an impact in St. Louis, simply for the fact there are few long-term positions that are off limits on the big league club due to
long-term contracts or young pillars of the organization that are already on the big league club.

The last time we had organizational turnover like that, Ray Lankford, Brian Jordan and a few others were turned to fill in those gaps and free agents were brought in (at decent dollar such as Gant, Gaetti &
Eckersley) to round out the team and keep it at a high level.

I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of that in the upcoming years….unless we strike drafting Gold and a lot of the guys in the system end up living or exceeding their potential and we can homegrow talent like back in the 80’s, but that may be asking for a bit much.

Hope I didn’t ramble too much there.

– Matt Whitener

Leave it to the teacher to say that teaching will be a much bigger focus in the coming years. The combination of all these new styles and the fact that this is not a veteran heavy club means that teaching, skillset development, fundamentals and small ball should all take precedence.

At least, that’s my hope. I won’t argue that those things should be expected of players before they reach the majors, but I would love a return to the Kissel days in terms of fundamentals.


I believe we find out as time goes by that Matheny values defense. He was always good at it and knows that “up-the-middle” is vitally important to success.

– Tom Knuppel

Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt appreciates the importance of Cardinals tradition, both for its historic value and for its marketing value, so the identity of the club will change toward one that cultivates and rewards Cardinals personnel who buy into what it means to be a Cardinal. Rather than a Tony La Russa way or a Whitey Herzog way, the identity will be built along a Cardinals way, meaning less focus on the individual and more focus on a collaborative franchise philosophy. Mike Matheny and John Mabry, for example, fit that concept. They understand the whole package of what it means to be a Cardinal: the community involvement, the good media relations, the inclusiveness and the emphasis on a traditional style of fundamental, winning baseball.

Mark Tomasik

I think the club’s identity will continue to change and match dictating circumstances.  We’ve seen it already, and it will only become more necessary in the St. Louis market, in my opinion – the Cardinals (and really any other team, the Yankees are doing it too) must become increasingly self-sufficient.  That’s not to say they’re a small-market team or disadvantaged in any way, but they just can’t purchase a contender every season.  There must be supplemental parts, and they must produce a star every now and then.  It was Pujols most recently, Wainwright is in the discussion, and Shelby Miller and others are waiting in the wings. But ultimately, I think the identity of the club will always be “what will make us most successful with the assets we have?”  Right now, the team is strong in pitching, has some high-value veterans, and lots of talent in the pipeline. 

Therefore, the prudent thing to do is sign short-term contracts and bridge the gap – just what the Cards are doing. If five years from now, stolen bases are miraculously a huge part of the MLB game again, I think you’ll see focus on speed.  If teams go back to four-man rotations and bullpen usage is heavy, you’ll see a focus on the ‘pen.  I’m oversimplifying a lot, but my point is that the team has always been able to compete, has always been very smart about the moves they’re making, and are well-positioned to contend for a long time with a deep farm system.  The Cardinal front office is a forward-thinking one, and I expect that to continue. –

http://www.pitchershiteighth.com | http://twitter.com/PitchersHit8th | Go Cards!

I don’t think Mo is the only one with interest in database inclusion as you mentioned in the questions. One of the things Matheny mentioned right out of the gate was meeting with the analytics department to understand what they do and let them know the metrics important to him. TLR pored over the numbers. I believe Matheny will pore over the numbers, but I think he’ll be looking at more numbers.

As far as the identity of the club…so much hinges on the first post-Luhnow draft. If the team can use their first five picks on guys that produce well at the major league level, they will have cost-controlled players to build around with a few veterans in the mix, like they have this season.

I think the team will get younger. I think the team will have a balanced offensive attack incorporating the running game, and the the team will have solid pitching. I don’t foresee the Cardinals needing to trade off top prospects for an elite player like an Edmonds or Rolen, but they will have the flexibility to go get very good players based on the farm system creating good major league production.

– Chris Mallonee

I believe, given Matheny’s strengths, that the overall identity of the club is going to be one of diplomatic inclusion. Mike seems to be a guy that values the opinions and perspectives of others. Advanced statistical analysis, old-school eyeballing, etc. – whatever the “faction”, I believe Matheny is going to find a place for the believers of all perspectives within his Cardinals. That said, I believe the identity will focus less on “what do we want” – such as defense, speed, offense, pitching, etc. – and focus more on “what do we need to succeed?”
In other words, if a deficiency is identified – team speed, defense, etc. – I believe Mike and Mo will make use of the resources at hand to address and fill that need. If young players are available to get it done, so be it. If they are not, here come the vets – and a re-focusing on the system. This team has committed, at the organizational level, to fielding a contending team every year possible. They have not committed to being “cheap” or “rich” or “expensive” or “defensive” or “offensive” or any other identity other than this – they will contend.
Whatever needs to happen to make them a contending club, it seems they will do it. The differences between previous years and the go-forward, Mike and Mo show (Mo-Mike) are 1) a willingness to commit to honest assessment and flexibility of style and 2) an ability to BE flexible, to BE uniters, and include multiple factions in a solitary goal.
Mike and Mo will focus on uniting this organization and keeping it moving in the right direction – whatever that means.

– Kevin (Cards ‘N Stuff)

First, I think that projecting anything for Matheny beyond his two-year contract presumes a lot. Second, I might question the premise that John Mozeliak has interest in growing prospects rather than purchasing veterans. I would argue that his approach isn’t altogether different from Jocketty’s: Consider that in the last three seasons, he has traded only young for old (acquiring the likes of Ryan Theriot and Pedro Feliz, and signed several veterans (Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook, Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran, Rafael Furcal).

Given that Mozeliak hired Matheny with no managerial experience and that Tony La Russa advocated for him, it’s difficult to imagine that Matheny will break free of the mold set for him. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I’m not sure that we’ll see anything novel in either the team’s approach to player development or game management.

Pip (Matt Philip), fungoes.net matthew_r_philip@yahoo.com

And…From Twitter: Jeff White (@jeffbgoofy) weights in…

“The ID of the Cards has to change with Matheny managing, but core values of Carp & others will keep it stable.” #ucb3

GOOD JOB, ALL!!! and, of course…GO CARDS!!!



  1. Pingback: UCB February Project: Preseason Roundtable — United Cardinal Bloggers - February 10, 2012

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