Fans of every team want to believe they have a lot on the line in any upcoming season. After all, if there's nothing to lose or win, what's the point of watching?
But, with a month and a half to go before the start of spring training, it's rare to see a team has as much on the line as the 2013 Cardinals.
The Cardinals, in my book, are legitimate World Series contenders. How could they not be? They're bringing back all but one of their key players from 2012 when they fell one heartbreaking game short of making it to the Fall Classic for the second season in a row.
But the Cardinals don't just have a lot to win in the upcoming season. They have a lot to lose in the form of a couple of the greatest players in franchise history and a several key contributors who stand to be free agents at the end of the season.
In short, the Redbirds could win it all this year. That would create sentiment to keep the band together for 2014 and potentially beyond. Or they could fall short of contention and end up in pretty serious retooling mode, remaking the roster with a chain saw instead of scalpel.
It would be the end of the Redbirds world as we know it and the start of a new era in St. Louis baseball.
I've written before that Cardinals fans have been especially fortunate in the last decade or so. It's difficult to make a roster of the all time greatest St. Louis baseball players without including Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.
All of those fellows are gone except Carpenter and Wainwright. And they're both free agents at the end of the year. Carpenter is the last member of all three St. Louis World Series teams of the 2000s. Wainwright was the star rookie on the 2006 championship winning club.
Those are a couple of pretty big stars in the St. Louis galaxy. But if the Cardinals don't play well this year, both those players could either be let go as free agents at the end of the campaign. Or they could be traded at mid-season to teams better position to compete in 2013.
While I am glad to see a strong new crop of players including Allen Craig, Trevor Rosenthal and Shelby Miller, I hope the Cardinals can have a strong season and keep their big guns around for a while longer.
I guess we all ultimately root for the name on the front of a uniform. But the guy whose name is on the back is important as well. Those are our boys, not just interchangeable parts.
I'm very optimistic about the Cardinals' potential this season. But it's always a risk when you're counting on a bunch of kids who don't have a long track record. So I prefer to see youngsters be sprinkled in to season the roster stew -- not to be served up as the main course.
Look at all the guys who were "can't miss prospects" who failed to come through and meet lofty expectations. The list -- which contains names like Anthony Reyes, Colby Rasmus, Jim Lindeman and Paul Coleman -- is long but undistinguished.
I can accept that the Cardinals are almost certain to part with right fielder Carlos Beltran and starting shortstop Rafael Furcal after the 2013 season. But I hope they can keep the foundation of the starting rotation that is made up of Carpenter and Wainwright for a while longer.
It's tough to believe all the Birds' young pitchers are going to pan out. And it is going to be prohibitively expensive to try to replace guys known as "co-aces" on the free agent market.
View From the Cheap Seats appears daily at bnd.com/cheapseats. Follow its author on Twitter @scottwuerz.