Cheap Seats

Youth Movement: the more prospects St. Louis Cardinals promote, the better the Redbirds play

It seems like the more kids the St. Louis Cardinals bring to the major leagues, the better the team plays.

Magneuris Sierra was the most exciting player on the field when the Cardinals summoned him to The Show. Luke Voit provided reasons to cheer when he arrived. Paul DeJong has contributed mightily. On Tuesday, slugging outfielder Harrison Bader finally got his long-awaited call to St. Louis and he hit a key, two-strike double in the bottom of the ninth to ignite the deciding rally.

Bader moved to third on a bunt and then pinch hitter Jedd Gyorko hit a short fly ball down the right field line with one out. Bader tagged up on a ball that seemed too short to score an average runner. But Bader is no average runner. He flew down the first base line and made an aggressive slide past the Colorado Rockies catcher to give St. Louis a 3-2 victory.

Bader’s first hit — followed by his first run — left his parents jumping up and down with glee in the stands at Busch Stadium.

While it’s easy to point to individual hits, runs or stolen bases to quantify contributions individual players make to games, the rookies seem to be making an impact in more subtle ways, too.

The Cardinals have been sloppy in their baserunning and defense all year. The only time they seem to pull it all together is when the prospects join the club. Maybe some of the veterans are inspired to play better out of fear of losing their positions or their playing time to some hungry young buck. Or maybe the veterans are just as excited as fans to see an infusion of talent arrive to help them try to win some ballgames.

Either way, I’m glad for the present to see the Cardinals heat up a little bit. And I’m glad for the future to know that the players we’ve been waiting to see for so long have arrived are getting their feet wet as we head into the final stretch of 2017 and, hopefully, they’ll be ready to be a big part of 2018.

Are the Cardinals showcasing Bader to other major league clubs for a potential trade, or is this a declaration that the top prospects are off limits and the team is going to go with internal options as it tries to pull a frustrating season out of the fire at the end à la 2011? Only time will tell. But something had to be done to shake up a team that has been stuck under .500 into late July.

This wouldn’t be the first time that the Cardinals have ridden youth to post-season glory. In 1942, Stan Musial led the Redbirds to the World Series, Willie McGee arrived mid-year in 1982 to spark the Cardinals. Vince Coleman came up in 1985 to make the difference. It’s almost always the case that teams which win championships get a major contribution from an unexpected source.