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Moneyball? You can keep the change

If the Cardinals' lack of movement this off season is a sign that the team plans to completely subscribe to the Moneyball philosophy of player management, stop this ride because I want to get off.

First, Moneyball isn't a formula for winning. It's a formula designed to do exactly what many Cardinals fans fear: Put a team on the field that is just good enough to remain on the fringes of contention while keeping costs as low as possible -- regardless of any emotional connection between the fans and players.

The name on the front of the jersey is always the most important to a sports fan. But the name on the back is in many cases nearly as important to a passionate baseball fan. And I am not going to sit there and watch my favorite players traded off in three-year cycles just as they reach their prime.

I mentioned the other day that I thought the decision not to trade Stan Musial to the Phillies for All-Star and eventual Hall of Fame pitcher was one of the top three non-trades the Cardinals ever made. On paper, it probably seemed like a good idea to trade a 35-year-old outfielder for a 29-year-old pitcher. But would Musial's statue stand outside the new ballpark if Stan the Man spent his last seven years in the big leagues playing for someone besides the Cardinals?

Before you say yes, why is there no statue of Rogers Horsby? By many measures he was just as great of a player as Musial. But he lost his connection to St. Louis when he left to play for the Giants, Cubs and Braves for the last third of his career.

What if Ozzie Smith, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock or Albert Pujols was allowed to finish their careers somewhere else? Would it mean so much to be a Cardinal or a Cardinals fan without this history and these relationships?

In St. Louis, where attendance ranks every year among the top five clubs in baseball, why should the Cardinals adopt the revolving door concept of moneyball -- a gimmick designed to try to make the fringe teams competitive?

Oakland manager Billy Beane is credited with the concept. But, as far as I can tell, his version of the Athletics has never even made it to the World Series. As I recall, the A's played in three world series from 1988-90 when they embraced a more traditional system of management. Back then they weren't considered to be a small market team. They filled the house every night and could afford Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Dave Stewart, Dave Henderson, Rickey Henderson, Dennis Eckersley and Carney Lansford -- one of the most star-studded line-ups in the last 25 years with several of the highest paid players at that time.

It wasn't Moneyball that made Oakland competitive. I was Moneyball that turned the Athletics into a small market team -- because their product was so much less appealing to their former fans. It's what made manager Tony La Russa available to the Cardinals and what made several of the Oakland stars of the late 80s and early 90s -- McGwire, Eckersley and Jason Isringhausen -- to come to St. Louis to build the Cardinals into a contender in the late 90s. And it is what is going to turn the St. Louis Cardinals into the Kansas City Royals.

Who could blame the Royals fans, who used to attend games just as rabidly as Cardinals fans, for losing interest when their team discarded talent like Jermaine Dye, Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon, David Cone, Bret Saberhagen?

It's painful and makes you feel powerless when the players you've supported are traded away or allowed to leave as free agents. And all we hear is that baseball is a "business."

Bull. Baseball is a game. It's supposed to be fun. It's supposed to be US against THEM. These days you can't tell us from them. And I have a bad feeling that those of us who feel like the management of the Cardinals is being cheap and disloyal to the fans haven't seen anything yet. 

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