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Cardinal fans deserved better this offseason

The front office didn’t improve the team this offseason, and that means the Cardinals’ will be tipping their cap to fans in early October and watching the postseason from home.
The front office didn’t improve the team this offseason, and that means the Cardinals’ will be tipping their cap to fans in early October and watching the postseason from home. AP

With mere days to go before the start of spring training, it appears the St. Louis Cardinals front office leaders meant it when they said that they didn’t see the team making any more significant additions to the roster before camp started.

They may be honest. But the way this team treated its fans this year just ain’t right. And in all my years of supporting the Redbirds, I can say, without reservation, that I have never been more disappointed in the team.

This isn’t a reaction to the Chicago Cubs signing Yu Darvish. This is a reaction to the fact that the Cardinals have serious roster flaws and there are players on the free agent market that the team could easily afford to sign. Yet, for reasons apparent to only them, the front office leaders absolutely, positively refuse to do anything to give this team a legitimate change to contend.

Why?

Sometimes things don’t make sense. The Cardinals, as much as I would have liked them to make blockbuster moves in the past, there have been occasions when such moves were prevented by a maxed out budget, a bad contract or other considerations. But that’s not the case this time. The Birds have a need, they have the resources and they have the opportunity. But, still, they have said no to every change to improve.

If you’re one of those sorts who likes to respond to any criticism of the Redbirds by saying that fans have “no right to spend Bill DeWitt’s money,” this post probably isn’t going to be your cup of tea. Because I don’t believe it’s just DeWitt’s money. It’s my money, too. I’m one of those people who spends way more money that a rational person ought to on baseball tickets, apparel and concessions at major league ballparks. If you spent $100 to buy a ticket to see your favorite band play in concert and when you showed up you discovered that band didn’t bring a PA system or any stage lighting would you shrug your shoulders and say “who am I to tell them how to spend their money?

The Cardinals aren’t just a business. They’re a public institution. That’s one of the reasons they’re supported so well and why they make so much money. So, ownership bears some responsibility in taking care of the product and putting the best possible team on the field to give the paying customers their money’s worth when they plunk down cash for tickets — or for a subscription to watch the team’s games which are almost exclusively available only on pay television.

St. Louis fans are constantly bombarded with the team-created label that they’re the best fans in baseball. But don’t you dare say “Hey, I’ve watched a lot of baseball over the years and, because of that, it is my opinion that the current edition of the Cardinals doesn’t look very competitive.” Being a “best fan in baseball” apparently doesn’t mean we know anything about the game we love. It means we’re supposed to be good by shutting up and paying the ever-increasing price of attending a game, no matter how little of that money is invested back in the product.

How does the team expect its allegedly baseball savvy fanbase not to be aware of the fact that the club got a major windfall this off-season when it’s long-awaited new local television package gave the team coffers a healthy boost?

In addition to all the additional revenue the Cardinals will receive from their new local television deal, which on its own should be enough to add a superstar quality player to the roster – or several smaller yet helpful pieces — the team stands to shed Adam Wainwright from the payroll after the 2018 season. That’s more than 14 percent of the team’s current annual commitment to salary.

According to sportrac.com, if you don’t count the awful contract the team gave Mike Leake, the Redbirds have a payroll of $121.085 million for the upcoming season. Even with the $17 million the team will pay Leake to go away, that’s $138.085 million. That’s down $11 million from what the team spent in 2017.

Revenue went up $40-$50 million, yet investment in the product on the field — a product with a tattered starting rotation, no closer and a need for a second slugger in the middle of the batting order — went down by $11 million.

I’ve been told — repeatedly — this winter to be patient. There were still plenty of helpful players out there and the Cardinals are smarter than all the rest of us, combined. They’d swoop in and make the move when the time was right. That time never came.

I couldn’t wait for this offseason to start because I was just sure, armed with their new revenue and the bad taste in their mouth from their second-consecutive season of missing the playoffs, things were going to change around here. I thought the Cardinals streak of coming in second in the bidding for free agents — or passing on brilliant players who wanted to come play at Busch Stadium such as Max Scherzer was because the timing wasn’t right.

I’m sad to say that I am embarrassed to admit that I fell for their routine again.

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