As the winter unfolded for the St. Louis Cardinals, it became apparent to me that team ownership had to be at the end of its rope with management.
The Cardinals passed when given the opportunity to address several obvious needs — the lack of front of the rotation starting pitching and the need for more offensive firepower. Why would they do this when their needs have been so obvious for the past three years and management was publicly saying that missing the postseason was unacceptable and there was an urgency to win now.
The only reason I could piece together for this course of inaction is that club chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. must have decided he’d spent enough money on President John Mozeliak’s plans and told the team’s architect it was time to sink or swim with the $160 million roster he’d already assembled. No Bryce Harper. No Dallas Keuchel. Let’s see if Dexter Fowler, Brett Cecil and Luke Gregerson are championship players.
If things didn’t pan out, I predicted Mozeliak would be fired — and the laughs ensued.
I meant it then. And I believe it even more now. Given a chance to sink or swim, this team has done little more than keep its head above water against weak competition. And when it’s played teams over .500, it’s gone to the bottom like a stone. As unfathomable as it seemed just a few months ago, I believe Mozeliak is on the hot seat. While DeWitt is patient, he expects results. While things aren’t going well at the big league level, things are worsened by the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any cavalry waiting in the minor leagues to change this team’s fortunes in 2020 or 2021.
Even worse than that, the bad contract awarded to Matt Carpenter this spring — even though the team held an option on him for next season already, seems to add insult to injury. Carpenter is struggling to hit above his weight and he’s now blocking the Birds from investing in some much needed pitching help by drawing a fat paycheck over the next trio of seasons.
If the Cardinals don’t make a serious postseason run, how can this team stay on the same path? I’ve never heard fans so disenchanted. At least not during the DeWitt era.
While we were told 2019 was going to be a big year it seems that total uncertainty awaits for 2020. Will Adam Wainwright and Marcell Ozuna be back? If not, how will they be replaced? Is the dreaded tank job going to finally happen?
Even if the Cardinals somehow make it to the postseason and win the wild card game or maybe a division series, does that suddenly make things better? This team has included far too many under-performing veterans over the past three years and it seems like the vast majority of once highly-touted prospects flame out when they hit the big leagues. For how long did we hear how great Harrison Bader was going to be? Mozeliak dumped productive outfielder Tommy Pham to make room for Bader — and now the latter is back in the minor leagues trying to figure out how to hit while the former is in Tampa Bay pacing the offense.
Something has gone wrong with the Cardinals’ talent evaluation process. That has to change. And Mozeliak is the guy in charge of figuring out what players will be added, what ones will be kept and who the Cardinals will pass over.