When the St. Louis Cardinals miss the playoffs, it’s considered a rarity. The Cardinals are perennial contenders in the National League, winning 11 World Series titles and only missing the playoffs five times the past 17 years.
When St. Louis fell out of the race it 2016, many were frustrated by the tactics of St. Louis manager Mike Matheny.
The Cardinals suffered a multitude of injuries in 2016, most notably to the starting rotation when Lance Lynn underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery prior to the start of the year.
Jhonny Peralta, Yadier Molina, and Aledmys Diaz each missed time with injuries that hurt the Cardinals last year as well and it was a major reason they faltered late in the season.
This year, the Cardinals are making adjustments to ensure they’re in the thick of things when September rolls around.
It starts with the team as a whole, which sounds obvious, but let’s break it down. The point has been made in the past a number of times about how St. Louis is trying to become a more athletic ball club.
The advantage is two-fold. While it allows the team to rebrand its offensive identity, from power hungry to speed hungry, it also increases the longevity of player’s availability late into the season and decreases the risk of injury.
The manager will also need to adjust. Matheny has to stop trying to manage games like Tony LaRussa and start managing games like Mike Matheny. He has to be able to trust in his guys to get the job done in tight situations and not always look to make a move.
He’s been known for getting trigger happy in late game situations when the bullpen is tired and not performing well. He has to trust his guys to work through tough situations.
The players in the clubhouse also need to adjust the team mojo and lighten the mood.
Taking a chapter out of the Chicago Cubs book might not be such a bad idea. Having Dexter Fowler in the club house already seems to be helping the team’s mojo during spring training.
The big four leadership group of Matt Holliday, Adam Wainwright, Matt Carpenter, and Yadier Molina isn’t the focus of the club house this season.
With Holliday now playing in New York, the other three will still carry a veteran presence in the club house, but the younger guys are stepping up as the voices for the team. Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk, and Greg Garcia are starting to carry more of a leadership role.
The team has a younger core with physical longevity as its top priority. Health plays out as a major factor throughout the season in baseball more so than other sports. The stamina required to maintain a competitive advantage of a 162-game season is difficult.
Even though they’re playing a non-contact sport, baseball players still undergo the wear and tear of the long season.
The Cardinals are in one of the tougher divisions in baseball, having to compete regularly with the Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates for the division.
Without the powerful bats in the middle of the order to carry the offense, St. Louis is changing its identity. They’re hoping that these adjustments will bring benefits on the field and inside the club house so they can regain the division title and make a playoff run like they’ve been known to do for so many years.
[Featured Image by Rich Schultz/Getty Images]