One huge New Year’s resolution for the St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals have a big year ahead of them. It’s only early 2021, but by the end of the year the team has to figure things out.
In all of my 21 years as a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, I’m not sure I have gone through a time when the fan base was more depressed than it is now. Sure, I was 8-10 years old and had no idea how anyone was feeling in the late 2000s, but at least the team had a big name like Albert Pujols.
Not that the Cardinals are alone, but 2020 has been a perfect storm of bad things for the hometown team. The squad has been offensively in flux for the past few seasons and suddenly gate earnings for the year have dropped to zero.
The only consistent thing that has long allowed the Cardinals to have a small market team consistently sit in the top third of the payroll was fan participation. This drop in money coincided with the large contracts awarded to a few players who will no longer be on the books later this year. Put it all together with the challenges everyone has faced every day for 2020 and you will end up right where the fans are right now.
As an eternal optimist, I can be happy that the team has played the playoffs for two years in a row, but there are still clear problems with the team.
However, it’s a new year. For many people, turning the calendar to 2021 will hopefully raise hope for a New Year, even if it felt like any other day. For the St. Louis Cardinals, you must make (and keep) at least one important decision.
In 2020 the cardinals must conduct a soul search. You have to find out what you have once and for all.
This started about two years ago when the cardinals had a lot of depth of field. The likes of Oscar Mercado, Tyler O’Neill, and Harrison Bader were either all in the upper tier of minors or they played frugally in MLB. At that time the cardinals began with the mantra, “Let us see what we have.”
This was particularly true in the winter leading up to the 2020 season, when the multitude of outfield players resulted in Cardinals Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena negotiating for Matthew Liberatore. Now the team doesn’t seem to be able to make much progress on the outfield and they still don’t quite know what their Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas and Dylan Carlson season is after such a short time.
After the 2021 season, the Cardinals have a ton of money on the books. Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler, Andrew Miller, and possibly Carlos Martinez could all have disappeared. This coincides with the expected arrival of interested parties such as Nolan Gorman, Zack Thompson and Liberatore.
The picture is clear to see, 2022 will be the year the Cardinals will be on the rise again, especially if gate revenue returns for most of 2021 and things can get back to normal. If 2022 is the year of the next wave, the next foray, the importance of finding out who is in and who is out cannot be underestimated for the Cardinals.
For the most part in the second half of the 2010s and 2020, the Cardinals were an in-between team. Good enough to hold their own, but not good enough (or lucky enough) to make their way into the World Series. 2022 is the year to change that, but just if the team doesn’t know what it’s got it won’t be possible.
Chances are Tyler O’Neill is a Joc Pederson guy who hits 30+ homers a year for a team. There is also the possibility that he will not be more than a fourth outfielder. Lane Thomas could fall into a lot of different areas too. Tommy Edman has to show if he is who he was in 2019 or who he was in 2020. Harrison Bader has to show if he can be the player he was for a full season in 2020.
These are just a few of the many player situations that the Cardinals will have to evaluate and ultimately make decisions for the year 2022. If the team is terrible in 2021, at least the team has an answer.
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If the Cardinals go into 2022 without finding out these things, they will continue to hang around. It’s that simple. There’s a good team hidden here, the team just has to find out by playing these players more. In my opinion, that’s the most important thing for 2021.