The Cardinals Way: How One Team Embraced Tradition and Moneyball at the Same Time is a great new book from Howard Megdal going back over the history of Cardinals baseball and the last decade in particular. The book goes inside the Cardinals organization, taking an in-depth look at the Cardinals decision-making process, and how they managed to stay ahead and move the organization forward in a sometimes backwards-thinking industry.
Howard was kind enough to go on the VEB podcast and discuss the book. As a follow up, I asked a few more questions over email to provide a bit more information on the book as well as provide answers for those who missed the podcast.
The book is available on Amazon.com and I highly recommend it.
VEB: One thing we talked about near the end of the podcast was the idea of a war between stats and scouts. It is evident in Moneyball, and there was definitely considerable discord in the Cardinals front office. What factors/people caused the Cardinals front office to get past the war to work together?
HM: A big factor was Mozeliak, who engendered trust on both sides, empowered by DeWitt. The idea gradually took hold: embrace the new way, or there's no room for you in St. Louis.
VEB: Have you received any sort of reaction from some of the subjects in your book? Was there anyone you were concerned about making sure you captured them accurately?
HM: My concern is capturing everyone accuratelyâI'm acutely aware this is in print forever, and is going to be the definitive story of that time. So it felt like a heavy responsibility. The subjects of the book have all been very positive about it, so that makes me feel goodâit really was about capturing a moment in time. There were no villains here.
VEB: The Cardinals have ramped up their international program, and are starting receive the benefits with a very young group of players a few years away. How have they been successful in an area that had been mostly ignored?
HM: I think it's as simple as really investing in it, both money and manpower. It's the logical extension of Jeff Luhnow's first initiative as an executive, and it has simply expanded accordingly in subsequent years.
VEB: Bill Dewitt III, has stepped up and taken a more public, active role with the Cardinals. What similarities and differences are there between him and his father? Do you expect him to carry on the Dewitt legacy in owning the Cardinals?
HM: It's hard to pin that down in terms of baseball, but look: DeWitt III is born into the family, he's been well-educated both institutionally and practically, and Ballpark Village, his baby, has been an unqualified success. One never knows how a new executive will fare, but it is hard to imagine someone better prepared for this specific job when the time comes.
VEB: You have said Steve Turco is the potential heir to George Kissell. He is not likely a well-known figure even to die-hard Cardinals fans. What makes him an important figure in the Cardinals organization?
HM: Two things: his understanding of the specific ways Kissell operated, and the length of experience and passion he brings to the job to do it as well as he can. I just think Steve Turco sees things faster than others, and knows how to put the time in to implement longer-term changes with a player (or even when not to do so, to wait for a player to come to him). And he's the GCL mamager, so he's the first manager the youngest Cardinals see after signing. It's really important for the organization to have him there.
VEB: The Cardinals are very much of a model on how to mix advanced statistics and scouting that other franchises are and will continue to follow in the future. How can the Cardinals stay ahead as the rest of Major League Baseball catches up?
HM: Ultimately, this comes down to two things: a PD system that's more advanced and operating with minimal kinks thanks to that long-term operation, and a head start. There are brilliant people all over baseball and 29 other teams trying to catch up or pull ahead. And there's no guarantee the Cardinals can stay ahead. They've just figured out the need to find what is next, too, and that plus a lead already is a pretty strong position to start from.
VEB: Dan Kantrovitz ran the Cardinals draft for several years before taking a promotion to move to the Oakland A's. I think it is fair to say he will be a candidate for general manager in the near future. Could that be with the Cardinals with John Mozeliak in an elevated role?
HM: It's hard to say where Dan will end up, but as I pointed out in the book, Dan's combination of skills and intelligence will make him a general manager in MLB, and sooner than later. My suspicion is that it'll happen before Mo is ready to move on, so likely somewhere else. But who can predict the future beyond an Opening Day with red jackets and horsies?
Thanks again to Howard for taking the time out to answer questions. You can buy the book here.