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The wrong direction

The Cardinals have taken a step back in each of the past 5 seasons

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Three years ago yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled St. Louis to America: Don’t Be Jealous. It was a response written by then mayor of St. Louis, Francis Slay, to an earlier piece in the WSJ calling the Cardinals the most hate-worthy team in the 2014 playoffs.

The mayor wrote thoughtful words, telling the world “While you might think of St. Louis as flyover country and not pay us much due, we’re kind of a big deal come October on Major League Baseball Diamonds. In fact, we’re kind of a big deal for a number of reasons.”

He was right to make that statement and, at the time, it was true. We were a big deal. The Cardinals had won a championship less than three years prior in 2011. They returned to the Fall Classic in 2013 and had made the playoffs again in 2014. After advancing to the NLCS that year, the Mayor would have been right to make the same claim in 2015 when the Cardinals qualified for the playoffs yet again.

But that’s where it would have to stop.

Since losing to the eventual world champion Giants in the 2014 NLCS, the Cardinals have won just a single playoff game. It is easy to make the argument for a young team that needs just a little more time to grow. Or to advocate for a front office that needs to find just the last missing piece. But there is a clear picture to see from looking at the success, or lack thereof, of this franchise in chronological order.

Result by Season

Year Result
Year Result
2013 World Series Loss
2014 NLCS loss
2015 NLDS loss
2016 2nd place in NL Central
2017 3rd place in NL Central

Hopefully you get a pretty good idea of what has been happening from the table. The Cardinals are going backwards. There is no other way to say it. It would be one thing if the organization had advanced to the NLCS a few times and only made it to the wild card game or didn't qualify for the playoffs a few other times. There is no linear pattern there, but there is still success.

What makes this so unique is that the Cardinals have regressed by one level each of the last 5 years. It has been extremely linear. In the middle of a season it is easy to see how one might make the argument that “this team has a chance” if “we just play consistently.”

However, when you take a step back and notice how the Cardinals have failed to take a step forward in the past 5 years, it is easy to call for a change.

What that change should be depends on whom you ask. Some might argue for a shift in managerial tactics, others for a shift to a different man entirely. A more realistic person might advocate for a shift in front office tactics, which unfortunately is more realistic than seeing a new manager come April.

What is clear is that this organization needs a change. Yes, there is a logical viewpoint that states the Cardinals have had an absurd amount of success over the past 10 or 11 years. This argument usually follows with a “you guys can take a couple bad years.” It is true Cardinals fans are spoiled, and you know what, the front office is probably spoiled too. But that should not stop them from looking at the recent results and seeing that change is not only necessary, but a necessity.