The St Louis Cardinals hold a 0.5 game lead atop the National League Central. Should the Chicago Cubs overtake them, they have a cushion in the wildcard standings with the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies a couple of games back.
The consistently good Cardinals haven’t finished under .500 since 2007. While it has been a disappointment not to make the playoffs in the last three campaigns, St Louis remain a force in the National League. Without a tear down like their rival Cubs, or the periods dominated by losing like the Reds, the Cardinals just quietly go about their business.
They win series, but rarely go on the sort of attention-grabbing run that we’ve seen from the Giants, Mets and Indians over the last few months. Even their positive stretches are sensible and calm, without the outlandish winning streaks. It reflects the organisation.
In Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna, the Cardinals have made headline trades in back-to-back offseasons. Despite Goldschmidt and Ozuna’s pedigree, though, those deals were somehow forgotten like the Cardinals often are. Overshadowed by the Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton trades in 2017/18 and then Bryce Harper and Manny Machado’s free agency in 2018/19, St Louis’ trades didn’t get the plaudits they deserved.
Ozuna and Goldschmidt’s season numbers haven’t been superstar-like. While Goldschmidt has heated up in the second half, aiding St Louis’ 22-13 run in the second half, they aren’t shining as brightly as other big names in their division.
Yelich is the obvious one, but Kris Bryant and now Nicholas Castellanos have been massive for the Cardinals’ rivals. Goldschmidt and Ozuna aren’t posting the sort of gaudy numbers that get social media in a frenzy, and once again, that is in keeping with the Cardinals.
The pitching staff is much the same. Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson have been very good, and Flaherty’s last few starts have been magnificent, but they still don’t get the attention they perhaps deserve.
A lot of this is a market thing. St Louis was ranked the 19th-biggest MLB market by Bleacher Report back in 2012. Other National League contenders – the Mets, Phillies, Nationals, Braves, Dodgers, Cubs, Giants – are all significant larger. The Brewers are one of the teams in the mix that are smaller than St Louis, but Yelich garners plenty of attention for another outrageous campaign.
The Cardinals won’t care about the number of tweets about them, nor should they. Whether fans across the world see them as a World Series contender or not makes no difference to how good they actually are.
Once again, the St Louis Cardinals are very good, and are set to head to the postseason for a 13th time this century. For the 20th-largest city in the USA (by metro population), that’s quite an achievement.
When people are bemoaning rebuilding teams, the Cardinals should be highlighted as a special franchise, who have remained competitive without drastically flicking the win-right-now switch.
Baseball should appreciate the Cardinals – a well-run organisation who prioritise winning. They might not have a roster that excites people like the Dodgers, Braves and perhaps Cubs, but they are right in with a shot of a deep playoff run even without big seasons from their two marquee trade acquisitions.