Year In Review: Top 5 Cardinal Stories

The United Cardinal Bloggers strike again, this time with a recap of 2007. We each selected the five stories that we thought were the most important for 2007 in relation to the Cardinals. Check out CardinalNationGlobe, CardinalGM, Readin’ Redbird, Rockin’ the Red and Stan Musial’s Stance for their takes. (I’ll direct link to their stories when they are up.)

And, after the jump, my selections:

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The Ownership Question: Part IV

We’ve hashed out ownership against so many different standards, but what we’ve not looked at is this ownership, led by Bill Dewitt, and prior ownership under the Anheuser-Busch brewery after the death of August “Gussie” Busch.

A quick recap for those that aren’t up on Cardinal history. Anheuser-Busch bought the Cardinals in 1953 and Gussie, as head of the brewery, was also in charge of the team. Gussie was well-regarded as an owner (barring that little spat with Steve Carlton) and fielded strongly competitive teams for the most part. He was so highly thought of that he has a retired number, something no other non-playing Cardinal achieved. (Jack Buck just has the microphone.)

Gussie, as far as I can tell, was active with the Cardinals until his death in 1989. After that, the corporate heads took over the team, with noticeable results. Let’s compare some numbers from 1988-1994 and from 1995 to the present to see where we are coming from.

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The Ownership Question: Part III

OK, Part I we looked at payroll in relation to the rest of the league. Part II, payroll in relation to market size. Now, let’s compare how the Cardinals are doing against their divisional rivals. Because it’s possible to be in the top 5 in baseball and only the top 3 in your division–ask the teams in the AL East how that spending goes for them.

Let’s take a look at the average payrolls for all the NL Central teams over this 13 year span.

Team Average Payroll
Chicago $66,299,059
Cincinnati $48,007,281
Houston $58,985,789
Milwaukee $38,514,390
Pittsburgh $32,493,298
St. Louis $66,698,830

So, with this ownership, the Cardinals are outspending everyone in their division. While that doesn’t guarantee titles, obviously, it should indicate a competitiveness and a willingness to win.

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The Ownership Question: Part II

In Part I, we looked at payroll in relation to other payrolls at the time and as a percentage of total MLB payrolls. Today, let’s take a look at payroll in relation to market size.

There are different ways to look at market size. Here’s a study that measures it by television households. As you can see, this way puts the Cardinals 26th, just after Colorado and right before Pittsburgh. There is also a listing at BaseballAlmanac.com with population that shows the Cardinals close to the bottom as well, this time ahead of Colorado but trailing San Diego.

Granted, the market size is probably neither of these, when you take into account how far-flung Cardinal Nation is. It probably looks more like this map. However, using the St. Louis area is probably the best for any kind of analysis. While some of us here in Arkansas are big Cardinal fans, we may not get to a game in two to three years and can’t be counted on a regular basis. Besides, we need numbers to do some of this, so the Baseball Almanac report will do.

While the population figures are for the year 2000, they’ll work for us on a general basis. Most likely all populations have grown somewhat, but I don’t think there have been many major shifts.

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The Ownership Question: Part I

First off, hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. The break was great and hopefully it got Cardinal management recharged and ready to make some moves.

On one of my brief trips online this weekend, I found someone again making the tired “ownership is cheap and doesn’t care” argument at CCH. While I outlined my thoughts there, it led me to do some research.

I found a great site that listed out payroll on a yearly basis, so I took the payroll totals of every team from 1995, the year this ownership group took over, to 2007. The general data can be found here, but I’m going to spend a couple of days going through what I learned.

Let’s take the most basic idea first. Where have the Cardinals ranked out of 30 teams (well, 28 before 1998) in total payroll?

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A Cardinal Thanksgiving

Tomorrow, as you all know, we stop to say thanks for the many blessings the Lord has given us.  This list below is what we as Cardinal fans can be thankful for.  Of course, there’s the family, friends, country bit and I’m not suggesting these take precedence.  But, strictly from a Cardinal perspective, thanks for:

Ownership.  OK, let’s get the controversial one out of the way first.  Lots of people don’t feel that this ownership is much of anything to be thankful for.  They feel that Bill Dewitt and company are cheapskates who know that the devoted fans of St. Louis will come to the ballpark no matter what product is out there, especially with the new stadium.  Let’s say that’s true.  I don’t believe it is, but I’ll even give you that.  When the team was up for sale, there could have been investors from another town who said, “Hey, who cares about tradition?  I want to see the New Jersey Cardinals instead!”  Keeping the team in St. Louis should give them some thoughts at this time of year, if nothing else.

Then, they spent enough to put a great team together in the middle part of the decade.  Cynics will say they did that to keep interest up to get a new ballpark.  Fine, believe that if you want.  It doesn’t take away from the fact that we saw two 100 win teams in a row followed by an improbable World Series title.  Some of the credit–and the thanks–have to go toward them as well.

Plus, they locked up Albert Pujols to a long term deal.  We’ll talk about him next, but anything that keeps El Hombre in Cardinal Red is a very good thing.

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Missed Opportunities

As you should know by now, the Cardinals announced today the hiring of John Mozeliak as general manager, to replace Walt Jocketty, after first choice Chris Antonetti rejected their offer.  Derrick Gould has a primer on the new GM up at the PD website.

I expected an announcement today, but I sure didn’t expect it to be Mozeliak.  In my opinion, this whole offseason has been a chance to do things differently, to shake up the structure that was getting stale.  Now, we have the same manager and the assistant GM that’s been here forever as well.  As I said at VEB, instead of a shakeup, the organization is getting lightly stirred.

Ownership really should take a hard look at something.  You have a storied franchise.  You are willing to pay the top guy a good salary.  He comes and interviews and sounds enthused.  Then, he doesn’t take the job.   And while there is a lot of talk about possibly Cleveland’s GM moving up and Antonetti taking that spot, there’s also a lot of speculation that Antonetti and others in the interview process were turned off by the potential lack of control that they’d have in their duties.

So when you have top talent telling you this, you can do one of two things:

1) Make major changes and guarantees that the GM’s word goes or

2) Go for the backup guy.

Unfortunately, the Cardinals chose #2.  While I don’t hold anything against Mozeliak (though his moves as interim GM were uninspired and some unnecessary), the Cardinals had a chance to make the big play, to get the splash they needed to start the next Cardinal tidal wave.  Instead, it’s a small pebble dropped into the Mississippi.