The Cardinal Way failure

What is The Cardinal Way and Why is it Failing?

13 May, 2023

As an organizational philosophy, “The Cardinal Way” is currently more easily understood as a meme. It’s shorthand for the distinct “holier than thou” brand that the team has developed for the better part of a century, to paraphrase former manager Mike Matheny.

However, “The Cardinal Way” is a business philosophy. A written one at that, as the organization has a 117-page book outlining its mission.

What’s there and what was included in Howard Megdal’s 2016 book, “The Cardinals Way: The Cardinals Way: How One Team Embraced Tradition and Moneyball at the Same Time“, which described how owner Bill DeWitt Jr. and a large number of contemporary executives developed a player development machine whose primary forebears include Branch Rickey and George Kissell, are likely to share some similarities.

The phrase “The Cardinal Way” can also be interpreted as a mindset. John Mozeliak, the general manager, has spoken about looking for “character” in players, who are then expected to conduct themselves in an all-encompassing manner. Harrison Bader, a former center fielder, described it as being “physically prepared, mentally prepared, and honestly spiritually prepared” in 2020.

The non-meme form of “The Cardinal Way,” if we had to define it, would be described as being about harmony. There is always a plan, and it is always carried out as intended. Cool. Calm. Collected. Cardinals.

Abysmal 2023 Campaign

The St. Louis Cardinals’ attitude throughout 2023 has been one of disarray, anguish, and even a hint of panic.

In essence, it’s the polar opposite of what you might envision when thinking of “The Cardinal Way.”

The three-game winning run this week reduced some of the gloom, but not enough to inspire genuine optimism. The Cardinals are currently in last place in the National League standings with a record of 13-25, which is their poorest start in 98 years.

They used to be the preseason favorites to win the NL Central, but FanGraphs now gives them just a 22.2 percent probability of doing so. That was the single biggest decrease of any team, falling from 67.4 percent on Opening Day.

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Say this about the Cardinals’ recent penchant for losing after they had won every season between 2000 and 2022 with the exception of one: they haven’t made it monotonous.

Manager Oli Marmol got into a physical altercation with umpire C.B. Bucknor during spring training before getting into a physical altercation with outfielder Tyler O’Neill. Next, former rookie sensation Jordan Walker was abruptly demoted, and most recently, $87.5 million catcher designated hitter Willson Contreras was used as a scapegoat.

Don’t worry, just operatic. This is soap opera material, and it couldn’t be further from the Cardinals’ typical way of doing things.


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