Now that we’re on to the top ten, we begin to nitpick a little bit. The previous 20 organizations all have one pretty significant issue, but now we’re starting to try to separate the good from the great. These distinctions are a bit tougher.
St. Louis is a good example of this. There are a lot of of things to like about the Cardinals; they have the best player in baseball, some all-stars around him, and a couple very good young players that they can build around. They’re the best team in the NL Central, and are a legitimate contender for the 2010 World Series. The fan base is strong, and the team makes enough money to sustain payrolls high enough to contend regularly.
But, there are cracks in the armor, most notably in the people management side of things. To say that Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan don’t always get along with the front office is something of an understatement. Reports surfaced during the 2009 season of a near mutiny on the coaching staff when the organization decided to get rid of Duncan’s son. Walt Jocketty left town to get away from a power struggle in the front office, and while that has been mostly settled, there are still potential issues there.
How long the manager and coach will remain in place is a near annual story. The Cardinals have put a lot of faith in Dave Duncan’s ability to fix pitchers and turn them into valuable pieces, and it’s paid off for years, but how long he’ll be in the Cardinals organization is an open question. Can St. Louis continue to strike gold by teaching cast-offs a two-seamer and turning them into all-stars without Duncan? Maybe, but I don’t know that it’s a good bet.
These seem like minor issues, I know, and in the grand scheme of things, they may be, but while the Cardinals have a good team, the friction between the front office and coaching staff threatens the formula that they’ve built their roster around. The Cardinals should win in 2010, but if they don’t, things could go very, very badly in St. Louis. It probably won’t, but the potential soap opera disaster is there, and that’s enough to drag the Cardinals down to the bottom of the really good organizations in baseball.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.